Hinshaw: 'Open for Summer' plan caused COVID spike

Hinshaw said she feels "very responsible" for the narrative that COVID was somehow over and that people could now ignore it. She said she deeply regrets how that has played out

Calgary Herald 3 minute read September 14, 2021

Dr. Deena Hinshaw spoke candidly about the COVID-19 pandemic during a meeting with Primary Care Network physicians on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Screenshot

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she now believes the province’s Open for Summer plan has directly led to the current spike in COVID-19 cases.

Hinshaw made the comments while taking part in a Zoom meeting with Primary Care Network doctors that was broadcast online Monday night.

The full video has since been taken down, but copies of the livestream have appeared online.

Hinshaw started the meeting by acknowledging the frustration, anger and exhaustion being felt by doctors and healthcare workers.

“I just want to thank you for still talking to me,” she said.

During the meeting, she gave her thoughts on what has led to the province’s current “trajectory” of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations which threaten to overwhelm the hospital system.

“I think that trajectory was set when we removed all the public health restrictions in July,” she said.

Hinshaw said provinces that have kept base-level restrictions to manage interactions and close contacts have not seen a significant impact from the contagious Delta variant, which is driving Alberta’s fourth wave.

Alberta removed practically all COVID-19 restrictions such as masking and gathering limits on July 1st, with a few exceptions for health-care settings.


“We have crushed COVID-19 and with cases plummeting and vaccine uptake climbing, we are open for summer,” said Premier Jason Kenney when announcing the plan. “With vaccines on our side, businesses can once again thrive, and Albertans can get back to their normal lives.”

The province has since experienced a fourth wave of COVID-19, and the health-care system is now seeing higher demand for ICU beds than at any other time in the pandemic.

As restrictions were lifted, Hinshaw said they were expecting a decoupling of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID as the vaccine gave better protection to people.

“The expectations did not match reality and very shortly after we started that endemic path, we could see already from comparisons of the actual (numbers) and the modelling data within a couple of weeks that we weren’t seeing the decoupling we expected,” she said.

The Alberta government started talking openly about COVID-19 becoming endemic in mid-July. On July 28, Hinshaw announced plans to end regular COVID-19 testing and lift isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID, however those plans were cancelled days before their planned Aug. 16 implementation. New restrictions including province-wide masking and a liquor sales curfew were not brought in until Sept. 4.

Hinshaw said she feels “very responsible” for the narrative that COVID was somehow over and that people could now ignore it. She said she deeply regrets how that has played out.

She also cautioned that while she doesn’t know when the fourth wave will peak, we still have to “come down the other side” of the wave, meaning we will still see significant numbers of new cases even as the overall caseload decreases.