As of Tuesday morning, 92 per cent of full-time and part-time employees with Alberta Health Services had submitted proof of double vaccination against COVID-19, CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said.
That number was 92 per cent for AHS physicians and 97 per cent for AHS ICU staff, she said.
Seven per cent of AHS staff have yet to submit their vaccination status.
“We’re actively working to confirm their vaccination status,” Yiu said.
Less than one per cent of AHS staff and physicians are seeking an accommodation to the policy, she added.
“Overall, this tells us there’s very broad support for the mandatory vaccine policy.”
“These are impressive numbers and we’re extremely grateful too all those who have submitted their proof of vaccination.”
AHS announced a mandatory vaccine policy for its staff in August.
“We stand by the policy and it will be fully implemented,” Yiu said.
“This vaccine requirement is essential to ensure the safety of our people, the patients and vulnerable Albertans, and the numbers show the vast majority of health-care workers are fully immunized.”
Yiu said accommodations under the immunization policy will be made for medical or religious reasons.
So far, AHS has received 1,200 requests for accommodations under a medical or religious exemption, with about 830 employees submitting the necessary paperwork for a full evaluation of their request, Yiu said.
That’s less than one per cent of AHS staff, she stressed.
“With such low numbers, we don’t anticipate the policy having any significant impact on our ability to provide care for Albertans.”
“Those employees who are not fully immunized in compliance with the policy will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.”
AHS has also been tracking resignations specific to the implementation of the vaccination policy. Sixty-one employees resigned, including 31 in clinical roles, of which 11 were registered nurses, Yiu said.
Rule changes for continuing care
Starting Monday, Oct. 25, everyone visiting a continuing care facility is required to wear a mask in all indoor parts of the building, including residents’ rooms, regardless of their vaccination status.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw explained exemptions can be given in cases where communication is a challenge, for instance, with Alzheimer’s patients or those with hearing impairments. Visitors seeking an exemption should reach out to the site operator, she said.
Changes are also being made to quarantining and testing rules.
All long-term care and designated supportive living residents, regardless of vaccine status, must quarantine temporarily if they are transferred from hospital or they have a hospital stay that was longer than 24 hours. The quarantine will last until they get a negative result for COVID-19 through a PCR test, Hinshaw explained.
“This is intended to help prevent the virus from entering these facilities… and potentially put many at risk.”
She said she also sent a letter strongly discouraging unvaccinated friends and family from visiting long-term care residents at this time.
“Fully vaccinated Albertans who have no symptoms can continue to see their loved ones… as often as they wish,” Hinshaw said.
Operators also have the authority to implement additional COVID-19 measures or other mandatory requirements, including requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or undergo rapid testing, Hinshaw added.
“Even with remarkably effective vaccines, residents in these facilities remain at risk, which is why we are increasing the protection around them,” Premier Jason Kenney said.
Daily COVID-19 numbers
Alberta Health said Tuesday 531 new cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed over the last 24 hours out of about 8,000 tests.
Alberta’s positivity rate sat at about 6.7 per cent, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
There were 11,402 active COVID-19 cases across the province.
Kenney said Alberta’s daily case counts, positivity rate and other metrics have been falling. Still, long weekends, in the past, have led to a jump in cases. Officials are watching for any impact from Thanksgiving.
“It’s been over a week since that long weekend and I’m pleased to say so far, we’ve not seen evidence of a Thanksgiving spike in cases,” the premier said. “It’s a little too early to see completely the full impact.”
He said, last week, the R-value (or reproductive transmission rate of coronavirus) was 0.85.
“While this is all good news, we still have a long way to go.”
There were active alerts or outbreaks in 315 schools. Four schools were on outbreak status with 10 or more cases of COVID-19 where the individual was infectious while at school.
Hinshaw said Alberta has seen a “modest decline” in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
As of Tuesday, there were 964 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 218 being treated in ICU.
“The pressure is easing a little on our health-care system but we still have a long way to go.”
Twelve COVID-related deaths were reported over the last 24 hours. Of those, 11 included pre-existing conditions.
There were five deaths reported in the Edmonton zone: a man in his 70s, a woman in her 50s and three men in their 80s.
Two deaths occurred in the Calgary zone: a man in his 90s and a man in his 60s. The man in his 60s had no known pre-existing conditions.
Three deaths were reported in the Central zone: two men in their 70s and a man in his 50s.
The final two deaths were reported in the North zone: a man in his 60s and a woman in her 80s.
There were no deaths reported from the South zone.
Alberta ICU capacity
Alberta Health Services said Tuesday afternoon there were 376 ICU beds open in Alberta, including 203 additional surge spaces, which is a 117 per cent increase over the baseline number of beds at 173.
“AHS continues to do all it can to ensure we have enough ICU capacity to meet patient demand, including opening additional spaces and redeploying staff,” said spokesperson Kerry Williamson.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 283 total patients in ICU, the vast majority of whom are COVID-19 positive, AHS said.
“While the number of patients in ICU fluctuates constantly, the number of patients in ICU has increased by two per cent over the past seven days,” Williamson said.
Provincially, ICU capacity — including additional surge beds — sat at 75 per cent.
“Without the additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 163 per cent.”
The Calgary zone ICU was operating at 72 per cent capacity, the Edmonton zone at 75 per cent of capacity, the Central zone at 83 per cent and the South zone ICU was operating at 69 per cent.
The North zone ICU was operating at 95 per cent capacity, including 13 added surge beds on Tuesday afternoon.