Alberta COVID-19 positivity rises to 9.9% as NDP pushes for stronger restrictions

Click to play video: 'Many questions, few answers about P.1 variant COVID-19 outbreaks linked to Alberta workplaces'
Many questions, few answers about P.1 variant COVID-19 outbreaks linked to Alberta workplaces
Saturday's update about a significant COVID-19 outbreak linked to a traveller with the P.1 variant led to a wave of anger from Albertans wondering where exactly these cases were found. Two days later, the government still hasn't released many details. As provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon explains, the lack of information has raised some serious concerns – Apr 5, 2021

Alberta Health announced Monday that 887 new COVID-19 cases had been identified in the last 24 hours, including 432 variants of concern.

There are currently 10,582 active cases in the province. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said 39 per cent of active cases are variants.

More than 9,102 COVID-19 tests were completed Sunday, resulting in a provincial positivity rate of 9.9 per cent.

According to an Alberta Health spokesperson, that is the fourth-highest positivity rate the province has recorded to date.

In a series of tweets Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 312 Albertans were in hospital. Of those, 76 are listed to be in intensive care.

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Four additional deaths have been reported to Alberta Health since April 1.

A man in his 80s linked to the outbreak Covenant Health St. Joseph’s in the Edmonton zone died. The case included comorbidities. A man in his 70s from the Edmonton zone died. His case also included comorbidities.

A man in his 80s in the Central zone died. There are no known comorbidities with this case at this time. A man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Arbour Lake Retirement Residence in the Calgary zone also died. The case included comorbidities.

As of April 4, Alberta had administered 707,482 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Click to play video: 'P.1 variant 101: What the COVID-19 variant’s arrival means for Alberta'
P.1 variant 101: What the COVID-19 variant’s arrival means for Alberta

COVID-19 outbreaks involving P.1. variant

Hinshaw also provided an update on two outbreaks involving the P.1 variant of concern, the variant first identified in Brazil.

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She said one outbreak appears to be linked to a “large employer with multiple sites across Western Canada” and started with a traveller returning to Alberta from out of province. This outbreak involves 26 positive COVID-19 cases at three worksites and their household contacts. So far, three are confirmed P.1 variant cases. Hinshaw did not provide an exact location of this outbreak.

Another outbreak involves five positive cases at a workplace in the Calgary zone, including one confirmed P.1 variant case.

“I am concerned about the rising cases, including variants, in our province,” Hinshaw wrote. “Please keep making safe choices and limit in-person interactions whenever possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 provincewide.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 variant concerns surge as Canada surpasses 1 million cases'
COVID-19 variant concerns surge as Canada surpasses 1 million cases

NDP calls for action amid 3rd wave

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Premier Jason Kenney needs to act today to once again slow the spread of COVID-19 as case numbers rise.

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The official Opposition is calling on the province to “immediately reintroduce the Jan. 18 public health orders to protect Albertans from the dangerous third wave of COVID-19.”

“Albertans’ lives are at stake and there are proven measures that could be protecting them,” Notley said during a media availability outside the federal building in Edmonton earlier Monday.

“I was shocked that Jason Kenney failed to do this on Thursday. He laid out a compelling case to take action and then failed to act.”

The measures in place in Alberta on Jan. 18 allowed personal wellness services like hair salons to reopen by appointment only. Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people were also allowed. Businesses like fitness studios were still closed at the time, as were restaurants to in-person dining.

“He must re-introduce the measures that effectively contained the spread of COVID over the winter and he must do it today,” Notley said.

When speaking on Thursday, the premier pleaded with Albertans to follow the public health rules and guidelines currently in place but stopped short of implementing new restrictions. He noted the province is looking at whether more targeted restrictions may be needed in the future.

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It came as he warned Alberta was “now in a significant new wave of COVID-19.”

“We know with great certainty that we will have close to 500 COVID-19 patients in hospital just two weeks from now,” he said Thursday, adding that number could grow to 1,000 people in a month’s time.

Click to play video: 'Kenney pleads with Albertans to follow COVID-19 restrictions over long weekend'
Kenney pleads with Albertans to follow COVID-19 restrictions over long weekend

“Jason Kenney said that hundreds upon hundreds of people will be hospitalized in the next 14 days and then did absolutely nothing to prevent even more people from being infected over this long weekend,” Notley said.

“He said if we stay on this current path we will have 1,000 people in hospital with COVID inside of a month — more than we have ever seen at any point in this pandemic — and yet he did nothing to change course.

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“The premiers of B.C., Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec have all re-introduced public health measures to keep their residents safe. But Jason Kenney is dithering and worrying more about his political future and political base than the lives of Albertans. I cannot believe that his failure to act is based on professional public health advice,” Notley said.

Notley said at the very least, the province should bring back the measures that were in place on Jan. 18 but keep schools open for the time being.

“For the moment, I hope we can keep our schools opened safely,” Notley said. “But I also urge the government to immediately convene an urgent conversation with teachers and district boards to determine how to keep students and staff and families safe through to June.”

Notley said she would like to see widespread rapid COVID-19 testing and dedicated contact tracers for schools.

Click to play video: 'B.C., Alberta report outbreaks of P.1 variant'
B.C., Alberta report outbreaks of P.1 variant

Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician at Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, said Sunday that the current public health measures in place in Alberta “are not enough.”

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“The brutal fact of the matter is, all we have to do is look to Ontario to see what our future is and that will be our future in seven to 10 days. Their ICUs are full, they’re having to institute much more stringent measures,” he said.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Alberta, said in the past, Alberta has not seen transmission turn around significantly without putting additional restrictions in place.

“Even though a lot of people have been doing all the right things all the way along — which has kept us out of deeper trouble, I would have to say — we know that extra measures are very likely to be needed at this point. I would be actually looking for something to be changing over the next few, several days hopefully,” she said Sunday.

“I would consider it quite important to get the restrictions right to try to keep this from taking off because getting behind on the transmission when we know it’s a variant of concern, especially, is a real issue right now especially as we’re just trying to get through vaccine rollout.”

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Saxinger said any venue where there’s a possibility of mixing from multiple households would be a risky situation.

“Even with precautions in place, I would be concerned about places where, for example, people have to unmask to eat like in restaurants, food services and things like that. The other thing I think is that public health will have some internal data as to where they’ve been seeing transmission occurring and so that might also inform what the restrictions might end up being.

“We know what we need to do, we just have to do it better and very, very stringently for the next while.”

Hinshaw is scheduled to provide her next in-person update on COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon.

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