Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province continues to trend in the wrong direction with its battle against COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said she remains concerned about the direction numbers are trending in Alberta related to the novel coronavirus, as Alberta Health identified 1,539 new cases of COVID-19 — with a positivity rate of 11.4 per cent — and seven additional deaths related to the disease on Tuesday.
“We have an unprecedented risk of transmission across the province right now,” Hinshaw said. “This is a provincewide problem in the context of a national and global one.
“We all need to take this virus seriously to bend the curve, including getting a vaccine as soon as we are eligible.”
Three of the deaths were in the Edmonton zone: a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Covenant Health St. Joseph’s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 70s.
The Calgary zone had two deaths: a woman and man both in their 80s.
The other two deaths were a woman in her 80s in the South zone and a woman in her 50s linked to the outbreak at Suncor Base Plant.
All seven individuals who passed away had comorbidities, according to Alberta Health.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hinshaw said Alberta has 20,721 active COVID-19 cases — the second-highest total since the pandemic began.
There were 812 new cases associated with variants of concern confirmed, with active variant cases now making up 63 per cent of total active cases.
As of Tuesday, there were 635 people in hospital with the virus, including 143 in ICU.
“It’s important to underline that cases are still growing, especially in Edmonton. Simply put, we are still heading in the wrong direction,” Hinshaw said.
Edmonton has 5,672 active cases and an R-value of 1.01.
The R-value in Alberta has been 1.04 over the past week, Hinshaw said. Calgary’s is at 0.98 and the remainder of the province is at 1.05.
Hinshaw said 712 schools currently have reported outbreaks, representing 29 per cent of all schools in Alberta.
As of Tuesday, 1,468,785 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the province, with 284,870 Albertans now having two doses.
Immunity for those who have been infected with COVID-19
On numerous occassions, Premier Jason Kenney has referenced “natural immunity” when referring to those Albertans who have had the coronavirus. The premier has also included those individuals, along with those vaccinated, when referring to the percentage of Albertans who have immunity against COVID-19.
“As of tonight, about a third of Albertans over the age of 16 will have received at least one dose; another 10 per cent or so have antibodies from prior natural infection,” Kenney said on Monday.
“So we’re starting to get to a pretty good critical mass of the population that can break the chain of transmission and not get sick through that protection.”
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said research indicates immunity varies for individuals who have been infected with COVID-19.
“It depends in part on their age, so the older someone is the less protective an infection is against future infections,” she said. “For people who are 65 and older, my memory of the data is that it’s less than 50 per cent protection.”
Hinshaw said no matter the age, a vaccine will provide better protection against the coronavirus, so she encourages anyone who has been infected to get vaccinated. However, her advice has been to take into account immunity from infection to when planning for the easing of restrictions.
“I do believe it’s important to factor in immunity post-infection to our planning because, again, we do know that there is some level of infection that’s conferred,” she said.
“It is not equivalent to vaccine, however it has been part of my advice that we need to consider both of those things.”
Some previous deaths no longer determined to be COVID-related
Hinshaw said 14 deaths that were previously reported as related to COVID-19 have been removed from the province’s pandemic death total after further investigation.
“In our initial counts, we include deaths where COVID(-19) has been flagged as a possible cause, even (if) it remains unknown,” she said. “In those cases, medical officials review death certificates and file post-mortem to determine whether the virus was indeed the contributing cause.
“Most often these are classified as a COVID(-19) death, however, sometimes the review identifies that there was a different cause of death.”
COVID-19 testing change
Hinshaw said wait times need to be reduced, so the province is shifting back to one test for those Albertans who have been a close contact but have no COVID-related symptoms.
“If they experience symptoms at any point after that first test, they can get tested again; otherwise, they must remain in quarantine until 14 days have passed, and as of today, are no longer requested to have a second test,” she said.
If a person has a second test booked but is showing no symptoms, they are being asked to cancel the appointment. If someone has symptoms, they are still encouraged to get a second test.View link »