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Alberta on Tuesday reported a continued decline in COVID-19 test positivity rates over the past week and an average of nine deaths a day.

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Health Secretary Jason Copping said it was the third straight week that PCR test positivity rates had fallen. The province reported a weekly average test positivity rate of 19.9 percent May 10-16, compared with 23 percent last week and 25.9 percent the week before.

“Over the past week there have been further signs that we are emerging from the BA.2 wave,” Copping said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

According to Copping, wastewater data also shows a decline in COVID-19, with levels “dipping or oscillating” at levels well below the BA.1 wave peak in most centers. He said wastewater levels in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer show a wide range of fluctuations but continue to trend down.

He said it makes sense that larger centers took longer to fall due to higher population densities.

“Overall, the data shows that we are past the BA.2 wave and that is good news,” he said.

While COVID-19 transmission rates are trending down, Copping said the pressure is still on, with major hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary operating at more than 90 percent occupancy and some at more than 100 percent.

dr Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw said there had been 55 COVID-related deaths in the last week, but she said the high number of deaths was “not unexpected”.

Hinshaw said the number of new cases and test positivity rates are usually the first indicators of a decline, followed by hospitalizations. She added that COVID-related deaths were one of the last indicators to drop.

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“As we see positivity and hospital admissions steadily decrease, we should expect to see the same thing in deaths very soon,” she said.

The average number of people hospitalized with the virus was down from the previous week, Hinshaw said. About 1,190 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the past week, compared to 1,225 the previous week. She said of those in hospital, about 39 were in intensive care, an increase of two from the previous week.

Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to take care of their mental health ahead of the long May weekend, whether it’s camping or watching a hockey game.

She said COVID-19 will remain in the population, with cases expected to fall in the warmer months before transmission picks up in the fall.

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