COVID-19 transmission in Alberta starting to slow, health minister says

COVID-19 data in Alberta suggests that the current surge of transmission, driven by the Omicron subvariant BA.2, may be starting to plateau, Health Minister Jason Copping said Wednesday.

The average positivity rate in the province for lab-confirmed PCR tests over the past week was about 25.7 per cent, which is lower than most of the past month, Copping told a news conference Wednesday.

Wastewater COVID-19 levels are high in many parts of the province, but in some places — like Red Deer, Edmonton, Canmore and Grande Prairie — levels are plateauing or dropping.

Edmonton, in particular, has seen a quick drop in levels of the virus picked up in wastewater testing. Copping cautioned that it’s too early to say if this will be a sustained trend.

“Even if transmission is slowing as it appears to be, hospital admissions will continue to rise for a few weeks,” Copping said.

Another 62 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported Wednesday, as the province released data from the past week. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the people who died ranged in age from 32 to 103. 

Some 6,125 new cases of COVID-19 were reported over the seven-day period. That number only includes those who have tested positive on a PCR test, which are not available to most Albertans. 

The province reported 1,220 people with COVID-19 in hospital, up from 1,126 a week ago. There are 47 people in ICU, up from 43. 

Though overall hospital admissions are up slightly, Copping said the trend is still in line with previous years.

Still, some hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary are over 100 per cent capacity, which proves the need to build more capacity, the health minister said. 

“The normal capacity we had before the pandemic was not good enough and we need to do better,” said Copping. 

Hinshaw said it’s likely Albertans will continue be exposed to COVID-19 for years to come, with varying levels of risk depending on the season and viral evolution.

Albertans will need to choose what precautions they will take based on their concerns about risk.

“All of us will need to think about if we are in a time where COVID transmission is high, what are our risks and how do we protect ourselves?” Hinshaw said.  “And then if we are in a time where COVID transmission is low, that may be the time where those who have risk factors are able to do more without adding layers of protection.

“We need to be able to flex our response based on what our current environment is.”

Both Hinshaw and Copping encouraged people to get vaccinated and noted that vaccines are the best protection available against severe illness and death. 

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