For Lindsey Kemp, the Alberta government’s intention to remove nearly all COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the summer sounds like a slap in the face.
Her son, George, is five years old. He underwent two heart surgeries and is immunocompromised. Like more than 650,000 Albertans under the age of 12, George cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There are children who are getting sick. There are children who have died. There are long-term effects that we don’t know about,” Kemp said Thursday.
In her first daily announcement of the pandemic since June 29, Alberta’s chief of health, Dr. Dina Henshaw, on Wednesday announced several changes in the provinces’ response to the pandemic.
Starting today, the county will no longer ask close contacts of a confirmed case to be quarantined, except for high-risk places.
On August 16, Alberta will lose nearly all remaining restrictions.
Mask mandates will be lifted on transit shares, taxis and rides, and the county will not recommend testing for those with mild symptoms. Isolation will no longer be required for the majority of COVID-19 positive cases.
Alberta’s health minister, Tyler Chandro, said the government will continue to monitor serious outcomes among those under the age of 12.
“We don’t see these kinds of concerns for those who are not eligible at this time for vaccines when it comes to serious outcomes.”
So far, there have been 14 COVID-19-related deaths of those in the 0-19 age group across Canada, which represents about 0.1 percent of the overall total deaths.
Alberta reported no deaths in this age group. However, there have been 288 hospitalizations, 57 of which have ended up in intensive care since the start of the pandemic.
But Kemp feels the data doesn’t belong to people like her son.
Watch | An Edmonton doctor says Albertans are losing faith in the province’s COVID-19 messages:
“I think it’s too early,” she said. “And I think a lot of people are hesitating about this and having a hard time advertising yesterday.”
“Science and data depend on helping people who are privileged with healthy immune systems,” she said. “That’s why I said there is a large part of the population that tends to be forgetful.”
Low requirements for isolation that create anxiety
Dr. Lenora Sachsinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said the province is now aiming to treat COVID-19 as one of many infections that will continue to spread for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a really big shift in thinking from our epidemiological response to saying that well now, it’s just going to be part of the list of infections that people may have,” Saxinger said.
The biggest concern, Sachsinger said, is that it is still too early to do so.
With cases of non-COVID-19 respiratory infections on the rise, Sachsinger believes the county’s decision to ease measures may have been taken to prevent workplaces and schools from overburdening in the fall if they continue to treat symptoms from other respiratory infections as they would otherwise. COVID-19.
But the abrupt removal of the testing ability concerned Matthew Green, whose six-year-old daughter attended public school in Edmonton.
“My daughter is not able to be vaccinated,” he said. “Her classmates are not able to be vaccinated.”
“And we are now told that if one of her classmates tests positive, she is allowed to go to school and spread among unvaccinated children.
“I appreciate and respect that we need to transition to a world where we deal with any other respiratory disease. The difference is for something like the flu that kids can get vaccinated for that.”
Watch | Alberta’s coronavirus easing measures ‘premature’: Former chief medical officer:
Rachel Notley, leader of the opposition National Party, called on the government to reverse its decision to abandon the safeguards.
“I think if we’re going to learn to live with COVID-19, Albertans still deserve to know where it is, and whether they’ve been exposed to it,” she said at a news conference Thursday.
There are no masks in schools
Nor does the government plan to order masks for schools in the fall.
Jonathan Tigmeyer of the Alberta Teachers’ Union said the announcement was worrisome.
He said the risk of COVID-19 remains not just for students under the age of 12, but also for the nearly 40 percent of unvaccinated teens.
“Testing is over, contact tracing is gone, mandatory isolation is gone and notification is gone,” Tiggtemeyer said.
“They won’t have a sense of cases in their school, they won’t have a sense of relative risk.”
These concerns are echoed by Wing Li of Supporting Our Students, an advocacy group that has worked to ensure student safety during the pandemic.
“This sounds like a waiver of the responsibility and duty to care for children who are at risk but who do not have the pharmaceutical innovations available to them as they do for adults,” she said.
Lindsey Kemp hopes more people will speak out against the decision to return to school this fall with the proposed measures.
“Do whatever you can do if you’re not happy with this, because the more people who are on a united front, I think hopefully we’ll be stronger,” she said.
“Obviously vaccinate and stay safe because obviously this government is not going to do that for Alberta.”