PCR testing, wastewater shows COVID-19 cases continuing to drop in Alberta

Click to play video: '‘More signs’ that Alberta is putting COVID-19 wave ‘behind us’: health minister'
‘More signs’ that Alberta is putting COVID-19 wave ‘behind us’: health minister
WATCH: Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping announces COVID-19 data for May 10 to May 16, 2022. – May 17, 2022

Alberta officials said Tuesday there are continued signs of declining cases of COVID-19 in the province.

From May 10 to May 16, the average PCR positivity rate was just under 20 per cent, compared to 23 per cent the week before, and 25.9 per cent the week before that.

“This is the third week in a row that we’ve seen dropping positivity rates, which means there’s less viral transmission in Alberta,” said Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping.

“Our wastewater surveillance program is showing the same thing — the levels in most centres are declining or fluctuating at levels well below the BA.1 peak.”

Copping noted that areas with smaller populations like Airdrie, Brooks, Drumheller, Edson and Grande Prairie are showing low wastewater levels; while larger centres like Lethbridge, Edmonton and Calgary are still high “but (are) dropping.”

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Click to play video: 'Pressure on Alberta health system still high: health minister'
Pressure on Alberta health system still high: health minister

“Overall the data shows we’re getting past the BA.2 wave, and that’s good news,” he said. “But pressure on the system is still high, with the major hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary well over 90 per cent occupancy, and a few over 100 per cent.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the average number of people in hospital has also declined, with 1,190 people in hospital, down from 1,225 the week before.

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ICU rates have remained steady, with 39 Albertans requiring intensive care this week compared to 37 last.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Alberta records 55 deaths between May 10-16, 2022'
COVID-19: Alberta records 55 deaths between May 10-16, 2022

From May 10 to May 15, there were 55 deaths related to COVID-19 reported to Alberta Health, or an average of nine per day.

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Hinshaw says she expects the number of deaths to fall in the coming weeks, slightly behind the fall of the positivity and wastewater rates.

“Deaths are usually one of the last indicators to fall. This is why these high numbers of deaths that we have seen in the past weeks, as well as this week’s, is not unexpected, although it is a tragic reminder of the severe impacts of this virus.”

She noted the spring and summer weather in Alberta also factors into cases, and they may rise again in the fall.

“We must remember that COVID will remain with us,” Hinshaw said. “We should expect it to return, especially when we get to colder months in the fall, and the start of the season when we traditionally see a rise in respiratory viruses.”

Click to play video: 'Top doctor asks Albertans to stay safe over May long weekend with hospitals strained'
Top doctor asks Albertans to stay safe over May long weekend with hospitals strained

Hinshaw reiterated the point that all Albertans should get their eligible vaccine doses.

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However, she noted Alberta has yet to lower the age requirements for the fourth dose to follow Saskatchewan, which currently offers the fourth dose to residents 50 and older.

“We are continuing to look at the evidence… on what groups will benefit most from that additional dose,” she said. “Especially, looking again at that risk of severe outcomes.

“It’s important for people to remember that (for) those who are younger, the third dose is still very effective at preventing severe outcomes.”

In Alberta, the fourth dose is available to everyone 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people age 65 and older, as well as all seniors in congregate care regardless of age.

Hinshaw also said Tuesday that serology data from March, which will give details on numbers of people in Alberta with COVID-19 antibodies, will be released in the next several weeks.


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