Dr. Deena Hinshaw stressed that Alberta is “not out of the woods yet” when it comes to COVID-19, as select businesses in the province reopened Monday thanks to easing of restrictions.
Hinshaw reported 474 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, from roughly 8,500 tests. That puts the province’s positivity rate at 5.4 per cent, and the R-value, or rate of transmission, was 0.84.
A total of 739 people were being treated in hospital as of Monday, with 120 in intensive care. Hinshaw said that is a drastic difference compared to three months ago on Oct. 18, when just 120 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Alberta had 11,923 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, which is nearly triple the cases reported on Oct. 18, which was just over 3,000, Hinshaw said.
Personal wellness services businesses were reopening across the province Monday, as it was the first day of several eased restrictions, including allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people.
Hinshaw said while it’s important to “proceed slowly and cautiously as we consider easing the restrictions in place,” the decision to allow those businesses to open was based on the risk of transmission they posed.
When asked about why businesses like fitness studios and restaurants weren’t also allowed to reopen based on transmission risk in those environments, Hinshaw said provincial data showed they posed a greater risk.
“What it comes down to is that we must start with our easing of restrictions by allowing those things where we have data that indicates they are the lowest likelihood of having transmission occur in those settings,” she said, “and then potentially moving on to easing in other settings.”
Hinshaw said officials continued to engage with various industries as they reevaluate which restrictions can be eased and when.
Eleven people were confirmed to have died from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, according to Alberta Health.
In the Calgary Zone, four more deaths were linked to the outbreak at Agecare Walden Heights, including a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 90s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s. All cases included comorbidities.
A man in his 80s, linked to the outbreak at Carewest George Boyack in the Calgary Zone also died. This case included comorbidities.
Three deaths in the Edmonton Zone were linked to outbreaks at various care facilities. A woman in her 80s linked to the Chartwell Heritage Valley outbreak died, a woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at the Royal Alexandra Hospital died and a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Lynnwood died. All three cases included comorbidities.
Two other people in the Edmonton Zone, a man his 80s and a man in his 50s also died. Both cases included comorbidities.
A woman in her 60s linked to the Prairie Lakes Supportive Living in the North zone also died. Alberta Health said comorbidities of that case were not known.
“While it is encouraging to see these numbers going down, it is important to keep in mind that over the past 10 years, the average annual recorded death toll from influenza has been 58 deaths per year,” Hinshaw said.
“So having lost an additional 11 people to COVID-19, which amounts to almost 20 per cent of an average full year of influenza data, should not be taken lightly.
“The lives lost to COVID-19 are a painful reminder to us all of the seriousness of the virus and the need to protect ourselves and each other from it.”
Hinshaw said 66 per cent of all of Alberta’s COVID-19 deaths have happened at long-term care and supported living facilities, which highlights the importance of getting staff and seniors at those places vaccinated.
She said all staff and residents at those facilities were able to get the first dose of the vaccine before Alberta had to stop booking first-dose appointments due to a delay in supply.
She said Alberta Health Services is now working to vaccinate people at mixed sites, where some residents may be in supportive living and others are not, as well as any residents or staff members who weren’t well enough to receive their first shot when vaccinators visited their facility.
“I know many other seniors would benefit tremendously from this vaccine,” she said. “We want to offer them vaccination as soon as possible. Unfortunately we will be receiving fewer doses than we’d hoped for over the next few weeks. However once supply increases, we will be able to expand access.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said last week that the province had no date for when it would start vaccinating seniors across the province over the age of 75, and those over the age of 65 living on First Nations or Metis settlements.