Alberta reports 1,879 COVID-19 cases Saturday, expert warns ‘strong restrictive measures’ needed

Click to play video 'Alberta records record COVID-19 positivity rate' Alberta records record COVID-19 positivity rate
WATCH ABOVE: The province reported a record-high test positivity rate Friday. One of every 10 people tested positive for COVID-19. Nicole Stillger has more – Dec 5, 2020

As Alberta saw another record-high day of COVID-19 positives with 1,879 additional cases identified Saturday, a Calgary doctor and medical school professor says the provincial health system is being stretched thin and more measures are needed — immediately.

“We’re entering a very scary phase of this wave of the pandemic, and we don’t unfortunately see that the measures that have been implemented are going to make enough of a shift in that,” Dr. Christine Gibson, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary, said Saturday.

Another six people have died, bringing the provincial fatality number to 596.

Of those deaths, the majority were in Edmonton zone, with a man in his 90s linked to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital outbreak, a woman and a man in their 70s, neither linked to any outbreaks, and a woman in her 60s at the Villa Marguerite care home outbreak all dying from the disease. All but the man in his 70s were believed to have pre-existing conditions.

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In other zones, a woman in her 80s at the Mount Royal Revera care home in Calgary zone and a man in his 80s in South zone died. It’s not known if the woman had any pre-existing issues but Alberta Health said it’s believed the man did.

As of Saturday, there were 563 Albertans in hospital, 101 of whom were in intensive care.

Alberta has also seen its positivity rate spike this week — on Friday, it was at 10.5 per cent, and on Saturday the positivity rate for tests over the last 24 hours sat just below nine per cent.

Click to play video 'Alberta’s COVID-19 positivity rate hits 10.5%' Alberta’s COVID-19 positivity rate hits 10.5%
Alberta’s COVID-19 positivity rate hits 10.5% – Dec 4, 2020

Gibson said the full effect of the measures Premier Jason Kenney announced last week on the health-care system likely won’t be felt for at least 10 days — if not longer — and she is concerned that the measures are going to have to be even more strict through the holidays than they could have been had officials acted sooner.

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“The lockdown measures needed for us to interrupt this incredible acceleration we’re on are going to be so much stricter than what we could have faced if we responded weeks ago,” she said.

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“Christmas is about caring for each other, loving our family and now we can show that love by not putting them at risk.

“I just don’t think we have more time to wait — this week we need strong restrictive measures implemented.”

The active cases in the province now sit at 18,806 — the majority of which are in Edmonton and Calgary zones. Edmonton zone had 8,777 active cases Saturday, while Calgary zone had 6,951.

The rising numbers come the same day that large rallies protesting the current COVID-19 measures were held in both Edmonton and Calgary. Those measures include an outdoor gathering limit of 10 and mandatory mask rules in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Read more: Calgary and Edmonton rallies protest government COVID-19 restrictions

Kenney spoke out against that rally on Twitter Saturday — and also called on Albertans to take the pandemic seriously.

“This is not a hoax, it’s not just the flu,” he said. “COVID-19 is very real and deadly serious.”

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Alberta remains under the series of restrictions announced Nov. 24. Under those measures, Albertans cannot host indoor social gatherings in the home, and no festivals or large events are permitted. However, restaurants can remain open, as can retail businesses — but in enhanced areas the retails stores must be at 25 per cent capacity.

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Nurses, other health workers redeployed to manage COVID-19 surge – Dec 4, 2020

Alberta’s positivity rate is especially concerning when compared to other regions in the world. In the United States, as of Saturday, its average positivity rate was 8.03 per cent. While some regions in the U.S. are higher than that national average, Gibson says she believe the current numbers in the province are a cause for alarm.

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“My first reaction is fear, to be honest,” she said. “Those kinds of numbers are among the highest in North America right now, so we know we are an epicentre of infection here in Alberta, and that’s scary when you’re a front-line health worker.

“Everyone I know is working their fingers to the bone,” she said.