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COVID-19: Kenney jumps all over the map in today's update

Albertans did eventually get to the COVID part of the COVID update, but not before the premier got a chance to tout several economic recovery projects, the United Nurses of Alberta collective bargaining agreement and his distaste for the cross-border vaccination mandate.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a press conference on Jan. 27.

The province's COVID-19 update this afternoon didn't exactly start like a pandemic press conference. 

Premier Jason Kenney attempted to lift the spirits of Albertans at the beginning of today's pandemic update, beginning his remarks with several economic recovery highlights ahead of case and hospitalization numbers. 

"Before I get to that, I have some good news to share on a number of fronts," he said. 

The positivity didn't last long though, as Kenney jumped to the trucker vaccine mandate rather quickly, which he called a "reckless" decision by the federal government. 

He then mentioned his decision to travel to Washington D.C. for the National Governors meeting, where he said he plans to share his grievances with the American side of the trucker vaccine mandate.

Kenney ended by sharing the "good news" that the United Nurses of Alberta has ratified a tentative bargaining agreement with the province. 

"It's a win for nurses and a win for taxpayers," said Kenney, while adding that the agreement includes enhanced medical and psychological support, as well fund to help incentivize healthcare workers to take postings in hard-to-staff-rural areas. 

COVID-19 was the last bullet on the premier's list of talking points. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on the other hand, didn't waste anytime getting into her remarks – first beginning with clarifying remarks on what current isolation protocols are in the province. 

According to Hinshaw, there have been 3,218 PCR-confirmed cases reported to Alberta Health Services in the last 24 hours on about 9,350 tests. This puts the  positivity rate at 34.7 per cent. 

There have been 14 new COVID-related deaths in the past 24 hours, Hinshaw said. 

The premier was rather optimistic at this news and said that wastewater data is trending down in 14 of the 18 communities being monitored in the province. 

"I'm pleased to report that we continue to see good news, but we continue to have reason for caution," he said. 

Currently, 25 schools in the province have shifted to online learning exclusively due to staff and student illness and associated absence. Kenney said this equates to about one per cent of all Alberta schools. 

Last week, the province announced the preparation of two pandemic response units in Calgary and Edmonton as a contingency plan to manage hospital capacity. 

Edmonton's Pandemic Response Unit was opened for use today, neither Hinshaw nor Kenney could provide specifics, they indicated that the strain on hospitals in urban centres has made this necessary. 

There was only a slight change to protocol announced on Thursday. 

Children under the age of two will be eligible for PCR testing at AHS sites beginning immediately. 

Hinshaw explained that this amendment is necessary given that children in this age group are not able to be vaccinated as of yet, and rapid tests are also not recommended for use. 

The province's top doctor also dedicated a good portion of her remarks to mental health and encouraged those who need additional assistance to visit for available resources. 

Ultimately, she encouraged everyone to show kindness to one another. 

"The enemy we are fighting is COVID-19, not each other," said Hinshaw 

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