As the province added an additional 1,307 cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that Albertans should begin preparing for a “much different” holiday season.
“I know many people across the province are starting to plan for the holiday season,” Hinshaw said. “For many of us, this upcoming season is about socializing and spending time together.
“It’s been a long hard year… and I know how important these holidays are for Albertans.
“But in a year that is anything but typical how we celebrate won’t be typical either.”
Hinshaw warned that Albertans should be planning for online celebrations and small outside gatherings, although the provincial government won’t be announcing the actual measures for the last week of December until later in the month.
She added that there were increased case numbers following other holidays like Thanksgiving.
“If you are making holiday plans, it is best to assume you will be limiting contact with anyone outside your household as much as possible, and that any larger get-togethers will likely need to be virtual,” Hinshaw said.
“I am encouraging Albertans to begin preparing for a much different holiday season, and to start thinking of creative ways to celebrate safely.”
There are now 16,628 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, the majority of which are in Alberta’s two largest metro areas. Edmonton zone currently sits at 7,552 active cases, or 45 per cent of the total. Calgary zone has 6,162 active cases as of Tuesday, or 37 per cent of the total.
The provincial positivity rate sits at 8.4 per cent, Hinshaw said.
Currently there are 479 people in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta, 97 of whom are in the ICU.
Hinshaw said the province is watching carefully to see if new measures announced last week will help “bend the growth” of the virus’s R value.
The R value explains how many people a positive case will infect. For example, if the R value is one, then one person will infect one other person, who infects one other person.
“We need to get that below one so we actually start decreasing the number of new cases that we have,” Hinshaw said.
Despite officials saying Alberta’s R value would be publicly posted starting Nov. 30, they have not yet been released. Hinshaw did not have the most recent number to release when asked at Tuesday’s news conference, but said it was at “least” a month ago that the province had an R value of one.
“We are continuing to see growth,” she said. “And we wouldn’t expect to see the impact of the measures announced last week (make a difference) until later this week, at the very earliest.
“That is one of the most important metrics right now. Because it does help us understand whether our actions are decreasing the curve enough to actually have that reduction in number of cases. Because that is the only way that we are going to be able to alleviate the pressure on the health-care system.”
A total of 551 people in Alberta have now died due to the coronavirus.
The 10 Albertans whose pandemic-related deaths Alberta Health announced on Tuesday were all seniors.
The fatalities include three men in Edmonton zone connected to the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre: two men in their in their 90s and a man in his 80s. The man in his 80s died on Nov. 27, and had pre-existing conditions. Of the two men in their 90s, one died on Nov. 24 and the other passed away on Nov. 29. The man who died on Nov. 24 had pre-existing conditions, according to Alberta Health.
Also in Edmonton zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at the St. Thomas Health Centre died on Nov. 25. He had no pre-existing conditions. A man in his 90s connected to the outbreak at the Capital Care Lynnwood care centre died Nov. 26. He had pre-existing conditions, according to Alberta Health. A woman in her 70s with comorbidities linked to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital died Nov. 29.
A woman in Edmonton zone in her 80s, with comorbidities, died Nov. 30. Alberta Health said she was not connected to a care centre or hospital outbreak.
In Calgary zone, two people — a man and woman both in their 70s — died in connection with the Clifton Manor outbreak. The man died Nov. 29 and the woman passed away Nov. 30.
A woman in her 70s in South zone connected to the Kainai Continuing Care Centre passed away Nov. 26.
Alberta remains under additional restrictions that were announced last week. Some of those restriction include no in-person socializing in the home with those who do not live there, high school students have been shifted back to at-home learning as of Monday, and Albertans can only eat with their household at restaurants, while most retail stores in enhanced areas like Calgary and Edmonton are limited to 25 per cent capacity.