On July 1, life in Alberta will be much like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no limits on indoor gatherings or province-wide mask mandates, but Dr. Deena Hinshaw is urging residents to remember the pandemic is not over.
In her last regularly scheduled COVID-19 update on Tuesday, the province’s chief medical officer of health asked residents to get vaccinated, continue with good hand hygiene and weigh the benefits vs. the rewards of activities.
“It means making safe choices when we enter Stage 3, not because there is an order directing it, but because it is the right thing to do.”
Alberta confirmed an additional 61 cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. (Click here for full COVID-19 numbers.)
There were 170 Albertans in hospital, with 36 of them receiving care in the ICU.
While numbers like active cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, Hinshaw said the virus is not going away completely.
She urged Albertans to continue to stay home and arrange to get tested if they are showing signs of COVID-19.
Moving forward, the province will continue to offer testing for symptomatic Albertans and new case identification, variant testing and contact tracing will continue.
Health officials will continue to investigate outbreaks and will take “whatever steps are needed to protect the public’s health,” Hinshaw said.
While most restrictions are lifting on Thursday, rules designed to protect the residents at continuing care facilities will remain in place. On July 5, two designated visitors will be able to visit a patient at one time.
“We will keep robust measures in place in order to watch closely to see what impacts Stage 3 may have,” Hinshaw said.
The province is currently conducting town halls to talk to residents, staff and family members to determine when and what to change when it comes to continuing care facilities.
Hinshaw also used her final update to remind Albertans about the importance of being fully immunized.
“We have seen the power of vaccines,” she said. “They drastically reduce the chance of catching this virus and, if people are exposed, of experiencing extreme outcomes like hospitalization.”
Since January, Hinshaw said, more than 95 per cent of new cases and 92 per cent of hospitalizations were in people who were either unvaccinated or were within the two weeks of receiving their first dose.
“The number one best thing we can do to protect ourselves, those around us and to keep Alberta open is to sign up, show up and follow up for both doses of vaccine.”
Due to changes in how the vaccine data is reported, 72.7 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 40.7 of those eligible are fully vaccinated.
But what about those who are under 12? There is still no word on when children will be eligible to receive the vaccine. That means the coming months may be harder for families with young children, Hinshaw said.
She urged parents to encourage all eligible family members to get vaccinated and to be intentional when examining activities in the coming months. Risks for younger children can be mitigated by continuing to reduce close contacts and by choosing outdoor activities.
“Each family will need to make the decision that is right for them. There is no single perfect answer,” Hinshaw said.
Children under 12 continue to have the lowest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 and Hinshaw said parents should incorporate that fact when deciding what their family will decide is safe this summer.
Vaccine trials are underway for kids in that age group.
Tuesday COVID-19 numbers
On Tuesday, Alberta Health confirmed an additional 61 cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial active case rate to 1,132. As of Tuesday’s update, there were 170 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 36 of those people were receiving care in the ICU.
Four additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the past 24 hours.
A woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s in the North zone, a man in his 60s in the Calgary zone and a man in his 60s in the Central zone have all died.
All had comorbidities except the man from the Central zone.
There were 615 active cases in the Calgary zone, 169 reported in the Edmonton zone, the Central zone had 126 active cases, there were 34 active cases reported in the South zone and the North zone had 185 active cases.
There were three active cases not attributed to a specific zone.
As of June 28, there were 4,266,408 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered and 40.7 per cent of eligible Albertans are fully vaccinated.
To date, Alberta has had 231,911 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 228,480 people recovered.