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COVID-19 in Alberta: ‘Increases in virus circulation and hospital admission’ but rise is smaller, slower

While COVID-19 continues to spread in Alberta and hospital admissions due to the virus continue to tick up, the trends are not as drastic as previous waves, officials said Wednesday.

During his weekly pandemic update, Health Minister Jason Copping said Alberta is seeing the kind of “mixed data” it expected to see, based on experiences in other jurisdictions like Ontario and B.C. and given the “high vaccination rates and recent exposure to BA.1.”

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“There are increases in virus circulation and hospital admissions but they’re smaller and moving more slowly than we saw in the initial Omicron wave,” Copping said.

“We’re seeing some impact from the BA.2 subvariant, but so far it’s much less than we saw a few months (ago) with BA.1.”

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He said there are also “early signs” that BA.2 infections may be at a plateau.

The seven-day PCR positivity rate average was 25.9 per cent, down slightly from last week’s 26.6 per cent.

“Wastewater levels are high in many locations, but they mostly remain below levels we’ve seen previously during BA.1,” Copping said, adding Edmonton’s wastewater levels are near its BA.1 peak level, but Calgary is rising more slowly and, in some places, they’re fluctuating or dropping.

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“More importantly, we’re not seeing the same impact on hospital admissions that we’ve seen before.”

As of Wednesday’s update, there were 1,126 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 43 of whom were being treated in ICUs.

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Copping said COVID-19 hospital admissions ticked up about three per cent this week but pointed out there are three fewer people in ICUs with the virus than last week.

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“A few of the big hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary are over 100 per cent capacity, but it’s also in line with past years before COVID,” the minister said, adding the province is committed to increasing health-care capacity.

Read more: Vaccine wastage: What is Canada doing about expiring COVID-19 doses?

During Wednesday’s update, Copping and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided data from Tuesday, April 12 to Monday, April 18.

During that time, there were an average of seven COVID-related deaths per day in Alberta, Hinshaw said.

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She said over the last week, the positivity rate of PCR tests ranged between about 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

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“As transmission continues with BA.2, we have seen more breakthrough infections for those with a full vaccine series. Given that, I know there are questions about the importance of vaccines right now. I want to remind Albertans about what the data shows us.

“When we look at the difference in the risk of severe outcomes by vaccination status, it is very clear that vaccines are critically important in lowering the risk of hospitalizations and deaths.”

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“If we look at everyone in Alberta five and up in the last four months, those who were not vaccinated were more than three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and almost eight times more likely to be admitted to ICU than those who had three doses of vaccine,” Hinshaw said.

“For those age 80 and older, in whom the risk of severe outcomes is highest, those who were not vaccinated were more than four times (more likely) to be hospitalized for COVID in the last four months and almost six times more likely to die from COVID than those who had three doses of vaccine.”

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