Alberta continues to see a “slow and steady decline in hospitalizations” related to COVID-19, the province’s chief medical officer of health announced on Thursday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw attributed the improvement in the public health situation to the vaccine passport program and public health restrictions brought in last month.
“There are two things that impact the transmission rate in the province: one is our vaccination rate and the other is the overall number of transmission events, where someone who is susceptible is exposed to someone who is infectious,” Hinshaw told reporters at a news conference. “That second piece is heavily influenced by how many people are in contact with others outside their household every day, how many of those in-person interactions happen.
“As you know, we put in measures Sept. 20 that significantly reduced the number of in-person interactions happening in many different venues and the restriction exemption program which did two things: first of all it provided additional incentive for people who may have been willing to get vaccinated but just haven’t gotten around to it yet to go and access the protection that vaccines offer, so that increases that vaccination coverage and it also creates opportunity so that those spaces covered by proof of vaccination for participating venues, that those spaces now have the people — in-person — who are much more likely to be protected.”
However, Hinshaw was quick to add that she still wants to underscore that Alberta continues “to have a high acute care burden, so we do want to continue all of those things… So that we can get our acute care system out of this difficult spot.”
When asked about businesses that have been found to be breaking the rules when it comes to the province’s vaccine passport program, Hinshaw stressed how important it is that everyone abide by the rules.
“To those who are not following the current public health measures, I would say you may think you don’t matter… but… you do matter,” she said. “The risk of infection events are greater when those are not followed.
“Our ICUs continue to be at extreme capacity.”
Hinshaw reiterated pleas to Albertans on Thursday to be cautious with Halloween activities during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hinshaw reacts to calls for review of Alberta’s COVID-19 response
When asked by a reporter about calls for another review of Alberta’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hinshaw indicated she does not believe such a review should be a priority at the moment.
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“It’s just really important for Albertans to know that those lessons learned are not dependent on an external review, but those are things that we’re learning as we go and try our best — as we have always done — to balance mitigation of the direct impacts of COVID(-19) with the mitigation of the indirect impacts that restrictions can cause,” she said.
Earlier this month, Alberta’s Opposition called for an all-party committee to conduct a review of the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly its catastrophic fourth wave. The idea was rejected by the government, which noted a comprehensive review will take place at a later time.
“I think the important thing for Albertans to know is that it’s very clear, and I think I’ve been very clear about this over the past couple of months, that while I felt that I was making the best recommendation at the time in early summer to move to an endemic approach, that it was too early, and so I think Albertans probably have a lot of questions about how that happened and what happened after that,” Hinshaw said.
On July 1, Alberta lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions and later in the summer Hinshaw recommended shifting from a pandemic response to an endemic response, which would have seen people with COVID-19 not be required to isolate as well as a significant scaling back of testing for the disease. However, the province backtracked on the idea once the number of new COVID-19 cases began to skyrocket, leading to an severely strained health-care system.
“I think right now the most important thing to do is to continue to do the work to get ourselves out of the fourth wave, and I can assure Albertans that the lessons learned in terms of the assessment of timing and making sure that we learn the lessons certainly from the public health recommendations that were put forward, that those messages are clear,” Hinshaw said.
“Eventually we will need to shift to an endemic state, but it will take longer than we had originally anticipated.”
Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
Hinshaw said Thursday that 531 new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Alberta over the past 24 hours out of about 10,200 test, resulting in a positivity rate of about 5.4 per cent.
As of Thursday afternoon, Alberta has 8,387 active COVID-19 cases, down from 8,733 the day before.
Alberta Health said Thursday that 12 more deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus.
As of Thursday afternoon, 779 Albertans were in hospital with COVID-19, down from 810 on Wednesday. Of those hospitalizations, 185 were in ICUs on Thursday, up from 184 the day before.