Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she’s encouraged by recently decreasing COVID-19 numbers, including hospital and ICU admissions, but warned Albertans the province’s health-care system is still under pressure.
On Tuesday, the province confirmed an additional 422 new cases of COVID-19. There were 608 people in hospital with the virus, with 128 of those receiving care in the ICU.
“I am pleased to report we continue to see a decline in our overall case numbers,” Hinshaw said Tuesday afternoon.
“While we are headed in the right direction, I want to be clear this is still a significant number of people in hospital, taxing our health-care system.”
Over the previous 24 hours, the province conducted 8,330 COVID-19 tests, putting the province’s positivity rate at 5.1 per cent.
“This is a significant decline from the peak of our rolling seven-day average positivity on Sept. 27 when it was 11.3 per cent,” Hinshaw said.
“Sadly, despite our declining case numbers, Albertans continue to die from this virus.”
The province reported eight new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday.
Three of the deaths were reported in the North zone: a man in his 60s and a man in his 40s with no known pre-existing conditions and a man in his 70s with pre-existing conditions.
Two of the deaths were reported in the Central zone: a woman in her 60s with pre-existing conditions and a man in his 70s with no known pre-existing conditions.
The Calgary zone, South zone and North zone each reported one death of a woman in her 60s with pre-existing conditions.
The province’s COVID-19 death toll is only climbing by four though, as four previously ruled COVID-19 deaths have been determined to be unrelated after the province’s regular review.
There have now been 3,159 Albertans who have died from COVID-19.
“My condolences go to the family and friends of individuals who are mourning a loss, whether it’s from COVID or any other cause,” Hinshaw said. “Every life matters.”
There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 211 Alberta schools and 10 schools had 10 or more COVID cases attend school while infectious in the last 14 days.
Hinshaw called the decreasing numbers proof that vaccines work and continued to stress that any eligible Albertan who has not been vaccinated yet, should do so as soon as possible.
According to Hinshaw, the odds of being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alberta are about eight times higher in people who are partially vaccinated and about 10 times higher if unvaccinated.
Changes to Alberta’s vaccine passport
Starting Monday, venues participating in the restrictions exemption program will only accept proof of vaccination from Albertans that have a QR code.
“This means Alberta vaccination records without a QR code, including paper immunization records received at your vaccination appointment, will no longer be accepted,” Hinshaw said.
First Nations and military proof of vaccine will still be accepted.
Anyone who needs their QR code can get it from the province’s website, have it printed for free at a participating registry office, or can call 811 to have a copy mailed to them.
If a vaccine dose is missing from a person’s record, they can receive assistance on the government’s website.
The so-called ‘Western strain’ of COVID-19
Reports of a so-called “Western strain” of COVID-19 have been circulating in Canada’s western provinces, but Hinshaw said it is not considered a variant of concern.
“There’s no evidence that it causes any severe illness, that it evades vaccine protection, that it’s significantly different from the Delta variant that has been circulating as the dominant variant in Alberta since late summer.”
Instead, it is a sublineage of the Delta variant, she said.
When viruses replicate, Hinshaw explained, they can slightly change their genetics. Sometimes these sublineages evolve, but it doesn’t mean it behaves differently from the parent strain.
“It really is behaving very similarly to Delta,” Hinshaw said.
Recognizing Remembrance Day safely
Thursday is Remembrance Day and Hinshaw said there are ways to mark the day while still being safe.
Guidance on how to host safe ceremonies has been posted on the government’s website, and Hinshaw urged anyone attending a ceremony to be mindful of physical distancing, masking and capacity requirements that are in place.
She also recommended finding out if Remembrance Day venues are participating in the restrictions exemption program ahead of time to ensure any necessary documentation is in order.
“As always, if you have even minor symptoms, please stay home,” she said.