COVID hospitalizations trend downward for 2nd week in Alberta

Nurses wear personal protective equipment in an Alberta hospital. Global News

For nearly two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU cases have been trending down in Alberta.

The weekly data report from Alberta Health showed 856 COVID hospitalizations and 29 ICU cases, to the week ending Jan. 16. The previous peak was on Jan. 4 with 919 hospitalizations.

COVID-19 hospitalizations include people who come to hospital with a primary or contributing cause of the coronavirus — for example, showing COVID-like symptoms — and others who test positive for COVID-19 once in hospital.

The province’s pandemic death toll reached 5,470 in the past week after 27 more Albertans had their deaths attributed to COVID. All of the deaths were in Albertans over 50, 15 of whom were over 80.

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The seven-day average positivity rate on PCR tests, which have been restricted to people with clinical risks or who live and/or work in high risk settings for the past year, declined to 13.28 per cent, a 1.8 point drop. New documented cases dropped week to week by 139 to 842.

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Wastewater levels of COVID-19 in major cities like Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Grande Prairie have plateaued or are trending down.

But the BA.2 Omicron subvariant and its sublineages like XBB.1.5 have been trending up.

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As a per cent of PCR tests screened for variants of concern, BA.2 and sublineages have gone from 3.5 per cent on Jan. 1 to 9.6 per cent on Jan. 14.

BA.5 and sublineages, which have been dominant in Alberta since Canada Day 2022, dipped below 70 per cent of PCR tests on Jan. 13, to the lowest percentage since becoming the dominant variant.

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According to graphs published by Diego Bassani, associate professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the department of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, XBB.1.5 was first detected in Alberta in mid-December 2022.

XBB.1.5, nicknamed “Kraken,” has been shown to be the most immune-evasive and transmissible COVID-19 subvariant yet.

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