EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the pandemic, case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing done by provincial bodies like Alberta Health Services, but those testing protocols have shifted to prioritize high-priority groups and people in higher risk settings. In Alberta there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests, meaning many people with COVID-19 aren’t reflected in the data.
As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case counts in our coverage, in favour of data and metrics that experts now say are more illuminating — including hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring.
- Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping and the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, gave an update on COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday.
- The province released COVID-19 figures for the period of April 12 to 18.
- As of end of day on April 18, 1,126 people were in hospital with COVID, up from 1,053 last week.
- There were 43 in intensive care, compared with 48 last week.
- The province reported 49 new COVID deaths between April 12 and April 18. A total of 4,190 Albertans have died of the disease.
- There were 6,125 new cases reported out of 24,745 tests. The case count includes only those who test positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans can’t access.
- The average positivity rate was 25.9 per cent, compared with last week’s 26.6 per cent.
- Copping said Wednesday there are increases to virus circulation and hospital admissions on the week.
- Copping said that while wastewater levels are high, they are below what was seen in the BA.1 Omicron wave.
- In a press conference on April 13, Hinshaw, encouraged the public to wear masks indoors when appropriate, as data shows there continues to be increased transmission of COVID-19 in the province.
- Politicians and health officials have yet to label the surge a “sixth wave,” despite statements from doctors and scientists that it is here.
- On April 13, Hinshaw said Alberta is pausing the use of Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment given intravenously. The pause is due to uncertainty about whether it’s effective against the Omicron subvariant BA.2, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of new cases.
- On April 13, Hinshaw said Remdesivir will be offered as an outpatient treatment.
- While the province says it’s still “strongly recommending” Albertans get vaccinated, as of April 6, access to the antiviral drug Paxlovid was expanded to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit people age 45 and older who are unvaccinated or have received only one dose of vaccine, and individuals living in long-term care and designated supportive living settings, regardless of vaccination status.
- The province has received 10,000 doses of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid, which is described as a “two-dose protein subunit vaccine that does not use mRNA technology and is approved for those 18 and older.”
- Alberta data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Health Informatics shows the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater. The data is updated publicly three times a week. The virus is shed in peoples’ feces before symptoms arise, so values in the data associate strongest with cases occurring six days after the samples are collected.
- A note on reading wastewater charts: Numbers taken from different wastewater treatment facilities use different testing and collection methods. Because of this, comparisons across cities cannot be made directly and one should assess only the trends. For example, there is an upward trend in the readings in both Edmonton and Calgary, but one cannot say whether levels are higher in one city or the other.
The latest on restrictions:
- Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan.
- This phase removes indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, removal of capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings lifted and mandatory work from home lifted.
- Masking is still required in high-risk settings including Alberta Health Services-operated and contracted facilities, all continuing care settings, and on municipal transit services. The rule does not cover private services such as taxis or Uber trips.
- As of Feb. 14, there are no masking requirements for children and youth 12 years old and younger and no masking requirements for children and youth in schools for any age.
- Stage 1 took effect Feb. 16 and removed the restrictions exemption program.
- Premier Jason Kenney says the province is working toward a third stage, which does not have a date, where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak protocols will be lifted in continuing care facilities.
- Copping said the stages are all conditions-based approaches, based on hospitalization trends.
- According to Alberta Health, 76.8 per cent of the province’s population — or 86.8 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- According to the latest statistics from Alberta Health, 43.6 per cent of Albertans 12 and up have had three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- As of April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in congregate care can receive a fourth dose of vaccine.
- Children from six to 11 have the option of getting the Moderna vaccine as of April 12.
Hospitalizations by region:
As of end of day on April 18, there were 1,126 Albertans in hospital.
- Calgary zone: 362.
- Edmonton zone: 392.
- Central zone: 180.
- North zone: 115.
- South zone: 77.