Alberta is changing the frequency with which provincial COVID-19 data is updated online.
Starting next week, the province will post weekly case and outbreak data every Wednesday, rather than providing updates every weekday.
“I know this will be an adjustment for some Albertans who have become used to checking the website on a daily basis,” Health Minister Jason Copping said at a news conference Wednesday, adding that long-term trends are more important to monitor now than day-to-day fluctuations.
The province is also consolidating some of the data posted to the government site to “reflect the most relevant, current information,” he added.
For example, a source-of-exposure graphic will be removed from the site as contact tracing is only being done in specific cases.
Copping promised Alberta Health would continue to monitor all data and changes to public health policy would be made if deemed necessary.
The province is also changing the employer and service provider rapid test kit program.
Starting April 1, the program will be wound down to include only sites where employees are caring for vulnerable people. This includes: Alberta Health Services locations, long-term care, designated supportive living, primary care, child care, K-12 school staff, shelters and residential addiction facilities.
Copping pointed to the availability of kits in community locations and the fact that employers are lifting testing requirements as reasons for the change.
Since December, the province has distributed over 34.2-million tests to Albertans.
The announcements came as Copping outlined several figures he said show numbers did not rise after lifting some public health restrictions on Feb. 8.
While it fluctuates slightly on a daily basis, the overall positivity rate has dropped by seven per cent and hospitalization and ICU numbers are down by about 40 per cent.
“It will take time for hospitalizations to get down to the level before the fifth wave, but this is promising news for the health system,” Copping said.
“We continue to see a decline or plateau in both our lagging and our leading indicators.”
Wednesday COVID-19 numbers
The province reported an additional 593 new, lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday from about 3,200 tests. That put the province’s positivity rate at 18 per cent.
There were 6,449 active cases across the province Wednesday.
Since access to PCR testing is restricted to specific groups, officials have said daily and active case numbers are likely much higher than what is being reported.
There were 989 Albertans in hospital with the virus, with 70 of those people receiving care in the ICU.
Over the last 24 hours, an additional four COVID-19 deaths were reported to the province, however, the total death toll since the pandemic began actually decreased on Wednesday and is now reported to be at 4,013.
That is because the province performs a review of every death where COVID-19 is considered to be a contributing cause to be sure the virus was the reason for the death.
Of deaths reported between Dec. 21 and Feb. 11, 16 have now been ruled to have not been caused by COVID-19. Therefore, the total death toll actually decreased by 12 on Wednesday.
According to a memo from Alberta Precision Laboratories, cases from the strain Omicron BA.2 are on the rise in the province.
From Feb. 25 to March 2, an average of 72 per cent of positive samples were strain-typed, APL said. Of those, 75 per cent were Omicron BA.1 lineage, while 23 per cent were Omicron BA.2, according to the seven-day rolling average.
“It appears the BA.2 is trending to higher proportions as has been seen in other countries where Omicron BA.2 is now the predominant strain,” the memo reads.
On Wednesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said less than half of new detected cases involve the Omicron strain BA.2. While that number has climbed in recent weeks, Hinshaw said she doesn’t anticipate BA.2 to create a similar wave to BA.1.