Alberta Health confirmed 1,731 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths from the disease on Sunday.
All deaths included comorbidities: a man in his 40s in the South zone, a man in his 60s in the Calgary zone and a woman in her 80s in the Calgary zone.
The 1,731 new cases included 1,132 variant cases. The active variant case total is 14,215, which is 62 per cent of all active cases.
Alberta has 22,920 active cases, 169,892 recoveries and 2,086 deaths.
As of Sunday, the Calgary zone has 9,556 active cases, the Edmonton zone has 6,088, the North zone has 3,308, the Central zone has 2,677 and the South zone has 1,216. There are 75 cases in unknown zones.
The new cases came from 16,567 tests, meaning a provincial positivity rate of 10.3 per cent, according to Brendan Procé, Alberta government spokesperson.
Alberta Health said 648 people are in hospital, with 155 of them in intensive care.
The province said 1,621,306 vaccine doses were administered by May 1, with 300,755 Albertans fully immunized.
‘My heart just sinks’
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said she finds the recent record-breaking numbers appalling.
“These numbers are the highest we’ve seen. They’re coming at a time when actually we should be looking forward to things coming under control and we’re seeing the opposite, so I’d say that my reaction is that my heart just sinks,” she told Global News on Sunday.
“It’s really a difficult, difficult time.”
Saxinger said evidence from around the world shows that we need more stringent, stricter and longer periods of public health restrictions to get variant surges under control. Alberta’s current restrictions are insufficient, she said.
“If you actually look at the rate of rise, those restrictions did actually alter the shape of what’s going on. It’s just that it is really that bad right now. It is not enough, and so I think the message is that we have to do all of the things and do them very, very pristinely, perfectly well, and things will come under control,” Saxinger said.
“The experience from elsewhere has really been that limiting any indoor settings where people contact people is key. If you look at what they did in the U.K. and if you look at what they’ve done in Ontario, a lot of the things that we’ve allowed with lower numbers have actually been stopped,” she said.
The health-care system being overrun is a complex problem, Saxinger said. Staff members are overstretched and it’s difficult to fill specialized roles.
“We’re not even in the worst of it yet because those very, very high case rates from the next couple of days, a small proportion of those people will go on to require hospitalization and ICU care every single day,” she said.
“People stay in hospital sometimes for a week, two weeks or longer, so this is not a system that is actually able to process that many cases… so that’s why the people in the health-care system are looking at these numbers and feeling very, very concerned because we can see it coming and there’s nothing that we can do about it right now.”
Procé responded by saying health officials will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 to “assess whether additional action is needed to reduce transmission.”
“The health and safety of Albertans is our top priority,” he said in an email to Global News.
“We must do everything we can to avoid the further cancellation of surgeries and other medical care.”