‘We need to pull out all the stops,’ doctor says as Alberta reports 1,592 COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths Saturday

Alberta Health reported 1,592 new COVID-19 cases and five more deaths from it on Saturday.

The deaths all included comorbidities:

  • A woman in her 50s in the Calgary zone.
  • A man in his 50s in the Calgary zone.
  • A man in his 60s in the Calgary zone.
  • A woman in her 70s in the Calgary zone.
  • A woman in her 90s in the Edmonton zone linked to the outbreak at Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

The 1,592 new cases included 1,132 variant cases. The active variant case total is 11,999, which is 60.9 per cent of all active cases.

Read more: ‘I couldn’t take it anymore’: Why some medical staff are calling it quits amid COVID-19

The province has 19,702 active cases, 158,603 recoveries and 2,064 deaths.

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As of Saturday, the Calgary zone has 8,283 active cases, the Edmonton zone has 5,536, the North zone has 2,766, the Central zone has 2,105 and the South zone has 954. There are 58 cases in unknown zones.

The new cases came from 17,725 tests, resulting in a provincial positivity rate of nine per cent, according to the chief medical officer of health.

Alberta Health said 584 people are in hospital, with 129 of them in intensive care.

The government said 1,361,365 vaccine doses had been administered as of April 23, and 267,195 Albertans are fully immunized.

A ‘provincewide problem’

Calgary emergency room Dr. Joe Vipond said the government needs to act now with restrictions due to rising hospitalizations.

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“I think the frustrating thing that we keep hearing is that, ‘It’s up to Albertans to be better, and then we’ll mitigate the curve. All we’ve got to do is to do better masking and physical distancing and all the rules,'” he said.

“But the reality is that those same words were used in the second wave, and it was very evident that the only thing that made the difference was strong government policy, so I’m afraid that until we see that strong government policy, nothing will make the difference.”

Read more: Mass cremations begin in India’s capital city as COVID-19 deaths soar

Vipond called it a “provincewide problem,” saying partial or regional restrictions don’t and won’t work.

“Exempting schools from restrictions aren’t going to work,” he said.

“We’re at the stage now where we need to pull out all the stops, which means going for broke as far as a full lockdown.”

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

This was all predictable and preventable, Vipond said.

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“We are as bad or worse than we were when the last set of restrictions were put in [place in December],” he said.

“We have the highest daily case rate. We have a higher ICU rate. The only thing that’s different is we have lower deaths now than we had at that point, and we have a slightly lower hospitalization rate, and those are probably due to the fact that we’ve immunized well. But it’s important to recognize that our ICU numbers are horrible, and our case rate is horrible.”

Read more: ‘That’s going to happen here’: Alberta physician says Ontario is ‘sending out distress signals’

Even if “heavy-duty restrictions” were put in now, the province would still see a rise in cases over the next two weeks, Vipond said.

“We should be telling people to be working from home if they are able to, we should be closing all non-essential retail, we should be limiting essential retail to 15 per cent — and enforcing it because it’s not enough to just say it has to happen; we have to make sure it happens — and finally, we need to move all of our schooling online until we’re through this crisis,” he said.

‘Changes take some time’: government

Government spokesperson Jennifer Mitok said Alberta is “maintaining strong public health measures to protect capacity in the health system while we ramp up vaccinations.”

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Read more: Losing sight of the COVID-19 finish line: How more lockdowns, cases blur hope

“We recently introduced new restrictions including closing in-person service inside restaurants and bars,” she said via email.

“Changes take some time to impact daily cases due to the lag between exposure and testing positive. We will continue to monitor the data closely and take further action if and as needed.”

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