Ron Orr - MLA Ponoka-Lacombe

MLA Ron Orr: ‘The worst thing we could do right now is increase chances of another wave’

Opinion

As we kick off 2021, Alberta’s government remains focused on protecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans. From administering vaccines to ensuring we have strong public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, we are working tirelessly to keep Albertans safe.

Alberta’s government is leading all major provinces in COVID-19 immunizations. In fact, more than 65 per cent of the vaccines we have received have been administered to vulnerable Albertans and healthcare workers. In total, 33,864 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the province as of Jan. 6, working out to roughly 765 doses per 100,000 Albertans – the highest rate per capita in the country. And of Alberta rural regions AHS tells me that central region is leading the rest. Our province’s phased approach to vaccination prioritizes healthcare workers and our most vulnerable. Eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will continue to expand as more vaccines arrive in Alberta.

As was announced in December, rapid testing has been expanded to include vulnerable Albertans and has begun at long-term care and designated supportive living facilities in the Edmonton area. Remote and rural hospitals in Alberta are receiving rapid tests, and rapid testing has also been expanded to homeless shelters and centres in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Our government also remains focused on ensuring our children can learn in a safe and thoughtful way. Starting on Jan. 11, as previously scheduled, schools will re-open to in-person learning. This decision is based on the latest evidence which demonstrates that before the Christmas break, case rates in schools flattened and then dropped, once restrictions on social gatherings were implemented. In September, a clear majority of parents chose in-person learning for their children during the pandemic, and Alberta’s education system has done an excellent job of implementing and following provincial health measures. Next week’s return to school will occur with strong guidelines in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, while also helping restore a sense of normalcy for our children.

Alberta’s government is actively evaluating the latest public health data to assess if the current level of restrictions need to be adjusted. As of now, families, businesses, organizations and service providers must continue to follow existing public health measures until at least Jan. 21. We recognize that changing health guidelines can be difficult on businesses, in particular, which is why we continue to consult with affected industries and are committed to providing businesses with at least one week’s notice before any changes.

The measures that were implemented in December have helped reduce the number of active cases, however, overall case numbers, hospitalizations and positive testing rates continue to remain high. Both Red Deer and Ponoka General are struggling to meet the needs. Thankfully Ponoka Hospital is back to normal and admitting patients again this week after several weeks of COVID only admissions.

The worst thing we could do right now is increase chances of another wave of cases that would, in turn, jeopardize our healthcare system. We all have a role to play as part of the solution, and we will continue to carefully assess the data to determine what options are available to provide Albertans with more flexibility in their lives. In the meantime, please continue to follow public health measures as we will all need to work together to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve of COVID-19, sustain small businesses, and protect Alberta’s healthcare system for all.

I understand that everyone is grieving the loss of connections, traditions, rituals and freedoms. So am I. A normal part of grief is denial, anger, bargaining and depression. We are all experiencing elements of these so let’s be understanding and supportive of one another. Help others with their sorrows and your own sorrows will find solace as well.

If you would like to speak to me, you can reach me through my constituency office at 403 782 7725 or by e-mail at Lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca.