Alberta reports estimated 1,100 cases of COVID-19 on Christmas Eve

FILE: Pandemic Response Unit at the Peter Lougheed hospital in Calgary on November 14, 2020. Leah Hennel, Government of Alberta

Alberta reported roughly 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, in the first of a series of modified data updates the province will be posting over the holidays.

An estimated 15,600 laboratory tests were done in the last 24 hours, and the province’s positivity rate was at seven per cent, according to a tweet from chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Read more: COVID-19 survivors: Albertans share their experiences with novel coronavirus

She said while hospitalizations are increasing, ICU admissions are “stable.”

There was no new information provided on the number of deaths reported Thursday.

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Over the Christmas holidays, Alberta Health will be releasing the pared-down data on several days, with more detailed information coming out on Dec. 28, 29 and 30, and then back to preliminary updates from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.

Thursday afternoon, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a tweet that anyone who has travelled to Alberta from not only the U.K., but South Africa, to “please get a COVID-19 test,” in response to a new strain of COVID-19 detected in that country.

The government urged Albertans who had travelled from the U.K. to get tested earlier this week, after a variant of the virus was detected there.

Shandro said Hinshaw has advised “there’s no current evidence that either variant from the U.K. or South Africa causes more severe disease, and Alberta’s current public health measures are effective against both variants.”

“Travellers from the United Kingdom or South Africa who are participating in the border pilot must immediately quarantine, whether they’ve had a negative test or not,” Shandro tweeted.

“And any new travellers would not be eligible for the Alberta border pilot.”

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On Wednesday, Hinshaw stressed the importance of Albertans following the province’s pandemic public health measures during the holidays, adding the province “cannot afford” another spike in cases, which happened after Thanksgiving.

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“We are now well into the holiday season for many, and I want to stress yet again how important it is that we limit our in-person interactions whenever possible,” she said.

“Our baseline of new daily cases is four to five times higher now than it was then, as another example of the impact that social interactions can have.”

Read more: Alberta updates COVID-19 restrictions; exemptions for massage, counselling, single people

Earlier this week, the province announced an exemption for single people to the strict social gathering restrictions, which limit people to spend time with only those in their household.

On Tuesday, the province said single people can attend one gathering between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28, but Hinshaw stressed that should only be done “if absolutely necessary.”

“Absolutely do not go if you were feeling even slightly ill, this is a happy time of year, but also a challenging time for our province. We are seeing encouraging signs and the spread of COVID-19 is starting to decline,” she said Wednesday.

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“However, cases are still extremely high and our hospitalizations continue to rise, which is impacting our ability to care for all Albertans. Our choices during the upcoming statutory holiday season can help build on our downward momentum, or they can send our case numbers rising again.”

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Alberta continues to look at best way to allocate ‘scarce supply’ of COVID-19 vaccine – Dec 23, 2020

Hinshaw also said someone recently asked her what she wished for this Christmas, and Wednesday she said she had five different wishes related to COVID-19 and how Albertans can continue to support each other through the difficult times.

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She said she wished all Albertans would follow the health restrictions, and despite them, find creative ways to connect with the ones they love.

“What if during the time we would normally be with those we love, we took the time to write a letter or record a video to those people in our lives that we are missing seeing this year? What if we use that time to tell them the things we are grateful for that they bring to our lives?” Hinshaw said.

“Showing gratitude in this way not only shows caring for the person you are writing to or speaking to, there is actually good evidence that gratitude is also good for the mental health of the person feeling grateful.”

Hinshaw also wished every health-care worker in the province knows and feels how much their dedication and sacrifice during this year is appreciated.

She also wished those navigating the negative impacts of the public health measures, like business owners and performance groups, are recognized and applauded for how resilient they’ve been throughout the pandemic.

Read more: Alberta health-care workers, paramedics concerned with COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

“Finally, I wish for all of us the strength, patience and determination to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 over the coming months and to look out for one another. Unfortunately, simply wishing won’t make it so. It is up to each of us to do our part,” Hinshaw said.

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“This has been a challenging year and I recognize the holidays will be tough for many. Let’s all treat each other with extra understanding and compassion. If we support each other and continue doing what needs to be done, we will get through this together.”

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