COVID-19 hospitalizations trend up slightly in Alberta after Christmas

Front-line health-care workers in Alberta help COVID-19 patients in hospital. Courtesy: Twitter/Alberta Health Services

After a month-long downward trend, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta began trending up again slightly after Dec. 25, 2022.

As of Jan. 4, 912 COVID hospitalizations were tallied provincewide. That’s a net increase of two in the time period since Dec. 20, 2022. There were 40 COVID ICU patients, a net increase of seven.

Provincial ICU capacity, including surge beds, sat at 87 per cent on Jan. 6.

Read more: Alberta doctors urge vaccinations as influenza deaths mount

COVID-19 was determined to be the cause of 63 more deaths, bringing the pandemic total to 5,415.

The seven-day average positivity of PCR tests rose more than 2.4 points to 15.66 per cent. That number has been rising since Dec. 18, 2022.

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A graph of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta since late October 2022. Alberta Health

And in the last week of testing, 2,051 cases were detected by PCR test, more than double in the week ending Dec. 19, 2022.

Since early 2022, molecular tests have been restricted to people with clinical risk of catching COVID-19 or who live and/or work in high-risk settings.

Click to play video: 'Wastewater data shows increase in COVID-19 in Lethbridge'
Wastewater data shows increase in COVID-19 in Lethbridge

Eight acute care facilities in the province have current COVID-19 outbreaks, declared when it’s determined at least one person caught the virus while there.

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Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital declared an outbreak on Dec. 29, 2022, when three patients tested positive.

The Misericordia Community Hospital has had outbreaks ongoing in four units since Oct. 5, with the most recent one declared on Jan. 4 when 10 people tested positive in one unit.

Read more: ‘Most-transmissible’ COVID-19 subvariant XBB.1.5 detected in Alberta

The Royal Alexandra Hospital had four outbreaks declared in the new year: two on Jan. 3 when seven tested positive in one unit and five in another unit, and two on Jan. 6 when four patients tested positive in a unit and five in another.

And the WestView Health Centre in Stony Plain, Alta., declared an outbreak on Dec. 28, 2022, when four patients and three health-care workers tested positive for COVID-19.

‘Kraken’ on the horizon

On Wednesday, the province confirmed it had detected four cases of the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant, which officials around the world say is the most transmissible variant to date that was observed to be more immune-evasive than Omicron.

Subvariants like XBB.1.5, nicknamed “Kraken,” are genetically sequenced from PCR test swabs.

The subvariant seeing rocket-like trajectory in areas like the northeast United States is a viral recombination of BA.2 subvariants.

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Click to play video: 'Canadian concerns of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 growing'
Canadian concerns of Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 growing

An Alberta Health spokesperson confirmed the “Kraken” subvariant will be tallied under the BA.2 sublineage reporting online.

Since around Dec. 26, 2022, the percentage of confirmed cases appear to show an increase in BA.2 sublineages and a decrease in BA.5, the Omicron lineage that has been dominant in the province since early July 2022.

“We encourage Albertans to stay up to date on their immunizations,” an Alberta Health spokesperson said on Wednesday.

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Also on Wednesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Mark Joffe announced the availability of the Pfizer bivalent vaccine booster for kids aged five to 11 and the Novavax shot was available for kids 12 to 17.

The province recommends Albertans wait five months since their last vaccination or infection before getting another dose, but according to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, less than 15 per cent of Albertans received a shot from June to November. That number is the lowest among all provinces.

Only 40.9 per cent of Albertans have received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and about half of that have received a fourth dose. The province opened up third doses in September 2021 and fourth doses became widely available in April 2022.

Read more: Canadians’ concern over COVID-19 has waned — and so has their drive to get vaccinated: poll

Experts say vaccines prevent severe disease and hospitalization, and can help reduce transmission of COVID-19. Vaccines can be booked online, by calling Health Link at 811 or by calling your local pharmacy.

“Wearing a mask, especially in crowded indoor settings, can help reduce the risk of becoming sick and help protect others from being exposed,” Alberta Health added.

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