On Sunday night, the next restrictions designed to help bend the curve of COVID-19 cases in Alberta come into effect. On Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw urged Albertans to take these measures seriously and follow them in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the province.
“These measures are absolutely necessary if we are to reduce community transmission and stop cases from getting out of control.”
On Sunday at 11:59 p.m., restaurants and bars will no longer be able to offer in-person dining, and personal services like hair and nail salons and tattoo studios will be forced to close their doors for at least three weeks.
Attendance at places of worship will be capped at 15 people and a max of 10 people will be in effect for funerals. Outdoor gatherings can have no more than five people and it’s strongly recommended the group be from no more than two households.
“We don’t yet know if we’ve hit the peak of new cases,” Hinshaw said. “Our provincial R value of 1.12 last week tells us cases are continuing to grow. That’s why implementing these measures now is so critical.
“The spread in our province is extremely high which means he risk of being infected is also extremely high.”
Some of the incoming restrictions are only in effect in certain areas of the province. Hinshaw urged all Albertans to stay in their home community during these restrictions.
“It’s really important that wherever people are, they’re following the rules in place,” she said.
“The higher cases get, the harder it is to bend the curve back down and reduce the spread of infection in the province.”
Alberta Health reported Thursday that 2,211 new cases of COVID-19 had been recorded over the past 24 hours. The province completed more than 19,900 tests and recorded a positivity rate of 11.1 per cent.
No new deaths were reported over the past 24 hours.
The province also identified another 536 cases of variants of concern. Variants now make up at least 55.3 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
Alberta Health Services has shifted away from screening all positive COVID-19 cases for variants of concern, instead targeting variant screening on populations at highest risk.
There were 654 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 and 146 of those people were receiving care in the ICU as of Thursday.
There were 24,497 active cases in Alberta as of Thursday’s update.
To date, more than 1,732,582 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered.
On Thursday, vaccine eligibility was opened to Albertans 30 years and older. Hinshaw said more than 100,000 appointments were booked before her 3:30 p.m. availability.
“That is incredibly exciting and I urge all Albertans to book as soon as they can.”
On Monday, eligibility will be opened to those born in 2009 or earlier, meaning anyone turning 12 or older this year can receive the
As of Monday, more than 3.8 million Albertans will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Thanks to vaccine, we are seeing other jurisdictions bend the curve and keep it there,” Hinshaw said. “This will happen here too as more and more of us step up to get vaccine and form part of a protective wall around our communities so we don’t have to go through this type of widespread restrictions again.”
Hinshaw is urging people trying to book appointments to be patient. If a system to book is overwhelmed, Hinshaw urged people to try again in a few hours or a few days.
With the recent announcement of an expanded COVID-19 rollout, along with increased supply, Hinshaw said it’s very likely the interval between the first and second doses will be shorter than four months for Albertans.
The rise in COVID-19 admissions
Dr. Sean van Diepen, an intensive care specialist at the University of Alberta, said the number of COVID-19 admissions has been on the rise and the biggest change is the younger age of patients compared to earlier waves.
“The older patients are still being admitted, but I’m seeing far more patients that are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even a few in their 20s,” he said.
“My concern is that the variants of concern and in Alberta here, particularly, the B.1.1.7 variant, appear to be far more aggressive and far more virulent. It seems to be more easily transmissible and it seems to be causing more severe disease in younger people.”
Van Diepen is also a cardiologist and said, while COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, there can be impacts on the heart.
“I’m also co-director of the coronary intensive care unit so I also care for people with COVID that have presented with heart attacks, cardiac arrest or even inflammation of the heart,” he said.
– With files from Julia Wong, Global News