Alberta public servants will need to be fully vaccinated, premier says

All public servants in Alberta will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results, Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday.

The province’s COVID-19 cabinet committee approved the policy earlier Thursday, Kenney told a news conference.

The move will affect about 25,000 provincial employees. All will need to have had two doses of vaccine by Nov. 30. Those who are not vaccinated will be required to provide negative COVID-19 test results regularly.

“We value our public servants and the important work that they do,” Kenney said.

“That’s why we want to ensure that they’re operating in safe workplaces and that we’re doing everything we can to protect the millions of Albertans to whom they provide services.”

Kenney was joined at the news conference by Health Minister Jason Copping and Alberta Health Services president Dr. Verna Yiu. Public service commissioner Tim Grant also took part.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, was away on a personal matter, Copping said.

The premier joined the last COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, announcing new provincial regulations that would ban protests from blocking access to hospitals. No new restrictions were brought forward.

Both the Canadian Medical Association and the Alberta Medical Association have issued calls for short, controlled lockdowns to protect the province’s struggling health-care system.

Embattled hospitals

Unvaccinated patients continue to put a strain on hospital resources.

As of 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Alberta Health Services said it had 373 ICU beds open across the province.

The total included 200 additional spaces, a 115-per-cent increase over the baseline of 173.

AHS has opened 22 extra ICU surge spaces in the past seven days, spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an emailed statement.

There were 309 patients in ICU, the vast majority COVID positive, Williamson said. The number of ICU patients has increased by six per cent in the past seven days, he said.

Across Alberta, ICU capacity is currently at 83 per cent. Without the surge beds, capacity would be at 179 per cent, AHS said.

Here is how the 373 ICU beds and capacity break down across the province:

  • Calgary zone: 137 ICU beds, including 71 additional spaces. Operating at 79 per cent capacity.
  • Edmonton zone: 158 ICU beds, including 86 additional spaces. Operating at 86 per cent capacity.
  • Central zone: 27 ICU beds, including 15 additional spaces. Operating at 77 per cent capacity.
  • South zone: 36 ICU beds, including 19 additional spaces. Operating at 81 per cent capacity.
  • North zone: 15 ICU spaces split between Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray, including nine additional ICU spaces. Operating at 100 per cent capacity.

As of Wednesday, there were 20,306 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. There were 1,083 patients in hospital being treated for the disease, including 268 in ICU.

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