Former Alberta CMOH calls on Kenney to release COVID-19 predictive modelling

Key to understanding [UCP government’s] cold-blooded strategy is determining how long it will take to achieve this goal of “herd immunity”. 

October 1, 2021

Dear Albertans,

After Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey’s offer to help Albertans through the fourth COVID-19 wave, Premier Kenney said that the situation had evolved to the point where their predictive modelling would suggest that they wouldn’t require resources at this time”.

Once again, the Alberta Government has revealed that it has predictive modelling that it refuses to share with the public. Like most Albertans, we would like to know how long the fourth wave is going to last, how many more Albertans are projected to die and when we can expect elective surgeries to begin and ICUs to return to normal. 

We would particularly like to see the government’s data as predictive modelling from University of Victoria professor, Dean Karlen, indicates cases in Alberta’s fourth wave will peak in about mid-October but that hospitalizations and ICU admissions will continue to increase into the end of October. At 15-20 deaths per day that would mean a further 450 to 600 preventable Alberta deaths. 

Let’s recap how we got here. In July, the Alberta Government ended all effective government precautions that had brought COVID under control and the Premier declared it the “Best Summer Ever”. In the middle of July, they announced the end of most contact tracing and declared that even those that tested positive need not isolate. In August, the Premier has said their projective modelling showed a severe fourth wave, but the government failed to inform all of us that this was going to happen and took no precautions to prevent it. By failing to inform all of us what the modelling showed and denying us access to the model until September the province violated our ability as Albertans to make good choices to protect ourselves. 

As a direct consequence of these actions and failure to prevent this fourth wave, nearly 350 of us have died of COVID-19 and had our “Last Summer Ever” and we continue to lose about 20 Albertans per day most but not all unvaccinated. Alberta’s death rate from COVID in this wave is more than three times higher than the Canadian average and will likely accelerate as our ICUs buckle under the sustained pressure.  Our health care system is in crisis, ICU capacity is under killing pressure and the acute health care workforce is spiritually, physically and mentally bone weary. 

We have recommended 7 actions for the short and medium term to bring down the astonishingly high COVID rates in our province, currently 3.6 times higher than BC and 13. 5 time higher than Ontario per capita. These included; transfer of patients to ICU facilities in Ontario, measures to increase immunization by using vaccine passports and employment mandates, reinstitution of contact tracing and limited measures to prevent indoor transmission. The Government announced yesterday that it would mandate only the immunization of Government of Alberta employees. The Premier has called our last recommendation a lockdown and further says he refuses to do anything that will punish the fully immunized. Our call for limited restrictions to prevent indoor transmission are, at most, an inconvenience for the fully vaccinated who are, in fact, being punished now by a government whose continued inaction is depriving them of planned surgery, access to hospital beds and properly functioning ICUs.

We agree with the government’s emphasis on increasing vaccinations in the province as we need 90% of the eligible population fully immunized to put this phase of the pandemic behind us.  Unfortunately, it will take many weeks that we do not have for increased vaccinations to meaningfully take pressure off our hospitals and ICUs.  The healthcare professionals coming from Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Forces and the Red Cross are badly needed and very welcome.  However, it is also vital that patients be transferred from our overstretched ICUs to other provinces to decompress our overstretched ICUs as, despite the assertion that there are now 370 ICU beds available, we do not have enough trained professionals available to provide the necessary level of care for this number of critically ill patients. Because of this, implementation of a “firebreak” now is critical to rapidly reduce covid transmission in the province.

It is clear from the actions of the Government of Alberta and the Premier that their callous strategy is to stand by until enough Albertans have contracted COVID, become ill and then, hopefully, recovered to get to the point where there are too few Albertans without immunity for the COVID virus to find new victims. Such a strategy will continue to cost us at least 20 unimmunized Albertan lives a day, create maximum stress for the health care system and health care workers, and deprive thousands of Albertans of planned surgeries and other potentially life-saving treatments. 

Key to understanding this cold-blooded strategy is determining how long it will take to achieve this goal of “herd immunity”.  Knowing that tells us how many more Albertans will die from COVID or from being deprived of access to the health care system and how long AHS and its employees must endure this killing stress.  We believe Albertans should demand to see the data, the assumptions and the modelling used to make the decision to continue to do nothing.  Since the Government of Alberta has decided to conduct a massive experiment on the Alberta population, we think all Albertans need to demand that they provide us with the evidence they are using to make these decisions.  After all, subjects enrolled in medical experiments must have given informed consent.  It’s hard to give informed consent when your own government conceals the information needed to make a rational choice.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. James Talbot B.Sc. M.D. F.R.C.P. (C)
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Public Health, University of Alberta
Former Alberta CMOH 

Dr. Noel Gibney MB FRCP(C) FRCP (I)
Professor Emeritus, Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Alberta
Former Edmonton Zone Clinical Department Head, Adult Critical Care, Alberta Health Services

C.C. The Hon. Jason Kenney, Premier

Mr. Paul Wynnyk, Deputy Minister, Alberta Health

The Hon. Jason Copping

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Alberta Health

Dr. Verna Yiu, President & CEO, AHS

Dr. Michelle Warren, President, Alberta Medical Association

Dr. Erika McIntyre, President, EZMSA

Dr. Scott Beach, President, CZMSA


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