As the province added 669 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 new fatalities, Alberta’s NDP is calling for more action from the provincial government on how it will manage the variants initially detected in the U.K. and South Africa if they begin spreading locally.
Wednesday’s new cases come from 14,888 tests, according to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. That gives the province a positivity rate of 4.5 per cent.
There are now 744 Albertans in hospital, 124 of whom are in the ICU.
Hinshaw said she remains concerned by the number of people needing hospital care.
“To put this into context, over the last 10 years we have had an average of just over 1,500 total hospital admissions for influenza annually,” she said.
“More than 5,000 people have needed hospital care since the pandemic began for COVID-19 in Alberta.”
The majority of Wednesday’s 21 deaths were seniors living in care. The details on the Albertans who lost their lives is available lower on in this article.
A total of 1,484 people in the province have now died from COVID-19.
Hinshaw said that the province has now administered 95,243 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and there have been 18 people who have had adverse reactions.
“Six of the adverse events have been an allergic reaction, and these individuals are seeing an allergist before getting their second dose. Other reactions have been symptoms such a diarrhea, vomiting or a rash,” Hinshaw said.
“We will continue to monitor every dose that is administered to ensure we are protecting Albertans’ health.”
Alberta Health Services told Global News as of Wednesday afternoon, it had administered 7,003 second doses.
Hinshaw said residents of long-term care homes are being prioritized for second doses due to their risk level. The province said of the 1,484 reported deaths, 978 — or 66 per cent — have been in long-term care facilities or at supportive living sites.
Active case numbers in the province dropped to 10,565, with an additional 1,179 recoveries recorded over the last 24-hour period.
Hinshaw also gave a reminder that Albertans who are identified as close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases need to be sure they are isolating for two full weeks after possible exposure.
“A test is only a snapshot of a particular point in time,” she said. “And someone who has been exposed to the virus can become sick up to 14 days after their exposure.
“This means that someone who is a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case can test negative on Day 3 and then test positive on Day 7. That’s why it is critical that the mandated quarantine isolation protocols are followed and respected.”
Hinshaw also noted that with the outdoor restrictions lifted, Albertans are now permitted to visit family members outside at long-term care centres.
Facilities can use “outdoor designated spaces” for planned visits with up to five people, or residents can attend off-site outdoor gatherings with up to nine other people, including themselves.
Of the 21 deaths reported Wednesday, 10 were in the Edmonton zone: a woman in her 70s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s — all with comorbidities — from Extendicare Eaux Claires, a woman in her 90s with comorbidities at Rivercrest Care Centre, a man in his 80s with comorbidities at Miller Crossing Care Centre, a woman in her 90s with comorbidities at Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s — both with comorbidities — from Capital Care Lynnwood, a man in his 80s with comorbidities and a woman in her 70s with unknown comorbidities.
Seven of the deaths were in the Calgary zone: a man in his 70s and woman in her 80s — both with comorbidities — linked to the outbreak at the Foothills Medical Centre, a man in his 80s with comorbidities from Bethany Riverview, a woman in her 80s with comorbidities from Bethany Calgary, a man in his 90s with comorbidities from Carewest Glenmore Park, a woman in her 80s with comorbidities from Agecare Sagewood and a man in his 80s with unknown comorbidities from Academy of Aging.
Two deaths occurred in the South zone: a man in his 80s with comorbidities linked to the outbreak at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital and a woman in her 90s with comorbidities.
A man in his 70s with comorbidities died in the North zone. A woman in her 90s with comorbidities linked to the outbreak at Seasons Camrose in the Central zone also passed.
Alberta NDP raise concerns over COVID-19 variants
So far, all of the variant cases that have been detected in the province have been travel-related, Hinshaw said in her update Tuesday.
She also said that as of this weekend, Alberta health officials had identified 12 cases of the variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the U.K., and two cases of the variant that was first identified in South Africa.
On Tuesday, NDP critic for health, David Shepherd, said while the lowering case numbers in Alberta are a sign of success, there needs to be a contingency plan in place to contain the variants if they do start to spread.
“The arrival of new variants in COVID-19 in Alberta does present a risk to that continuing success,” Shepherd said.
“Albertans deserve to know that the province has a proactive and transparent plan to manage and mitigate that risk.”
The NDP laid out four requests to the UCP government that it believes are necessary to protect the province from the variants:
- Give daily reporting of testing and new cases related to variants
- Increase genetic sequencing of positive cases of COVID-19 to 10 per cent
- Present Albertans with a “detailed and transparent” plan to contain the variants if they should spread locally
- Bring officials into the daily briefings who can answer specific questions related to the variants in Alberta
Dr. Graham Tipples, the medical-scientific director of Alberta Precision Laboratories, said Wednesday that the province has so far done genetic sequencing on about 4,000 different virus samples since the pandemic began, but is hoping to increase that number.
“With the emergence of some of these variants of concern… we’re actually just getting going on the process of setting up better, more rapid screening tests to detect those,” Tipples said.
“It’s very much an evolving thing, and who you’re targeting for the testing and how you’re going about it. Obviously right now a key group is returning travellers, returning international travellers.”
Tipples said that is is “not surprising” that travellers have tested positive for the variant.
In the U.K., the country implemented a full-scale lockdown in early January after the new variant led to a “frustrating and alarming” rate of spread, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The highly contagious U.K. strain is on track to become the dominant circulating variant in the U.S. by March, according to American health officials.
The new U.K. variant is believed to be roughly 56 per cent more transmissible than the main coronavirus strain circulating.
–with files from Amanda Connelly, Global News and The Canadian Press