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COVID-19: Alberta’s Omicron wave peaked in January: health minister

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister warns COVID-19 has not gone away but situation is improving' Alberta health minister warns COVID-19 has not gone away but situation is improving
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping says COVID-19 is not going away, but the pressures on the hospital system is improving. – Feb 15, 2022

Wastewater data is showing Alberta saw the peak of the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in early January, the province announced on Tuesday.

According to data, Edmonton’s wastewater signal peaked on Jan. 3 and Health Minister Jason Copping said it became clear about three weeks ago the height of the wave was over.

Read more: COVID-19: 35 more deaths in Alberta while number of hospital patients declines

Data in Calgary and Banff followed similar trends, he added.

Copping said the trend has been echoed in hospitalization numbers as well.

Hospitalizations peaked on Jan. 26 at 36 admissions per one million population. On Sunday, the number was 24 people admitted per one million population.

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Since Feb. 7, hospitalization numbers have trended downward, according to Copping.

On Feb. 8, there were 1,661 Albertans with COVID-19 in hospital. There were 1,670 admitted on Feb. 1 and 1,517 on Jan. 25.

“It’s dropping and it should continue to drop in the coming weeks because new admissions have fallen almost every day for the past three weeks,” he said.

“These are signs we want to see as we start our first week with no mandatory masking for children and youth in schools.”

On Tuesday, there were 1,538 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 123 of those people receiving care in the ICU.

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The province reported an additional 838 new lab-confirmed cases from about 2,500 tests.

Because PCR testing is no longer widely available, officials have said new and active case numbers are likely at least 10 times higher through the Omicron wave.

Read more: How to talk with kids as Alberta students return to class with no mask mandate

The positivity rate was about 33.9 per cent and there were 19,050 active lab-confirmed cases.

“That’s down by more than two thirds from the peak of 71,000 that we saw on Jan. 16,” Copping said.

“I want to emphasize: the reopening plan depends on these trends continuing. If they don’t, we’ll take action as necessary, including reimposing restrictions if we have to.”

An additional 14 deaths were reported to the province over the previous 24 hours. There have now been 3,790 COVID-19 deaths in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic.

Two schools in the province were in temporary at-home learning.

Changes to eligibility for early COVID-19 treatment

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced new eligibility for those looking to access early COVID-19 treatment like paxlovid or sotrovimab.

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Effective immediately, anyone over the age of 55 who is unvaccinated or has only one dose is eligible for such treatment, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced.

Those 18-54 who have conditions like diabetes or heart disease and are also unvaccinated or only have one dose are also eligible.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says province is in transition' COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says province is in transition
COVID-19: Alberta’s top doctor says province is in transition – Feb 15, 2022

Hinshaw urged those with even mild symptoms to access PCR testing to be able to access treatment as soon as possible.

Also effective Tuesday, anyone 18 or older who has had a significant immunocompromising condition like a transplant or active cancer treatment is eligible for early COVID-19 treatment, even if they’ve received all doses of vaccine.

Tuesday also marked the first day youth who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions can book a COVID-19 booster.

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