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Carol Wodak Care Watch Supplement December 6, 2020

What do you look for in the news? I’ve done Care Watch for years, with occasional lapses lately. When I scan the news every day – from more than a dozen sources – I watch for news related to eldercare/long term care and more general issues that affect seniors.

But we do need a break from the bad news, the limitations of daily life, the isolation and loneliness. So the Sherwood Park ND Constituency Association Executive, of which I am a member, has planned an event to change the tune for a little bit: a Covid-safe Zoom Nineties Dance Party, Regardless of your political affiliation, I invite you to join us just for the fun of it and the reminder that we are friends and neighbours, and we need to celebrate together, if only for a little while!

When? 7:30 pm, Friday, December 11
Where? Your Living Room!
What? Retro Videos! Dancing! Costumes! Contests! Prizes! Fun for all ages!
How much? $20!

A great way to spend a Friday evening at home with the family!
With Special Guests MLAs Marlin Schmidt and Janis Irwin!

So practice up your best moves, break out those vintage threads, and be sure to purchase your ticket at:

Nineties Dance Party

Now, on to news…

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Premier Jason Kenney, in his Facebook townhall, asserts we are “not in a worst-case scenario” at the same time he calls in the federal government for assistance. Just “responsible planning”, he says. Damage control, say others, too little too late. The next two weeks will tell.

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The CBC reports

Alberta positivity rate tops 10 per cent CBC Health

December 5, 2020.

Of all the COVID hotspots, Alberta has the biggest fire to put out at the moment, and this week asked the federal government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals to help offset the strain COVID-19 is having on the health-care system.

There, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive hit an astonishing 10.5 per cent on Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Alberta are growing at such an explosive rate they’ve even outpaced Ontario, a province with 10 million more people, for the first time in the pandemic — with cases in Edmonton alone totaling more than those in Toronto and Peel Region combined…

Vaccines are soon. But they will not repair the damage already done and that which will happen in the next weeks and months to our lives, our society. And they will not prevent the next assault; the bugs have been surprising us throughout history. What this pandemic has illustrated beyond question is that the Klein cuts and decades of “conservative”
governance policies and priorities have left us vulnerable to predictable catastrophe.

Still my favorite protest slogan:


Covid-19 statistics for Alberta. Robson Fletcher, CBC Calgary December 5. 2020

  • 566 of the 590 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Alberta to December 5, 2020 were people over 60 years of age. [that is 96%] .
  • 391 of those were people over the age of 80. [that is 66%].
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Situation Update: Update 152: COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta (Dec. 4, 3:45 p.m.)

  • To date, 376 of the 590 reported deaths (64 per cent) have been in long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites.
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In this Care Watch, I’ve identified headlines which document Premier Kenney’s COVID-19 response, and at the end, provide links to resources to more information about dealing with COVID-19. Carol Wodak

My list is selected issues; for more details, check out Friends of Medicare UCP Tracker and the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Kenney’s Cuts Tracker

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Alberta ends master agreement with doctors, new rules to be in place April 1[ CBC Feb 20, 2020

The Alberta government, fresh off failed contract talks with doctors, is ending its long-standing master agreement with them and putting new rules in place April 1. Changes include new fee rules on extended patient visits that doctors have already said will devastate the bottom line for some family and rural practices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says ending the agreement is a difficult but necessary move, given that the province was at an impasse with doctors on how to reduce costs and improve service in the $20.6-billion health system.

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Alberta launches ABTraceTogether app to improve contact tracing, fight COVID-19 spread Global News May 1, 2020

…Results will be provided to all Albertans, by phone, within a few days of the swabbing appointment…Expanded testing is an important part of the effort to contain COVID-19 in Alberta. The testing will provide a clearer picture of how well Alberta’s public health measures are working to contain COVID-19. This information is important to help guide further
progress in Alberta’s relaunch.

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May 24, 2020 Work on Alberta Legislature pandemic plan started in early January – CBC

Updated plan includes alternative legislature sites, increased testing in face of outbreak Staff at the Alberta Legislature started working on a plan in early January about how to manage a possible COVID-19 outbreak among staff and MLAs in the assembly building in Edmonton.

CW” too bad they didn’t concern themselves with others, whose interests they theoretically serve!

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COVID-19 Testing Available for All Albertans | Alberta Health Services June 2, 2020 Alberta COVID-19 testing system overwhelmed as infections spike Globe and Mail Jul 20, 2020…

Alberta is overwhelmed with demand for COVID-19 tests in its largest city and is reassigning employees in an attempt to reduce the backlog as the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus surges in the province… This comes as the percentage of positive tests creeps upward after staying below one per cent for most of June. The positivity rate hit 1.98 per cent on Friday, but still remains far below the peak of roughly 8 per cent in April. The Public Health Agency of Canada, in a report released Friday, said the positive rate for the country between July 8 and 14 was 0.8 per cent…

The province’s contact tracers are finding about 15 to 20 close contacts for every COVID-19 case, up from about 6 per case when the pandemic began. The rise in close contacts, which take testing priority, is likely contributing to the scarcity of available slots, Dr. Saxinger said…

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Alberta Health Services to lay off up to 11000 staff, mostly through outsourcing CBC Oct 13, 2020

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro has softened an aggressive plan to lay off front-line staff, including nurses, and extended the timeframe for a massive overhaul of the province’s health-care system citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic But at a news conference Tuesday morning, Shandro detailed a plan by Alberta Health Services (AHS) that still features massive layoffs.

Between 9,700 and 11,000 AHS employees will be laid off, most of whom work in laboratory, linen, cleaning and in-patient food services…

… Shandro said there will be no lay-offs of front-line staff such as nurses during the pandemic.

But he said AHS will eliminate some of those positions through attrition and, when pressed on whether there will be layoffs of front-line staff after the pandemic, he said, “I think any involuntary reductions will be minimal.”
The minister said the cuts are eventually expected to save up to $600 million annually and there will be a “long-term and gradual” implementation of the plan.

CBC News previously obtained a draft copy of the AHS implementation plan, dated July 29, that contained more aggressive cost-cutting measures that the health authority estimated would save between $837 million and nearly $1.2 billion annually.

The proposed plan included the elimination of up to 10,300 full-time equivalent positions — including hundreds of nursing and clinical support positions — estimated to impact as many as 16,700 full- and part-time employees through layoffs and job displacement.

But many of the proposed changes from the draft plan, including those that would download costs to the public and
particularly seniors, are continuing. For example, AHS will:

  • Outsource more than 9,000 general service jobs, such as linen, cleaning, laboratory and in-patient food services;
  • Introduce a co-pay for home care, exempting clients who receive income support;
  • Increase accommodations fees for continuing care;
  • Transfer patients from long-term care to designation supported living, which shifts costs for such things as drugs from AHS to the patients;
  • Increase the amount it charges patients at all AHS facilities for supplies not covered by the provincial health- care insurance plan, such as crutches and casts;
  • Reconfigure and potentially consolidate emergency department, acute care and maternity/obstetrics services at smaller AHS facilities.
  • Alberta ending all asymptomatic COVID-19 testing due to low positive results Global News Oct 20, 2020
  • Video. As Alberta added an additional 323 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the province
  • will no longer offer any asymptomatic testing, including at pharmacies
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Alberta health-care workers could face sanctions for wildcat strike CBC Oct 27, 2020

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is considering “disciplinary options” for unionized health-care workers who walked off the job earlier this week.

Nursing and support workers who participated in Monday’s wildcat strike could be fined, suspended or even fired from their jobs, Finance Minister Travis Toews told reporters at the legislature on Tuesday.

“They’re looking at individual employee actions, individual employees who took part in the illegal walkout,” Toews said….

Working conditions and the Alberta government’s move to outsource up to 11,000 jobs prompted the job action.

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Alberta doctors are calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown CBC November 11, 2020 …

As Alberta doctors call for a short, sharp “circuit breaker” lockdown to prevent the province’s health-care system from being overwhelmed, one epidemiologist says it may not be enough to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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ABTraceTogether app has been used to track just 19 cases of COVID-19 Global News Nov 17 2020

…The ABTraceTogether app has been used to identify and notify 70 close contacts in 19 of the province’s positive COVID-19 cases, an Alberta Health spokesperson confirmed.,, The government and AHS worked with Deloitte to develop the app. According to the government’s public disclosure of sole-source contracts, Deloitte Inc. was paid $650,000 in April “to customize an existing open source application for the province to perform COVID-19 contact tracing” and $300,000 in April “to build and support deployment” of the ABTraceTogether app…

Shandro said …the reason the province hasn’t adopted the federal COVID-19 app is because it doesn’t align with Alberta’s contact-tracing system…

…“The ABTraceTogether app connects to Alberta’s contact tracing system, which has led the country in terms of contact tracing,” Premier Jason Kenney said on Nov. 2. “Based on the advice we’ve received so far, it’s more effective as a public health tool.”

…On Nov. 5, Hinshaw announced that contact tracers were unable to keep up with the sharp rise in cases in the province, and therefore contact tracing was being focused on cases linked to high-priority settings, such as a schools, health-care facilities or group events.

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Alberta health minister defends province’s COVID-tracing app despite few contacts CBC Nov 18, 2020 …

Alberta’s health minister is defending the province’s COVID-19 tracing app despite revelations it has tracked just 19 cases since the spring. Tyler Shandro said Tuesday he is in favour of all resources that help in the fight against the pandemic, but reiterated the federal app isn’t a good fit for Alberta. The province has a total of just over 10,000 active

• Alberta reveals its COVID-19 app has been used to trace only 20 cases over 6 months

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3,000 Albertans with COVID will have to trace their own contacts… CBC Nov 24, 2020

The province’s contact tracing system has grown increasingly overwhelmed as Alberta’s case counts spike.

Starting Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is temporarily giving up on investigating contacts for people who received their positive test result more than 10 days ago…The temporary measure comes less than three weeks after AHS was forced to limit contact tracing to Albertans connected to high priority settings such as hospitals or schools.

Currently, roughly 85 per cent of active cases in the province have no identified source…

Commenting Tuesday on the situation in Alberta, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said the inability to complete contact tracing is like fighting blind

“When you don’t have the data, you have no clue what direction you are headed and how to pivot or point, and where to point your public health measures,” he said.

“It’s very, very challenging. You need good surveillance data, good contact tracing, good diagnostic tests to really help inform and steer the public health response.”

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Alberta replaces half-measures with slightly tougher half-measures to fight pandemic 2020-11-25

… After all, Alberta remains as committed as ever to Premier Kenney’s notion the pandemic can be beaten by asking Albertans to behave themselves and threatening to yell at them if they don’t.

There were some tougher measures announced that could help. “I am declaring a state of public health emergency in Alberta,” the premier said at the afternoon COVID-19 briefing in Edmonton.

Additional measures will include a mandatory masks requirement in indoor workplaces in Calgary and Edmonton, and online classes for Grade 7 to Grade 12 students from next Monday until they go back to school in January.

Government employees who were needlessly dragged back to the office after proving they could efficiently do their jobs from home will be sent home again. You can read the full list of measures here.

Still, it sure looks like public health policy in Alberta is now being guided by Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, not the chief medical officer of health.;;

The other view: Enhanced public health measures | Mandatory restrictions are in effect to protect the health system and slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Alberta government leaving hundreds of millions of dollars for workers unclaimed, labour advocates say Provincial government says new pandemic wage top-ups coming Edmonton Journal Nov 28, 2020

New data obtained by the federal NDP show the Alberta government is a national outlier for leaving federal pandemic funds for frontline workers unclaimed.

The information, released by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) on Friday, shows the provincial government has left at least $300 million on the table that could be used to pay top-up wages to health-care workers, correctional officers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without providing specifics, a government spokesperson says some extra money will be going to workers within weeks…workers in Ontario, B.C., Manitoba and the Maritimes have already received danger pay for showing up to work in person during the spring and summerthe provincial government would have to match a third of the money provided by

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Alberta schools advising thousands of students to isolate based on informal COVID notices Dec 03, 2020

Alberta schools are no longer waiting for public health confirmations to try and stop COVID-19 from spreading.

Several school divisions say principals and support staff are spending hours making phone calls to students and employees, instructing them to isolate, after families report a positive test result for COVID-19… Although Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it is prioritizing the investigations of K-12 student cases, a growing backlog means tracers are unable to track and record every case linked to a school…

The absence of current data also means school divisions don’t know which of their schools coronavirus has spread from person to person.

Estabrooks said that lack of information leaves administrators “floundering in the dark,” and makes it hard to take additional measures… Steve Buick, spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, said in a Thursday email the in-school transmission information is withheld for privacy reasons… As of Wednesday, 17 per cent of Alberta schools had COVID outbreaks with more than two associated cases. Alberta Health said in-school transmission had likely occurred in 253 schools.

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Alberta’s COVID-19 test positivity rate of more than 10% ‘should concern us all,’ Hinshaw says CBC Dec 04, 2020

On a day that Alberta reported 18,243 active cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths, the province also reported a record high test positivity rate. The positivity rate climbed to 10.5 per cent, a “grim milestone and one that should concern us all,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, told a news conference Friday…

As of Friday there were a record 533 people in hospital, including 99 in intensive care…

Albertans are now one week into the latest round of restrictions aimed at bending the curve of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Last Friday, Premier Jason Kenney ordered junior and senior high schools to close, barred indoor social gatherings and capped capacity for businesses.

Next week Albertans will find out what impact those measures are having on the virus, which is spreading faster in Alberta than anywhere else in the country.

It was the second set of restrictions issued by the premier in November.
Three weeks ago, Kenney suspended indoor group fitness programs, team sports and group performance activities, and reduced operating hours for restaurants, bars and pubs in cities.

But the curve didn’t bend and the virus has continued to surge since, setting records almost daily as it tightens its grip on the province
…The province’s contact-tracing system is struggling against demand. Alberta’s government continues to resist calls to adopt the federal contact-notification app or order a province-wide mask law.

It is also continuing to spurn calls by physicians for a two-week lockdown, or “circuit-breaker,” to drop the effective reproduction number and allow contact tracing to catch up.

The Alberta government is in talks with Ottawa and the Canadian Red Cross for help in setting up field hospitals, as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to surge. 2:42

This week, the province acknowledged it is preparing for the worst. Alberta has asked the federal government for two field hospitals, and the Red Cross for two more.

Alberta hospitals are preparing to double-bunk critically ill patients, revamp operating and recovery rooms and reassign staff to treat an expected surge of COVID-19 patients destined for intensive care units.
AHS has asked hospitals in Calgary to begin rationing oxygen.

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‘Not ideal’: A doctor’s thoughts on Alberta’s Red Cross ‘contingency’ planning December 3, 2020

… At the legislature on Thursday, Alberta’s health minister reiterated Alberta Health Services had no current plans to staff the potential field hospitals, but that the talks with the Red Cross and PHAC were to ensure the equipment would be available if it was ever needed.

“They may or may not even be used,” Tyler Shandro told media.

However, another physician, Dr. Tehseen Ladha, considers it a question of when – not if – the facilities will come online.

“If you look at our case rate and the fact five per cent of each COVID case is hospitalized, and if we’re looking at (1,600 to) 1,800 cases a day, we’re looking at 40, 50, 60 hospitalizations per day,” the doctor said. “There are not that many hospital beds in Alberta.”

On Thursday, 97 of 511 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 were in ICU.

The province’s number of acute care beds will increase to 2,250, and ICU beds to 425, in coming weeks.

It’s unclear how the government would staff field hospitals if more beds those 2,600 were needed…

… Gibson and Ladha both believe it didn’t have to come to this. “This could have been avoided with a lockdown,” Ladha said. Gibson added, “It’s just so frustrating to be in a position where we knew this could have been prevented and it wasn’t and that was a deliberate choice.” …

“We’re facing a total collapse of health systems and collapse of safety
mechanism,” Gibson said…

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Secret recordings reveal political directives, tension over Alberta’s pandemic response · CBC Nov 26, 2020

… The level of political direction — and, at times, interference — in Alberta’s pandemic response is revealed in 20 audio recordings of the daily planning meetings of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) obtained by CBC News, as well as in meeting minutes and interviews with staff directly involved in pandemic planning.

Taken together, they reveal how Premier Jason Kenney, Shandro and other cabinet ministers often micromanaged the actions of already overwhelmed civil servants; sometimes overruled their expert advice; and pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy and avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans’ freedoms than enforcing compliance to safeguard public health.

“What is there suggests to me that the pandemic response is in tatters,” said Ubaka Ogbogu, an associate law professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in public health law and policy…

WATCH | University of Alberta’s Tim Caulfield says the province needs a transparent approach to pandemic policy:

… As a second wave of COVID-19 pummels the province, an increasing number of public-health experts say Alberta long ago reached that worst-case scenario.

The province has passed the grim milestone of more than 1,500 new cases reported in a day. To date, 500 people have died. Intensive care units across Alberta are overwhelmed, with COVID-19 patients spilling into other units as beds grow scarce.

On Tuesday, after weeks of pleading from doctors, academics and members of the public for a province-wide lockdown, Kenney declared another state of public health emergency.

However, he pointedly refused to impose a lockdown, saying his government wouldn’t bow to “ideological pressure” that he said would cripple the economy. Instead, he announced targeted restrictions, including a ban on indoor social gatherings…

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AHS data forecasts nearly 800 Albertans could be in hospital with COVID-19 in 2 weeks CTV December 1, 2020

In the absence of new pandemic modelling by the United Conservative government, the Alberta NDP is pointing to capacity projections by Alberta Health Services which estimate the province could be close to breaching its regular ICU capacity by the middle of December.

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Edmonton care home outbreak surpasses 200 cases CTV December 1, 2020

A COVID-19 outbreak at a south Edmonton care home had infected more than 200 people as of Tuesday, while new outbreaks were declared at other care homes

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Opinion: Stop trying to out the COVID response whistleblower Edmonton Journal Dec 2, 2020

… The Alberta government must stop this internal investigation into outing the whistleblower.

While I understand Dr. Hinshaw’s sense of betrayal, this is a public health emergency in which the public has a right to know and personal feelings must take a back seat.

To the politicians made to look bad through these revelations, it was your actions (not the disclosure) that did this.

Do not make a scapegoat of this public servant for your own failings!
Cameron Hutchison is a law professor at the University of Alberta.

His report “Whistleblowers Not Protected: How the Law in Alberta Abandons Those Who Speak Up in the Public Interest in Alberta” will be released by the Parkland Institute on Thursday.

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COVID-19 and Isolation Batter BC’s Long-Term Care Residents 3 Dec 2020 The Tyee

Strict visitor limits have damaged residents’ lives. It’s time to change course, says seniors advocate. ;;; after 10 months, the restrictions have devastated the physical and mental health of residents and failed to prevent
outbreaks as community cases increase…

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Alberta’s dire trajectory CBC December 6, 2020 video

Edmonton ER physician Dr. Shazma Mithani talks with the CBC’s John Northcott about the current situation in Alberta hospitals – and what could happen next.

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‘You have a problem’: University of Ottawa immunologist calls out Alberta’s COVID-19 response CTV December 5, 2020

EDMONTON — A University of Ottawa immunologist isn’t backing down from online comments taking Alberta to task for its COVID-19 response. Amir Attaran drew attention on Twitter last week with a number of comments regarding the province’s pandemic plans….

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Protesters gather outside the legislature in violation of public health orders for second weekend CTV December 5, 2020

‘Very disappointed’: Kenney not happy with mass anti-mask protest in Calgary CTV December 5, 2020

A movement that frames itself as a guardian of constitutional rights and ‘lover of freedom’ once again mobilized to protest the province’s COVID-19 rules and Alberta’s premier has spoken up against the demonstration.

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Dealing with COVID-19

Ontario Auditor General COVID-19 Preparedness and Management Special Report November 25, 2020

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The Carol Wodak File

Carol’s complete comprehensive compositions