EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the pandemic, case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing performed by provincial agencies such as Alberta Health Services, but these testing protocols have been deferred to prioritize high-priority groups and those in higher-risk environments. Alberta does not have a system for cataloging rapid home antigen tests, meaning many people with COVID-19 are not reflected in the data.
As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case numbers in our coverage in favor of data and metrics that experts now say are more insightful — including hospitalizations and sewage monitoring.
- Health Secretary Jason Copping and Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, provided an update on COVID-19 on May 17th.
- The full COVID-19 figures covering the period from May 10th to May 16th were released on Wednesday.
- By the end of May 16th 1.165 People were hospitalized with COVID-19, below from 1,225 people last week.
- 42 People were in intensive care until out 37 last week.
- 61 new COVID-19 deaths were reported between May 10th and 16th. All in all 4,452 Albertans have died from the disease.
- There were 3,614 new COVID-19 cases reported out of 18,349 tests. The case count includes only those who tested positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans don’t have access to.
- The average positivity rate was 19.93 percent, compared to 22.98 percent the week before.
- In a May 17 news conference, Hinshaw said fatalities are usually one of the last indicators to fall. “Therefore, this high number of deaths that we have seen in the last few weeks and this week, although it is a tragic reminder of the serious impact of this virus, is not unexpected,” she said.
- Hinshaw said the province is in talks to expand eligibility for fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but that three doses are still effective against severe outcomes for most people.
- Copping said COVID-19 positivity test rates have fallen for the third straight week, another sign the BA.2 peak has been surpassed. He added that the pressure on the healthcare system remains high, especially on EMS.
- As of May 4, the province is now allowing community providers, such as general practitioners, to prescribe Paxlovid to those eligible for COVID-19 treatment. A positive rapid test is now accepted to confirm COVID-19 infection to prescribe Paxlovid.
- The Paxlovid eligibility list now includes all Albertans 60+ – and Aborigines 50+ – with 2 doses or less of vaccine and at least one pre-existing condition. Also added are Albertans 70+ – and Native Americans 60+ – with three or fewer cans and two or more pre-existing conditions.
- Alberta data from a Dashboard created from the University of Calgary Center for Health Informatics shows the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater. The data are publicly updated three times a week.
- According to Copping, the wastewater levels are in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer well past their peakbut continue to show that high levels of virus are circulating.
- The virus is shed in people’s feces before symptoms appear, so the levels in the data are most strongly associated with cases occurring six days after the samples were collected.
- A note on reading wastewater tables: Figures from different wastewater treatment plants use different testing and collection methods. For this reason comparisons between cities cannot be made directly and one should only assess the trends. For example, there is an upward trend in readings in both Edmonton and Calgary, but you can’t tell if the readings are higher in one city or the other.
The latest on restrictions:
- Almost all pandemic Public health measures have been lifted in the province from March 1, when the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan.
- This phase will lift indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, the lifting of capacity restrictions on all major venues and entertainment venues, the lifting of restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and mandatory work from home.
- Masks are still mandatory in high-risk environments, including Alberta Health Services operated and contracted facilities, all continuing care facilities, and community transportation services. The rule does not apply to private services such as taxis or Uber rides.
- From February 14 there is no mask requirement for children and young people aged 12 and under and no mask requirement for children and young people in schools for all ages.
- step 1 came into force on February 16 and removed the restriction exemption program.
- Premier Jason Kenney says the province is working toward it a third stagewhich does not have a date when people will no longer need to be isolated if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak logs will be maintained at continuous care facilities.
- Copping said the stages are all condition-based approaches, based on hospitalization trends.
- According to Alberta Health, 77 percent the population of the province — or 87 percent of those who are older than 12 years – have received two cans of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- According to statistics from Alberta Health, 44.4 percent by Albertans aged 12 and over three cans of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Beginning April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in community care can receive a fourth dose of vaccine.
- Children aged six to eleven will have the opportunity to receive the Moderna vaccine starting April 12.
Hospitalizations by region:
At the end of the day on May 16th it was 1,165 Albertans hospitalized with COVID.
- Calgary Zone: 452.
- Edmonton Zone: 369
- middle zone: 161
- North Zone: 108
- South Zone: 75