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Alberta health minister tests positive for COVID-19 as hospitalizations surpass 1,000

Click to play video: 'Alberta reaches highest-ever active cases of COVID-19 as rapid tests still scarce' Alberta reaches highest-ever active cases of COVID-19 as rapid tests still scarce
WATCH ABOVE: (Jan. 13, 2022): On Thursday, there were 62,000 active lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta — the highest amount ever in the province since the pandemic began. It comes as COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits are still hard to come by. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Jan 13, 2022

EDITOR’S NOTE: Alberta Health reported Jan. 17 that a child who died from COVID-19 had no pre-existing conditions. However, in a correction issued Jan. 18, Alberta Health said there was an error in the information provided about a death in an Albertan aged five to nine. “This individual did have pre-existing health conditions.” Global News has updated the article below.

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating at home. It comes as the province surpassed 1,000 patients in hospital being treated for COVID-19.

In a post on social media Monday afternoon, Copping said he displayed mild symptoms last week and took a rapid test, which came back with a positive result. He is isolating at home.

“Please stay home if you have symptoms and take a rapid test if you can,” Copping said. “I urge any Albertan who hasn’t gotten immunized or still needs a booster to consider doing so.”

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There are now 1,007 people in Alberta hospitals being treated for COVID-19, a jump from 822 patients in hospital on Friday. The last time Alberta had more than 1,000 people in hospital with COVID-19 was in mid-October.

The province released three days’ worth of COVID-19 data on Monday afternoon, which showed the spike in COVID-related hospitalizations.

ICU admissions also increased, but at a slower rate. There are now 94 people in Alberta ICUs with COVID-19, up from 81 patients on Friday.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that since Jan. 10, 52 per cent of those in hospital were due to COVID-19 infection and 48 per cent were either incidental or it was unclear if COVID-19 contributed.

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Of those in ICUs, Hinshaw said 79 per cent of new admissions since Jan. 10 were due to COVID-19 infection and 21 per cent were either incidental or it was unclear if COVID-19 contributed.

An additional 23 deaths were reported to Alberta Health since Friday, bringing the province’s death toll to 3,403.

One of the deaths reported to Alberta Health in the last 72 hours was a child between the ages of five and nine. Alberta Health said the child died on Jan. 12.

Read more: COVID-19: Some Alberta classes move online as teaching positions go unfilled

When it comes to the number of new daily cases, Alberta identified a total of 15,886 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the last three days. The positive cases came from 42,622 tests conducted over the three-day period.

Of those, 6,293 were identified on Jan. 14, 5,407 were identified on Jan. 15 and 4,186 were identified on Jan. 16.

The positivity rate on Sunday was 37.3 per cent.

Read more: Edmonton lab to offer at-home PCR testing as Alberta Health continues to limit access

There are now 72,368 lab-confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

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Changes to PCR testing availability in recent weeks mean these confirmed cases are just a fraction of the total number of cases in the community.

Also Monday, Health Canada approved the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid COVID-19 antiviral pill, making it the country’s first oral COVID-19 treatment that can be taken at home.

Paxlovid can be given to adults 18 and older who are positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing mild or moderate illness, and who are at high risk of becoming more seriously ill, Health Canada said.

Read more: Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 pill, approved in Canada

A spokesperson for the Alberta government said it is working with the federal government to confirm when it will receive supply, but hopes to receive the first shipment by the end of this week.

“We expect that initial supply will be limited, so it’s likely to be available initially only at a small number of community pharmacies,” Chastity Anderson said in a statement.

“We’re reviewing Health Canada’s guidelines and working with clinicians to determine eligibility criteria. We want to make sure the drug goes to those who will benefit the most, especially early on when the supply will be limited.”

The treatment, which has to be prescribed, involves taking three pills of two different drugs, twice a day, for five days. It should be started after a positive COVID-19 test and within five days from the onset of symptoms.

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With files from Aaron D’Andrea, Global News.

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