All of Alberta’s recent COVID-19 ICU admissions and the majority of the deaths reported in the province this week had no vaccine protection at all, according to chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“One hundred per cent of new ICU admissions were in Albertans who did not have any vaccine protection,” she said in Thursday’s COVID-19 update.
Read more: Alberta health-care workers desperate for COVID-19 help: ‘We are treading water as furiously as we can’
According to Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, that’s 45 people in the last two days. In the last five days, an average of more than 23 people have been admitted to Alberta’s ICUs each day.
“It’s tragic that we are only able to keep pace with some of these sort of numbers because, in part, some of our ICU patients have passed away.
“And this reality has a deep and lasting impact on our ICU teams,” she said.
Yiu said the ICU admission numbers are highs the province hasn’t seen in the three previous waves of COVID-19, nor in Alberta’s history. She said every day, the province reaches a new high.
Nearly all current COVID ICU patients ‘have not had both shots’
Alberta reported 1,660 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 20,180. Labs completed nearly 18,000 tests, putting the province’s positivity rate at 9.4 per cent.
Officials said 1,058 people were in hospital as of Thursday, with 226 being treated for COVID-19 in ICUs. An additional 17 deaths linked to the virus were also reported.
“Albertans who have not been vaccinated are about 15 times more likely than those with vaccine protection to end up in the hospital from COVID-19,” Hinshaw stressed.
“They are about 40 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU. About 77 per cent of Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated and 92 per cent of those in the ICU right now have not had both shots.”
Hinshaw dismissed misinformation online about the effectiveness of vaccines against the newest dominant strain of the virus.
“We have heard persistent questions and rumours on social media that vaccines are not working against the Delta variant, but this is categorically untrue.
“In Alberta, COVID vaccines have proven to be 85 per cent effective against infection with the delta variant with two doses,” she said.
On Thursday morning, federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair tweeted a response to the Alberta government’s Tuesday request for help from the Liberal government, should it be needed.
“To the people of Alberta, I recognize the significant, immediate challenges currently facing Albertans, and know the importance of ensuring support to your health-care system,” he wrote in a formal letter of response.
“As such, I am pleased to officially confirm that the government of Canada will support the provincial government’s recent request and provide the necessary support to Albertans during this difficult time.”
Does having had COVID-19 make you immune?
Hinshaw also addressed questions about whether having previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19 negates the need to get immunized.
“At this time, everyone needs proof of vaccine or a recent negative result on a privately purchased test or a medical exemption in order to enter businesses in the Restrictions Exemption Program,” Hinshaw said.
“The bottom line is that my advice for those who have had COVID-19 remains the same: it is still best for everyone to be fully vaccinated with two doses to obtain the greatest possible protection against infection.”
She said there is still some risk that anyone, whether they’ve recovered from COVID-19 or have been partially or fully immunized, could be re-infected with COVID-19, and go on to transmit the virus to others who are vulnerable to infection.
‘People behind the numbers’
Alberta Health confirmed an additional 17 deaths had been reported over the last 24 hours.
“Every day we see the numbers. There are people behind the numbers,” Yiu said.
“They are spouses and partners, grandparents, uncles and aunts, sons and daughters. They are people’s best friends and loved ones.”
Six of the new deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone. A man in his 40s, a woman in her 90s, two women in their 80s and a man in his 60s, all with pre-existing conditions, died. A woman in her 30s with no know conditions also died.
Three deaths were reported in the Calgary zone, all with pre-existing conditions: a woman in her 80s, a man in his 70s and a man in his 90s died.
The Central zone also reported three deaths, all with pre-existing conditions. In that zone, a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s died.
There were four deaths reported in the North zone where a woman in her 80s, a man in his 90s and two men in their 70s died. All four had pre-existing conditions.
The final death was reported in the South zone. A man in his 70s with pre-existing conditions died.
Change to Alberta quarantine checklist
Hinshaw explained the province has made a change to the daily checklist for those with COVID-19 symptoms, and is now recommending when someone tests positive for the virus, any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated person in the household should quarantine for 14 days. While it’s not legally required at this time, she said officials are “strongly recommending” Albertans do so.
“This is because living in the same home as someone with COVID puts you at the highest risk of becoming infected and further spreading the virus to others,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said she recognizes the change will have a significant impact on those with family members in school or daycares, and while it may be inconvenient, it’s a change officials believe will slow the spread of the virus.
The new checklist item only applies to household contacts, not workplace or classroom contacts.
Alberta’s Opposition leader says it’s time Premier Jason Kenney hand over public health decisions related to the COVID-19 crisis to medical professionals.
Rachel Notley says it’s become clear Kenney is more focused on his political survival than on the pandemic that has overrun hospitals.
The NDP leader says sound public health decisions are being undermined by political compromises.
She is urging public health decisions be turned over to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, backed by an independent scientific panel of advisers.
Kenney is facing criticism from some of his legislature members over his handling of the pandemic.
Some United Conservative constituency associations are pushing for an immediate review of his leadership.
Kenney met with his caucus this week and has asked to move a review up to next spring instead of late 2022.