Alberta’s number of active COVID-19 cases sees sharp decline as officials plan for summer reopening

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says that three weeks after new COVID-19 restrictions were announced in the province, the numbers are showing they are making a difference.

Alberta’s latest COVID-19 daily case counts and active case total show recently-introduced public health restrictions are working to curb the third wave of the disease, according to the province’s chief medical officer of health.

Stricter measures were reintroduced at the beginning of this month, including moving schools online and shutting down personal wellness services, amid surging numbers of cases and hospitalizations.

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Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Tuesday that since then, the province’s number of active cases have declined 52 per cent from the peak earlier this month.

On the weekend, Premier Jason Kenney said in a tweet there would be an announcement this week about loosened public health restrictions for the summer.

When asked about whether there are specific benchmarks guiding that process, Hinshaw said the details about the specific criteria would be made public “this week,” but reiterated that vaccination rates and prevention of transmission — and therefore reducing stress on hospitals and ICUs – are still key guiding factors in the reopening plan.

“We all know what we need to do to reduce transmission – we’ve all been doing it for a long time — so the more we can do that in the coming weeks, the more successful we’ll be able to be in moving toward the kind of summer we all want to see.”

Alberta Health said Tuesday afternoon that Kenney would provide an update on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. regarding “COVID-19 and the province’s strategy for safely easing restrictions” for summer.

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The province’s R-value has dropped to 0.67, with Calgary’s reproductive value dropping to 0.62 and Edmonton’s dropping to 0.71, Hinshaw said Tuesday.

“We have seen a steady decline in new cases across the province which is helping bring our active case count down as well,” she said.

She also said the decline in hospital admissions is encouraging when it comes to moving forward.

“With cases declining and more vaccines being administered every day, we are rapidly approaching a point where we can safely begin to ease measures – it’s close, and getting closer every day,” Hinshaw said.

“Though active cases have declined remarkably in recent weeks, there are still more than 12,000 active COVID-19 cases – that’s the same number we had in mid-January.”

Over the long weekend, Hinshaw said more than 16,000 tests were done, and more than 86,000 people were vaccinated.

At the same time, however, Hinshaw said officials noted a small increase in no-shows at vaccine appointments in the last three days.

“A one-to-three per cent no-show rate is typical, but (Alberta Health Services) noted the provincial no-show rate rose to over four per cent in the last three days,” Hinshaw said, attributing the increase in great part to the nicer weather.

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She advised people to be sure to cancel or modify their appointments online or by calling AHS or the pharmacy they’re booked at, so the slot can be given to someone else waiting.

“These no-shows are not resulting in vaccine wastage, but they do take an appointment from someone who wants it and they slow down our ability to vaccinate people as quickly as possible.”

Last week, AHS said it was monitoring no-show appointments after posts circulated on social media saying people were purposely booking appointments and not attending to prevent those who want the shot from having the opportunity.

Despite the small rise in people not showing up, Hinshaw said there continues to be a “remarkable” uptake in COVID-19 immunizations in the province, adding that each shot administered is a step toward preventing more waves of COVID-19 infections in the future.

“With more doses coming in, we are actively looking at more ways to reach key groups who may be having trouble accessing vaccine,” she said.

“We are also looking at our current 16-week timing for second doses and when we can begin to shorten that window based on incoming supply.”

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Hinshaw said Alberta is still seeing “quite a high demand” for shots, with hundreds of thousands of appointments booked in the coming weeks.

Alberta reported 387 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the province’s total number of active cases to 12,078. Roughly 4,000 tests were done in the last 24 hours, and the positivity rate is 9.9 per cent, Hinshaw said.

A total of 565 people were being treated for COVID-19 in hospital on Tuesday, with 158 of them needing ICU care.

Alberta Health reported nine COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday.

In the Edmonton zone, a man in his 60s with no known comorbidities died. Two women also died in the Edmonton zone, one in her 50s and one in her 60s. Their cases included comorbidities.

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Three COVID-19 patients in the Calgary zone were reported to have died: a man in his 40s, a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s, all of whom had comorbidities.

A man in his 80s in the South zone and a man in his 60s in the Central zone died. Both cases included comorbidities. Additionally, a woman in her 70s with no known comorbidities died in the North zone.

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