On Monday, the province announced Alberta may be receiving some early shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine. The news comes as the province confirmed an additional 1,735 cases of the disease.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province has been in discussion with the federal government about this early shipment.
Currently there is one receiving site in Edmonton and one in Calgary. For those early doses, the vaccine has to be given at the same site the delivery happens at.
“We are looking at health-care workers in shortest supply and where there is the greatest strain on the system to make those people eligible for those doses,” Hinshaw said.
While Hinshaw said details on how the early doses will be rolled out will come “very soon,” deputy minister of municipal affairs and head of Alberta’s COVID-19 task force Paul Wynnyk said Alberta Health Services has been working on the vaccine plan for months.
“We’ve got all the logistics in place. Really all we’re awaiting now are the details of the shipments,” he said.
“But when that vaccine gets here, we are ready to receive it and we are ready to roll from that point on.”
Alberta hit a grim milestone on Monday, as the province reported more than 20,000 active cases of COVID-19.
There are 609 people in hospital, 108 of whom are in the ICU.
According to Hinshaw, the province currently has a positivity rate of 8.5 per cent.
“I will be blunt, so far, we are not bending the curve back down,” Hinshaw said. “We are still witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous transmission on our hospitals, intensive care units and health-care workers. It is also putting enormous strain on our continuing care facilities and many other sectors.”
The province confirmed an additional 16 deaths Monday, bringing the death toll to 631.
Of the 16 deaths reported Monday, six were linked to the outbreak at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre: two men in their 80s, a man in his 90s, two women in their 90s and a woman in her 100s.
“We are very concerned about the number of cases and the overall situation at the facility,” Hinshaw said. Alberta Health is currently monitoring the facility and visited it twice last week and again on Monday.
“This is a challenging situation, but we are working hard to protect everyone involved.”
A woman in her 90s from St. Michael’s Long Term Care Centre in the Edmonton zone also died.
Four other deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone, which were not linked to continuing care. These deaths included a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s.
There were three deaths in the Calgary zone, including a man in his 60s not linked to continuing care, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Vecova Group Home and a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Bethany Calgary.
Two deaths were reported in the South zone: a man in his 60s and a woman in her 60s.
“My deepest condolences go to the family and friends of these individuals,” Hinshaw said.
As for schools, there were active alerts or outbreaks in 414 schools across Alberta. There are 1,644 active COVID-19 cases at schools, including 237 schools with outbreaks and 106 of those currently on the watch list.
To date, 49,603 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19 and the province has performed 2,391,604 tests.
Rapid testing in Alberta
Starting this week, point-of-care rapid testing will be piloted at the COVID-19 assessment centres in St. Paul and Slave Lake and one assessment centre in both Edmonton and Calgary.
These tests are used when someone is within the first seven days of showing symptoms and can return positive results in just a few hours.
“These tests will provide faster, more convenient testing for the disease,” Hinshaw said.
They’re not as accurate in those who don’t have symptoms and are less sensitive than the usual molecular lab testing, so Hinshaw said people will need to isolate if they’ve received a negative result from these rapid test until they receive a negative result from the molecular lab testing.
“What this test does offer is faster identification of positive cases,” Hinshaw said. “Fast tracking the testing process in this way will allow health-care teams to prioritize cases that are still infectious and focus efforts on where they can have the greatest impact on preventing further transmission.”
Officials are working on expanding the rapid testing to places like long-term care facilities and shelters.
Clarification on regulations for those living alone
Hinshaw also provided clarification on the regulations introduced for those who live alone.
“To clarify, we consider you to be living alone if you are the sole occupant of your house, apartment or unit. If you have a roommate, tenant or friend living in the same dwelling, you do not live alone.”
A person who lives alone can see two close contacts indoors. According to Hinshaw, they do not need to be from the same household and those close contacts do not need to also live alone.
“But if you choose a close contact who has other individuals living in their home, indoor gatherings must take place in your home to limit person-to-person contact.”
The two close contacts must be the same two people while these current restrictions are in place. When they were announced, Premier Jason Kenney said the restrictions would be re-examined on Dec. 15.
– With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News