Dr. Deena Hinshaw outlined Halloween safety tips for both trick-or-treaters and those handing out candy during Thursday’s COVID-19, when she also said 770 new cases of the virus have been identified in the last 24 hours. (See Thursday’s full COVID-19 data below).
“I’m asking Albertans as clearly and strongly as possible to please be wise and safe while celebrating this year,” she said. “This Halloween we can still have fun but please do it in a safe way.”
Similar to last year, Hinshaw asked people out trick-or-treating to wear a mask and only go out with people in their household. People should sanitize their hands often, especially before eating any candy.
Those handing out candy are also asked to wear a mask and limit contact with others. Anyone who is sick — even with mild symptoms — should stay home and not hand out candy.
Hinshaw praised those who got creative with Halloween last year, when people were using candy chutes or tongs to get the treats to kids’ bags.
She encouraged the same type of innovation this year.
“This could mean using tongs to hand out prepackaged treats or setting them out on a blanket or tray for contactless pickup. If you are setting out treats, avoid using a bowl but please keep those treats spaced apart.”
Hinshaw also stressed that this is not the year for large Halloween parties and reiterated the social gathering limits in place.
Indoor social gathering at private households are limited to 10 people from two households and everyone eligible must be vaccinated. Indoor gatherings are not allowed for people who are not vaccinated.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 20 people and distancing must occur between households.
While Alberta’s COVID-19 numbers have been on the decline in recent days and weeks, Hinshaw stressed the province is in a much different situation than it was last Halloween.
Last year at this time, the province had about 5,600 active cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 10,434 active cases in Alberta.
Last Halloween, 141 people were in hospital with COVID-19 in Alberta and right now, there are more than 900 COVID-19 patients in hospital.
“We still have a long way to go.”
A full list of Halloween safety tips can be found on the province’s website.
Thursday's COVID-19 data
Alberta identified 770 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours from about 11,800 tests. The province’s positivity rate was 6.5 per cent.
There are active alerts or outbreaks in 288 schools, four of which have 10 or more cases who attended in the last 14 days while infectious, Hinshaw explained.
There are now 912 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, down from 928 people on Wednesday. Of those in hospital, 201 are receiving care in ICUs.
Alberta Health Services said Thursday afternoon that with pressure easing slightly in ICUs, the number of available surge beds will be reduced so staff can be redeployed to care for non-COVID patients who need surgeries and other procedures.
“We will ensure that we maintain ICU capacity above daily demand to a planned maximum of 380 beds as long as staff and physician availability allows, and will readjust our plans as needed if COVID cases rise again,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in a statement.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 350 general adult ICU beds open in Alberta, including 177 additional spaces. This is 26 fewer surge ICU spaces than at the peak of 376, AHS explained.
Overall ICU capacity in Alberta — for both COVID and non-COVID patients — sat at 81 per cent with additional surge beds in place on Thursday. Without the surge capacity, Alberta’s ICU capacity would be at 164 per cent.
Alberta reported eight additional deaths on Thursday, bringing the province’s death toll to 3,014.
Of the eight deaths, four occurred in the Central zone: a man in his 50s, a man in his 70s and woman in her 100s, all with pre-existing conditions. A man in his 50s with no known pre-existing conditions also died.
There were three deaths in the North zone: a man in his 30s and a woman in her 70s with pre-existing conditions. A man in his 50s with no known pre-existing conditions also died.
One death occurred in the Calgary zone: a woman in her 90s with pre-existing conditions.
The number of active cases in Alberta continues to slowly decline, from 10,824 active cases Wednesday to 10,434 active cases Thursday.
Of the active cases, 2,655 are in the Calgary zone, 2,437 are in the Edmonton zone, 2,023 are in the Central zone, 2,197 are in the North zone, 1,111 are in the South zone and 11 are not tied to any particular zone.
— With files from The Canadian Press.