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Alberta heads into record-breaking territory as new COVID-19 cases continue to increase

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to media about expansion projects at Calgary’s Rockyview General Hospital. Image credit: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

Pandemic cases in Alberta are breaking records.

CBC reporter Robson Fletcher's daily accounting of the latest Alberta Health Services estimates indicated that probable and confirmed new cases of COVID-19 reached 1,888 yesterday -- surpassing the previous single-day record, set on December 4 during the second wave, of 1,874.

Yesterday's official tally, which you may have seen on the Alberta government's website, had the number at 1,839 new cases.

By the time the dust has settled today, we will almost certainly also have broken the previous record of 20,976 active cases set on December 13.

Yesterday's official active-case numbers, based on the count of cases on Tuesday, put us at 20,938, a jump of 200 from the day before.

The seven-day rate of active cases per 100,000 people in Alberta continues by far to be the highest in Canada -- 259 per 100,000, compared with 180 per capita in Ontario, the second-highest jurisdiction -- according to the Government of Canada figures published yesterday.

Sixty-three per cent of Alberta's cases are said to be caused by what the health-care professionals blandly call variants of concern. They're of concern because they're more infectious, and possibly more deadly.

You'd have to be the premier of Alberta or a member of his United Conservative Party caucus not to think this is a catastrophe. If you want to set records as a province, these really aren't the kind you want to break.

But in the middle of a third wave worse than the first two, which is right now killing about seven Albertans every day, the attitude of our government seems to be, oh, ho-hum, not much we can do about that. Shrug.

Even Ontario, also run by Conservatives and facing a similar situation, is taking it more seriously.

Premier Jason Kenney and his caucus -- about a quarter of whom are in open rebellion because they think the weak COVID restrictions their government has put in place are too strict -- act as they have all along. They are blasé at best, with the rebellious quarter -- too big to be described as a lunatic fringe -- demanding an end to all restrictions, arguing that provincial masking and other requirements should be optional, and putting all our eggs in the vaccination basket while encouraging Albertans to feel free to refuse the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the CBC got wind yesterday of a memorandum from Alberta Health Services to critical-care managers telling them the "protocol" for picking who lives and who dies when there's no space left in the province's intensive care units. Front-line employees will be briefed on it this week, which is almost over, suggesting there is some urgency to the matter.

But don't worry, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson told the CBC yesterday, there is no plan to activate the protocol just yet.

There was no daily COVID-19 briefing yesterday, so the premier and the chief medical officer of health didn't have to try to explain this deadly gong show to reporters. You can assume that Premier Kenney's strategic communications brain trust was burning the midnight oil last night figuring out what to say.

Up to now there's always been an excuse, or some place to point to that seemed to be doing a little worse. But we are circling the drain now, excuse-wise. There's really nowhere to look except right at Kenney, who calls the UCP's shots.

We were lucky in the first wave. It was just dumb luck, it turns out, not good management. Our leaders didn't learn any lessons.

We weren't so lucky in the second, but they didn't seem to learn any lessons from that either.

Now here we are.

On Tuesday, Globe and Mail Western Canada political columnist Gary Mason mused wonderingly about the caucus rebels' letter to Kenney complaining about the few measures he took to control the virus. Mason asked: "How much of a selfish and petty lout do you have to be to put your name to such a missive?"

Well, he's not from around here, obviously.

The columnist concluded, "If you ever needed evidence that Quebec isn't the only distinct society in Canada, this may be it." Can't argue with that! Distinctly idiotic. Distinctly heartless.

Also yesterday, the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), run by Kenney's longtime friend John Carpay, published a news release entitled "Ten reasons to be more afraid of a car crash than Covid."

Passing this bit of COVID-conspiracy propaganda off as an analysis for its charter case against pandemic restrictions, the legal advocacy organization associated with such social conservative causes as keeping gay-straight alliances out of schools, attributed concern about the pandemic to "health bureaucrats" and "strangely incurious news media."

The JCCF, which is very concerned about the health of the unborn, didn't seem too concerned in this statement about the fate of the elderly and vulnerable. There can be little doubt Carpay has influenced the views of Kenney, who once compared his lawyer friend to American civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

But don't worry, Albertans, the UCP is all over the threat of critical messages chalked in sidewalks in front of UCP constituency offices.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image credit: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

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