Alberta health officials provide final ‘regularly scheduled COVID update’

An Alberta Health Services (AHS) pandemic response unit (PRUs) at the South Health Campus hospital (SHC) in Calgary in 2021. Courtesy: Alberta Health Services

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced during Wednesday’s news conference that it was the “last regularly scheduled COVID update.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health added that: “we will, of course, provide updates as necessary.”

The province had previously moved to offering biweekly updates on COVID-19 data in Alberta.

Health Minister Jason Copping said all indicators continue to drop, including the PCR test positivity (12.2 per cent average, down 1.6 per cent from last week) and wastewater testing.

He said there were 661 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 17 of those patients were being treated in the ICU.

Hinshaw said that between June 14 and June 20, 13 COVID-related deaths were reported to Alberta Health.

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Click to play video: 'No more pandemic restrictions in Alberta'
No more pandemic restrictions in Alberta

Copping said Alberta’s response can be de-escalated, while maintaining the ability to react quickly if there’s a surge in new variants. But the system will generally manage COVID-19 as it does other respiratory viruses, he said.

We’re “balancing the risk from the virus with the burden of health measures,” Copping said.

Copping said Alberta will continue surveillance of transmission trends, optimize its testing strategy to identify those eligible for anti-viral treatment, and keep a framework in place for protective measures and outbreak response in settings of highest risk.

Alberta entered the final step of its easing of public health restrictions last Tuesday, meaning masks are no longer required on transit and isolation for people who have COVID-19 moved from a requirement to a recommendation.

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However, masks will still be required at Alberta Health Services and AHS-contracted health facilities through their own policy, Copping said.
Physicians’ offices, pharmacies and physiotherapy offices can also have policies in place that require people to wear masks to protect vulnerable people seeking medical care, he explained.

Click to play video: 'Alberta continuing care facilities experience spike in COVID-19 outbreaks'
Alberta continuing care facilities experience spike in COVID-19 outbreaks

Rescinding public health orders in continuing care sites June 30

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Copping said that Alberta will rescind its public health order for continuing care settings but that “protective policies will remain in place through operating standards at continuing care facilities, recognizing the risk of COVID isn’t going to go away.”

He said this is yet another step to returning to a “more normal way of life.”

Copping recognized that older people in continuing care are still the most vulnerable to severe outcomes, which is why “residents will continue to be a priority for additional booster doses and are among those eligible for anti-viral treatments.”

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Hinshaw said certain policies that were adopted during the pandemic will become routine practices in high-risk environments.

“We are working with operators to transition important prevention and outbreak management measures into the routine practice of managing infectious diseases in these settings,” she said.

“This means that many COVID protections will remain in place, such as managing symptomatic residents with testing, isolation and PPE protections, implementing outbreak protocols when needed to reduce transmission among residents, and continuous masking for staff and visitors in long-term care, designated supportive living and hospices, which will be maintained through Alberta Health Services’ organizational policy to protect these high-risk environments as transmission risk remains high.”

Hinshaw said this will be even more important during the colder months, when officials expect a rise in COVID cases, as well as seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Click to play video: '‘There’s a lot of good news’: Alberta health minister says COVID-19 numbers still trending down'
‘There’s a lot of good news’: Alberta health minister says COVID-19 numbers still trending down

In a June 16 news release, Copping said hospitals, EMS and other services are still strained, especially in the major cities. He pointed to patients who deferred care, patients with Omicron, a late flu season and other respiratory viruses, as well as a depleted workforce.

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“The result is that emergency departments are struggling to keep up even with staff being added across the system, including 800 more staff in emergency departments than before the pandemic.

“It’s been a tough spring for our health system in Alberta and across Canada,” Copping said in the news release. “We’ll keep adding capacity to help the system recover from the latest wave of COVID-19, and to give Albertans better access to care.”


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