Alberta is pausing the move forward with lifting COVID-19 restrictions to monitor increasing cases of the Delta variant until Sept. 27.
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw made the announcement Friday morning.
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All public health restrictions were scheduled to lift on Monday but will now stay in place for another six weeks.
“We are not going backwards. We are pausing to monitor and assess before taking a step forward,” Hinshaw said in a news conference. “If monitoring confirms our original expectations that a rise in cases will not lead to high levels of (hospitalizations) and we do not see evidence of increased risk for severe disease for children, we will proceed with implementing the next set of changes after Sept. 27.”
Many Albertans have expressed concerns about children returning to classrooms in September, especially since those under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
Hinshaw had repeatedly said children are at low risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, though she noted Friday there has been a rise in hospitalizations among children in some U.S. states with lower vaccination rates.
“I want to further monitor these trends,” she said. “I do not share this information to cause alarm. To date, we have not seen a similar rise in severe cases in youth here in Alberta. Since July 1, we have only had seven cases in hospital under the age of 18.”
Critics of the province’s plan have drawn attention to Alberta’s limited number of pediatric intensive care beds and the potential for young people to develop serious illnesses such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, severe COVID-19 pneumonia and long-haul COVID-19 effects.
Alberta currently has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Canada.
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