Alberta Health said Wednesday it confirmed 1,076 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours out of 11,747 tests.
There were 284 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, a jump from 258 the previous day.
There were 59 patients being treated in ICU, up two from Tuesday.
One COVID-19-related death was reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours, putting the provincial death toll at 2,356.
Alberta’s positivity rate sat at 9.3 per cent.
There were a total of 8,496 active COVID-19 cases across the province as of Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health shared on Twitter that 80 per cent of patients in hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Of the 59 in ICU, 98.3 per cent are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“Having both doses of vaccine has shown to be very effective at protecting us and our families from COVID-19,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw wrote.
“Here in Alberta, we are seeing up to 93 per cent effectiveness against variants of concern for those who are fully vaccinated.”
As of Wednesday, 77.5 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and 69 per cent are fully vaccinated.
You can book a free vaccine appointment on the provincial website.
‘Doubling faster than the third wave’
Medical and infectious disease experts are voicing concerns about the latest rise of cases in Alberta.
According to University of Calgary developmental biologist Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz, the growth of new cases in the province is now exponential and set to double every two weeks.
“Doubling every two weeks means it’s doubling faster than the third wave,” Gasperowicz said.
Compared to one month ago, active cases have risen 963 per cent from 799 on July 23 to 8,496 on Wednesday.
Hospitalizations have also risen more than 200 per cent.
Double immunizations have also increased by eight per cent.
Alberta Medical Association president and intensive care specialist Paul Boucher noted more patients are in hospital with COVID-19 — most of whom are unvaccinated.
“What’s really different than the earlier waves is — because we’re not in a lockdown and a slowdown of other things — we’re quite busy with the usual things you see in intensive care,” Boucher told Global News.
According to Alberta Health Services, Calgary’s ICU is operating at 71 per cent capacity, with 77 open beds.
In Edmonton, there are a total of 73 beds.
Numbers still remain small and well within capacity, but that rate of growth is quite concerning, said Dr. Craig Jenne with the Uof C’s department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases.
“If we don’t slow that soon, we will be seeing ICU capacity stretching the limits again by early fall into late September, early October,” Jenne said.
A spokesperson from AHS said additional beds would be added if and as required, but there is currently a “good flow and capacity” in critical care centres.
According to data from Alberta Health, the North zone had the highest positivity rate on Wednesday at 19.6 per cent after registering a rate of 25 per cent on Tuesday.
Calgary’s positivity rate remains the lowest at 6.42 per cent.
Data from Covid19tracker.ca shows that as of Aug. 23, Alberta’s North zone had the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated people at 44 per cent followed by the Central zone at 46.6 per cent.
Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the hot spots for COVID-19 cases in the province include Banff, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Grande Prairie.
“When we look at other infectious viruses such as measles, we know we need vaccine rates up above 90 per cent,” Dr. Jenne said.
“If we compare where we are today with this vaccine, we are well short of that, so we need to continue to get vaccine rates up.”
According to Jenne, there are still one million Albertans without a shot of COVID-19 vaccine, and many of them under the age of 12 are heading back to school next week.
‘Trending in the wrong direction’
NDP health critic David Shepherd called the daily case count “alarming.”
“This is the highest number of cases we have seen in more than three months and all indicators are trending in the wrong direction. Another 26 Albertans were hospitalized in the last 24 hours alone.”
The Opposition is calling on the health minister and premier to answer questions and present a plan for fall.
“Jason Kenney declared the pandemic over, but he was clearly wrong.”
“The UCP has to show up, admit their mistakes, release the modelling that was promised weeks ago, and present a credible plan to address rising cases and hospitalizations.”
The Opposition is pressing the province to release the data the UCP said informed its decision to lift further COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation rules. The NDP is also calling on the government to take action to combat rising case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
“With our health-care system under enormous strain and the situation deteriorating, (Health Minister) Tyler Shandro must come out of hiding and present his plan now that he is back from vacation,” Shepherd said.
“We see leaders in other jurisdictions stepping up, putting new policies in place, supporting their local businesses, supporting their local school boards, supporting individuals who are trying to plan and prepare for their fall.
“The government of Alberta, meanwhile, is abdicating its responsibility, making everybody else do the work they should be doing.”
“It is not the job of the Alberta public to be public health experts in making these decisions,” Shepherd said. “We need leadership from our government.”
In a statement to Global News on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Alberta Health said the recent uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations are “overwhelmingly among unvaccinated Albertans.
“Nearly 97 per cent of patients in the ICU are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, according to the latest data,” Steve Buick said.
“Vaccines remain the only sure way out of the pandemic. They protect us, our families and the wider community.”
He said the province has launched an Alberta-wide marketing campaign and incentive program to address vaccine hesitancy.
Hinshaw continues to provide daily updates on COVID-19, Buick said.
“She and Alberta Health are monitoring the trends closely in Alberta and other jurisdictions, and will bring forward any new advice to government if and as they see fit.”
Alberta and Saskatchewan said they are not planning to follow broad mask mandates announced this week by neighbouring western provinces.
Manitoba and British Columbia are reintroducing mask rules to arrest a rise in COVID-19 case numbers.
Both Alberta and Saskatchewan said that vaccination is the best, most effective route out of the pandemic and continue to urge residents who have not done so to get the two-jab protection.
Alberta Health spokesman Steve Buick noted that mask rules still apply in health-care settings and on public transit in the province.
Manitoba is requiring masks again in all indoor public places, including schools, while also mandating mandatory vaccinations for front-line provincial employees who work with vulnerable populations.
B.C. has brought back an order requiring people to wear masks in all indoor spaces, such as malls, grocery stores and on public transit.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Adam MacVicar
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