Alberta’s chief medical officer of health apologizes for not publishing public health data used to justify controversial changes in the province’s pandemic response.
Dr. Dina Henshaw planned to share the modeling used to shape the new COVID-19 protocols in Alberta during a media meeting Wednesday with primary care providers.
“I’m sorry it’s not available,” Hinshaw said during the online session.
“Unfortunately, this is not something I can do myself, and it is also something we cannot release without going through all the necessary processes in government.”
Hinshaw said compiling the report took longer than expected, due to ongoing changes in Alberta’s response to COVID-19.
She said the decision to keep protocols such as concealment, testing and isolation in place until at least September 27, which was made last week, delayed work on the report.
Working on providing data is a “priority”
“Unfortunately, it is taking a little longer, given the events of the past week where we have been focusing on analyzing trends and gathering packages to consider a shift in our timing, and then incorporating this new timing into our planning.
“The team has spent a lot of time working on these pieces. We haven’t had a chance to finish synthesizing and compiling the evidence summary for the public release, so work is in progress. It’s a priority.”
Last week, amid rising infection rates, the county backed away from plans to lift the list of COVID-19 public health measures that were due to expire August 16 — including mandatory isolation, public testing and mandatory concealment in transit.
These protocols will now remain in place for another six weeks.
While some protocol changes were delayed, many of the pandemic restrictions were eased on July 29. Quarantine of close contacts is no longer mandatory, but recommended. Contact trackers no longer notify nearby contacts. Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended.
Evidence and modeling used to support the changes will be announced as soon as possible, but Hinshaw said public health officials have no interest in publishing the data “in fragmentary.”
She said another information session will be scheduled when the data is available so that health care workers have an opportunity to ask questions.
“I set a schedule that wasn’t realistic for me based on the extra workload that came up last week,” Henshaw said.
“All I can say is that I am committed to issuing it and making sure you all have the opportunity to consider it and understand the rationale that led to the recommendations that I made.”
Henshaw says the response to the pandemic must change
Alberta’s decision not to scrap isolation requirements came after weeks of pressure from local leaders, doctors and families – and a recent surge in cases.
With 678 new COVID-19 infections reported on Wednesday, the county recorded its highest single-day increase in nearly three months, when the county was battling a third wave.
There were 5,933 active cases as of Wednesday; 184 patients were hospitalized including 48 in intensive care. Two more deaths were reported.
When it comes to enforcing public health measures that come with their own health implications, it’s something that cases alone do not justify.– Dr. Dina Henshaw
Henshaw said the county will carefully assess the spread of COVID-19 before lifting more restrictions on September 27.
However, she said the focus of the epidemic response in Alberta needs to change.
“When it comes to enforcing public health measures that come with health implications of their own, it’s something that cases alone do not justify.”