It was nice while it lasted, but looking at the alarming spike in Alberta’s recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, it’s fair to say the provincial government’s “Free for Summer” plan was an unmitigated disaster of an idea.
While Albertans enjoyed the freedoms that came with a total lack of COVID-19 restrictions this summer, the resulting fourth wave has caused a disturbing hike, not just in COVID-related hospitalizations but also in deaths from the virus.
Alberta reported 34 deaths from COVID-19 on Sept. 29 – the second highest daily total in the province since the pandemic began, and the most recorded in a day since January.
As of Sept. 28, Albertans were dying from COVID-19 at a rate three times higher than the national average, and the province accounted for more than half of Canada’s active number of COVID-19 cases, despite having just 10 per cent of the country’s population.
By the time you’re reading this, those numbers could be even worse, as hospital officials have been warning that Alberta is not likely to see the worst of the fourth wave until a few weeks from now.
That’s a scary claim, given the stress our province’s hospitals are already under. As of Sept. 30, there were 1,083 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 263 of those patients in intensive care units.
It’s led to Premier Jason Kenney announcing incoming help from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to help staff Alberta’s ICU beds.
Due to the overwhelming strain Alberta’s hospitals are under thanks to a growing number of (mostly unvaccinated) COVID-19 patients, physicians have been requesting a “Fire breaker” for the last few weeks – a temporary lockdown similar to the conditions experienced in the early days of the pandemic, when only essential services were open and people were urged to stay home and limit their contact with other people.
Given Alberta’s grim numbers, a fire breaker may just be what the doctor ordered.