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Alberta sees more people in younger demographic test positive for COVID-19

On Friday, as Alberta entered Stage 2 of its relaunch strategy, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there had been no additional deaths from COVID-19 in the province.

In the past 24 hours, out of more than 7,000 tests, 30 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed. That means, across Alberta, there are 386 active cases.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said 53 people were in hospital with COVID-19, six of whom were in intensive care.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, that number has remained relatively constant with some daily fluctuations,” Hinshaw said. “People who have chronic conditions or who are older are at higher risk of having a more severe course of COVID.”

However, she said Alberta data indicates about one-third of ICU admissions are people who have no chronic or predisposing medical conditions.

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“So while it’s a very small proportion of those who pass away who have no known medical conditions, it is possible that those otherwise healthy individuals can end up in hospital or in ICU,” Hinshaw said.

“No one is guaranteed to have a perfectly risk-free course if they do get infected with COVID-19.”

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COVID-19 PANDEMIC: Ask the Expert

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do during Phase 2 in Alberta

Hinshaw pointed out two notable trends: a rise in active cases in the Edmonton zone and an increase in the proportion of people under 40 years testing positive.

In the last three weeks, the Edmonton zone rose from 58 to 149 active COVID-19 cases.

“While any increase is concerning, there has been no single source or cause identified,” Hinshaw said.

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“About two-thirds of these cases are linked to known sources or outbreaks and about one-third are not yet linked to a known source.”

READ MORE: Out of 14,853 asymptomatic tests, Alberta confirms 6 positive COVID-19 cases

She added, however, that the uptick would not be connected to the large equality demonstrations that took place in Alberta cities last week.

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“That is not the case. Any transmission would take days to work through the system,” she said.

“To date, we have not identified cases where attendance at a protest was determined to be the source.”

Hinshaw added the freedom to protest is critical — as is preventing the spread of COVID-19. Health officials are working with event organizers on a guidance document for future rallies, marches and demonstrations so that there can be a balance of “raising voices and preventing spread.”

She encouraged anyone who is attending a demonstration to download the ABTraceTogether app so it is easier to trace their contacts should the need arise.

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Hinshaw also said that over the past few weeks, Alberta has seen a younger demographic test positive for COVID-19.

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She said 60 per cent of the current active cases in the province are in people under the age of 40. There’s also been an increase of cases in the 20-29 age group.

“It is important for younger Albertans to remember that while you may not be at risk for severe outcomes of infection, your actions are critical to protecting those around you who are at higher risk.

“We are all in this together and we have never needed each other more than now in this relaunch time.”

Hinshaw said a common source of transmission, particularly in younger people, is socializing without keeping two metres away from others, and attending group gatherings where food and drinks are shared.

Click to play video 'Hinshaw reminds Albertans that COVID-19 is not gone amid rise in social gatherings' Hinshaw reminds Albertans that COVID-19 is not gone amid rise in social gatherings
Hinshaw reminds Albertans that COVID-19 is not gone amid rise in social gatherings

“What we’re seeing in the cases that have been investigated over the last week to 10 days is that people are, I think, feeling encouraged by the restrictions being lifted and perhaps, maybe, going above and beyond what was intended by the restrictions being lifted.”

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“So, we’re seeing social gatherings, we’re seeing parties, celebrations where people are coming together, sharing food and drink, enjoying each other’s company after having been apart for a long time.

“It is completely natural that we would all want to enjoy social interaction after a time of having been apart, but the important thing to remember is that COVID has not gone and it will not be gone for some time.”

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As of Friday, 6,811 people had recovered from COVID-19 and more than 325,000 tests had been done.

An outbreak at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton announced Wednesday now has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases in staff. No patients have tested positive for the virus.

Alberta Health Services implemented outbreak protocols at the facility and all staff and patients were being tested, Hinshaw said Wednesday.

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“Today is not a celebration for everyone,” Hinshaw said. “While many are excited to move into Stage 2, I know that some people will continue to feel anxious. It is natural to feel this way.”

She said the government is also exploring ways to lift some restrictions in long-term care homes, where many residents are battling loneliness, to balance social, emotional and physical health needs.