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Rise in COVID-19 cases, variants ‘a wake-up call for all Albertans,’ Kenney says

Click to play video: 'Albertans vaccinated with AstraZeneca react to changing vaccine guidance' Albertans vaccinated with AstraZeneca react to changing vaccine guidance
WATCH: Albertans vaccinated with AstraZeneca react to changing vaccine guidance. – Mar 30, 2021

Premier Jason Kenney said he will be joining Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Thursday afternoon to speak about his concerns about the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

Speaking in Lethbridge Wednesday afternoon, the premier said Albertans should be concerned about the recent spike in cases of COVID-19, particularly variant cases of the virus.

“We are very close to the end of this thing and we should be very concerned about the new variant-driven growth in cases,” Kenney said.

“It will start significantly to show up in our hospitals, there is no doubt about that.

“I will have more to say about exactly that tomorrow with Dr. Hinshaw.”

Read more: 576 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Alberta Tuesday, including 332 variant cases

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On Tuesday, Alberta recorded its highest single-day number of variant cases of COVID-19 to date with 332 new cases identified. Variant cases made up 29.8 per cent of all active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as of Tuesday afternoon. That increased slightly to 31.9 per cent on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Alberta reached another daily record with 406 new variant cases of concern identified. That was out of a total of 871 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday. (See Alberta’s full COVID-19 numbers for Wednesday below).

So far, Alberta has recorded 4,055 variant cases of COVID-19, the majority of which are the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K.

Read more: ‘It can take off’: Variants could drive spike in severe outcomes for young people

Health officials have said that the U.K. variant results in more severe illness, and it does so across age groups.

“Unfortunately, the new variant is driving cases up in a younger population and this variant can have a much more severe health impact on younger people,” Kenney stressed.

“If the B.1.1.7 variant becomes the dominant (strain), it is 40 to 80 per cent more contagious than the virus we’ve been fighting for the past year. It can be more lethal and have a higher chance of putting younger people in hospital, so it has to be taken seriously.

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Kenney said he believes increased transmission is occurring now because “people have become tired of all of this.”

“They’ve either kind of forgotten about the guidelines or they’ve just wished them away.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta considering more COVID-19 restrictions but no decisions yet: Hinshaw' Alberta considering more COVID-19 restrictions but no decisions yet: Hinshaw
Alberta considering more COVID-19 restrictions but no decisions yet: Hinshaw – Mar 29, 2021

However, the premier said now is not the time to let down our guards.

“The end is in sight but we need to get through the last 10 minutes of the game here. We can see the end but we have to finish this strongly without imposing massive pressure on our hospital system. So I would plead with Albertans: please be very careful and follow the public health guidelines and the restrictions in place,” he said.

“Let’s just please buckle down in the next month or so to get us through this without threatening our hospital system. It’s critically important.”

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Alberta also surpassed 300 people in hospital with COVID-19 Tuesday – the first time that’s happened since late February. There were 301 people in hospital, 58 of whom were being treated in intensive care.

On Wednesday, 301 people remained hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 63 were being treated in intensive care.

“We may need to put additional restrictions in place and we will be, again, looking closely at the data and determining if that is necessary in the weeks ahead,” Hinshaw said during her last in-person update on COVID-19 on Monday.

Read more: Youth sports could be linked to ‘worrisome signs’ of COVID-19 transmission in Alberta, Kenney told

Kenney reiterated that Alberta’s approach to the pandemic has never been to get down to zero cases.

“The broader cost to people’s lives, to their livelihoods, to our social and economic health would be massive if we were to pursue true lockdown policies. We’ve never done that in this province,” he said, adding true lockdown policies include measures like stay-at-home orders, curfews and the closure of most businesses.

“We won’t be pursuing that kind of a lockdown, again, because our goal is not to chase after zero regardless of the damage to people’s lives. Our goal in Alberta, at least, is a balanced one.”

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Kenney said there is positive news on the vaccine front. As of March 30, Alberta had administered 634,997 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 101,298 Albertans are fully vaccinated with two doses.

Alberta's COVID-19 numbers for Wednesday

Alberta reported 871 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, 406 of which were variant cases of concern.

The province’s overall positivity rate was 6.5 per cent.

Wednesday’s overall case count was the highest daily total of COVID-19 cases Alberta has seen since mid-January.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said the trends are deeply concerning.

“They raise serious questions for Alberta families and businesses about what the coming weeks will hold. I am disappointed that no one in the government stepped forward to answer these questions today,” Shepherd said in a statement.

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“Jason Kenney owes parents, students, employers and workers as much notice as possible if a return to public health restrictions is indicated in his internal modelling. He cannot allow the chaos within his government to distract him from his primary responsibility to keep Albertans safe.”

Three additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours, bringing the province’s death toll from COVID-19 to 1,990.

A man in his 60s in the South zone with no known comorbidities died. A woman in her 60s from the North zone died. Her case included comorbidities. A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Kiwanis Place Lodge in the Edmonton zone also died. His case included comorbidities.

There were 8,350 active cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday. Of those, 3,923 were in the Calgary zone, 1,844 were in the Edmonton zone, 970 were in the North zone, 854 were in the South zone, 733 were in the Central zone and 26 were not tied to any particular zone.

Alberta has recorded a total of 148,332 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date. So far, 137,992 people have recovered.

Hinshaw’s next in-person update on COVID-19 is scheduled for Thursday.

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