Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll increased by 30 on Thursday. It’s a number Alberta’s chief medical officer of health called a “heartbreaking figure.”
To date, 790 Albertans have now died.
“If anyone still needs reminding of the seriousness of the virus, of the importance of the restrictions that are currently in place and the importance of doing everything possible to limit our interactions and break the chains of transmission, this is it,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Seventeen of the deaths were in the Edmonton zone, 12 were in the Calgary zone and one was in the Central zone.
Four of the Edmonton zone fatalities involved people linked to an outbreak at Capital Care Lynnwood: a woman in her 100s, a woman in her 90s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 70s. All the people who died had comorbidities.
Four of the Edmonton zone fatalities involved people linked to an outbreak at Devonshire Village: a man in his 90s, two men in their 80s and a man in his 70s. All those who died, except for the man in his 70s, had comorbidities. In the case of the man in his 70s, Alberta Health said it is unknown at this point whether he had comorbidities.
Six other Edmonton zone deaths were linked to outbreaks: a man in his 90s who had comorbidities at Capital Care Norwood, a man in his 80s who had comorbidities at Virginia Park Lodge, a woman in her 50s who had no known comorbidities at McDaniel Manor, a woman in her 90s who had comorbidities at Shepherds Care Vanguard, a woman in her 90s who had comorbidities at Chinese Seniors Lodge and a woman in her 80s who had comorbidities at Chartwell St.Albert Retirement Residence.
The other Edmonton zone deaths were a man in his 50s with no known comorbidities, a woman in her 70s for whom it is not yet known if she had comorbidities and a man in his 80s for whom it is not yet known if he had comorbidities.
In the Calgary zone, six of the deaths were linked to an outbreak at Clifton Manor: a man in his 90s, three men in their 80s and two women in their 90s. Alberta Health said all of those who died had comorbidities.
Two of the Calgary zone deaths were linked to an outbreak at Agecare Skypointe: a man in his 90s and a woman in her 70s. Both of those who died had comorbidities.
Two other Calgary zone deaths were linked to outbreaks: a woman in her 90s at Auburn Heights Retirement Residence for whom comorbidities are unknown at this point and a woman in her 70s who had comorbidities at Dulcina Hospice Calgary.
The other Calgary zone deaths were a man in his 60s and a man in his 70s. In both of those cases, Alberta Health said it was not yet known if they had comorbidities.
The other COVID-19 death reported Thursday was a woman in her 80s in the Central zone. Alberta Health said it was unknown at this time whether she had comorbidities.
While all these deaths didn’t occur on Wednesday, Hinshaw said it was the highest figure she has had the “sad task of reporting.”
Hinshaw also announced and additional 1,571 new cases of COVID in Alberta, bringing the provincial total to 86,168 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
The positivity rate for Alberta sat at about 7.9 per cent, Hinshaw said.
There were 19,865 active cases across the province, with the majority of those in the Edmonton zone with 9,525.
There were 7,043 active cases in the Calgary zone, 1,462 cases reported in the Central zone, the South zone had 541 cases, there were 1,214 cases in the North zone and 80 cases not attributed to a specific zone.
On Thursday, there were 763 people reported to be in hospital, with 138 of those people in the ICU.
There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 450 schools across the province, or 19 per cent of Alberta schools. Those schools have a combined total of 1,966 cases and include 126 schools on the watch list.
Hinshaw used her update on Thursday to remind Albertans about the importance of following the restrictions in place, about one week until many will be enjoying a number of statutory holidays.
“This year we can and must celebrate differently,” she said.
“Holiday gatherings with people outside of your household are not only against the restrictions that are in place, they are also the wrong thing to do right now.”
While Hinshaw said many may think it’s not a big deal to get together with extended family or friends if everyone feels fine, that is “simply wrong.
“We have seen time and time again of people attending a gathering with either mild symptoms like headaches or a stuffy nose that they didn’t connect with COVID-19, or when they were in the day or two before their symptoms started, when they were infectious but didn’t know it.
“The result has been one case spreading to many. That is how cases rise and outbreaks start.”
Currently it is not permitted in Alberta to gather socially indoors or outdoors with anyone outside your immediate household. Those who live alone can have two social contacts, but it must be the same two social contacts through the entirety of the restrictions.
“These orders are not recommendations; they are legal restrictions.”
On Thursday night, Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney answered Albertans’ COVID-19 questions during a livestream on Facebook. At one point, the premier spoke about the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the province once the weather got colder and people began to gather indoors. He noted that holidays seemed to accelerate the rise in cases.
“This spike really seemed to kick off here with Thanksgiving, with social and family gatherings,” Kenney said. “We think people also had some Halloween gatherings against our advice.
“(This) led to very high growth in viral spread, and what was most concerning to us was hospitalizations.”
Kenney added that while he believes Alberta is seeing somewhat of a “plateauing of our COVID numbers in the past 10 days or so,” he was quick to add “that is by no means to say we are out of the woods here yet.”
As of Hinshaw’s update on Thursday, 394 health-care workers across the province had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“I know that many people want to be vaccinated immediately and that is a good thing. We are moving quickly to make the doses we receive available to those who are eligible. We will continue to do that going forward.”
Hinshaw said, with about 4.4 million people in Alberta, it will take some time to get vaccine to everyone who wants it, while the province focuses on those working in critical care and those living and working in long-term care facilities.
“Please be patient while we all wait for our turn and be supportive of those who are in the initial groups to be immunized.”
Hinshaw assured Albertans there will be vaccine for everyone who wants it and said some of the vials that are already in Alberta may be able to be stretched further.
The Pfizer vaccine has enough in each vial to guarantee five doses. But, a “very skilled” immunization administrator could withdraw exactly the amount and no more, leaving a sixth dose in the vial.
“That is something that our immunizers are looking at and, when possible, we will be able to provide those extra doses whenever that vial is handled in such a way to make that last dose available.”
But, Hinshaw said, the province is planning on having the guaranteed five doses and is not banking on that sixth dose each time.
–With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich