‘The storm is not over,’ warns chief medical officer of health as Alberta begins reopening economy

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says it’s good to be cautious when it comes to reopening the province’s economy.

Alberta began to ease some public health restrictions on Friday. Provincial parks, boat launches and golf courses have reopened with limited operations, followed on Monday by the resumption of non-urgent surgeries and other health services as offices for dentists, physiotherapists and social workers began reopening.

Next up, depending on the province’s continued ability to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, is the limited opening of some stores, bars and restaurants, currently planned for mid-May,

But Albertans are being cautioned that they still need to be vigilant, even as restrictions start to lift.

“Some people may feel that the storm has passed and now we can go out and back to life as normal,” said Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday.

“What we need to think about is the fact that the storm is still here. The storm will be here for a long while to come. And we cannot wait until we have no COVID-19 at all until we start to reopen certain aspects of our economic and social lives. We need to continue to be cautious together.”

Ingrid Parker recovered from COVID-19 after 17 days. She says the restrictions are being lifted too soon. (CBC News)

Ingrid Parker, who has recovered from a 17-day bout with COVID-19, is concerned the restrictions are lifting too soon.

“It just seems way too soon to be opening up businesses when we have not flattened the curve and we still have a consistent amount of cases announced every single day,” Parker said. “Because this is not something that anyone would want to go through.”

For her, COVID-19 started with a sore throat and sinus infection.

As she developed chills and a fever, it became hard to breathe.

“It felt like I couldn’t get a deep breath. I felt as though my heart was just going to burst out of my chest — it was pumping so hard because my lungs were not functioning properly,” recalled the 34-year-old Edmontonian in an interview with CBC News on Monday.

“I couldn’t even walk across the room, going up stairs was impossible.”

Parker contracted COVID-19 from her mom, who got it from Parker’s uncle after a trip to Costa Rica. In both cases, her family members didn’t know they had it until it was too late.

Despite having asthma and being hospitalized a decade ago for H1N1, Parker recovered from the disease at home.

‘Cautiously open up sectors’

As of Monday, deaths due to COVID-19 in Alberta reached 104, while the total number of cases grew to 5,836.

The province reported 70 new cases on Monday, the third consecutive day since mid-April that the number of new cases  was below the triple-digit mark.

Hinshaw emphasized that businesses cannot reopen in the way they were used to operating.

“Everyone has to put measures in place to prevent spread,” Hinshaw said. “But it is also true that the longer that we have these restrictions in place, the more impact that has on Albertans and their health.”

Hinshaw noted that there are no “entirely risk-free options,” and provincial officials are working to strike a balance between reopening and protecting the health of Albertans. Data on new cases will be carefully monitored throughout, she said.

As for Parker, apart from a lingering cough, she has been cleared of COVID-19. She has agreed to participate in a provincial study.

“If that is a way that I can help I will because … I think it’s really important that we find a vaccine for this.”

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