Jason Kenney is following the politics more than the science on new COVID restrictions

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“To prevent rural areas with small populations from being unfairly impacted, municipalities with fewer than 250 active cases” will be excluded from the harsh return-to-lockdown rules announced by Premier Jason Kenney and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Apr. 29.

That’s not an accurate statement.

If the UCP government was being truthful, that part of their announcement would read, “To prevent rural MLAs from revolting against the leader of their party, we are exempting their constituents from COVID restrictions even though that goes against the science.”

What should be driving these restrictions is infection rates, not infection numbers.

If these reimposed restrictions — including indoor fitness cancelled and outdoor group fitness classes restricted and all Grade 7 to 12 classes going online — were truly about “bending the curve” as the government claims (and not about preventing Kenney from having to face a leadership review at the UCP convention this fall), then the rules would apply to all communities with rates of infections above a certain threshold.

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Instead, just eight urban areas were singled out — Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Strathcona County and Lethbridge.

The provincial government employed a clever little mathematical twist to avoid upsetting the UCP base. Not only does a community have to have an infection rate greater than 350 cases per 100,000 population, it has to have more than 250 active cases.

That’s how come Edmonton, whose infection rate is only 65th out of 142 communities in the province, has restrictions imposed while Banff, which is third, is exempt.

Edmonton has big raw numbers — 4,185 active cases as of Apr. 29 — but because it is a city of nearly one million, that is a comparatively low infection rate of just 403 per 100,000.

Meanwhile Banff, which has an infection rate (1,115) nearly three times as high as Edmonton’s, is exempt because it has a fairly small population and only 150 active cases.

But that’s not how this stuff works. If I live in a city with an infection rate of just 403 per 100,000 and you live in a town with a rate of 1,115, you have nearly three times as much chance of coming in contact with an active case as I do.

Which one of us should have restrictions imposed if the goal is to slow the spread?

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Banff-Kananaskis UCP MLA Miranda Rosin has been a vocal critic of the cabinet’s restrictions, even before this latest shutdown. But I’m cynical.

The UCP even used the “c” word on Apr. 29 — curfew — in Alberta. How un-Albertan is that?

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It’s unlikely to happen anywhere but Fort McMurray. And it would happen there only if the municipal council asked for it.

The government will only consider curfews for communities where the infection rate is above 1,000 per 100,000. At the moment, there are only four such communities in the province — Fort McMurray, Banff, Northern Sunrise Country and the County of Barrhead.

And Banff, Northern Sunrise and Barrhead are exempt because they don’t exceed the keep-the-locals-quiet threshold of 250 active cases.

However, it’s not the likelihood of a curfew, it’s the principle. This is Alberta, we don’t do curfews here. It’s a personal-freedom thing.

As I said above, Edmonton is 65th in the province in infection rate. Calgary is 30th.

Neither city has a neighbourhood in the top 10 most-infected communities. And each has only two in the top 20 — Calgary Northeast (11th), Calgary Southeast (12th), Edmonton Mill Woods (15th) and Edmonton Rutherford (18th).

Seems if the government were following the science more than the politics, a lot more areas might be joining these eight in lockdown.

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