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 May 4.
- The province’s most recently released COVID-19 figures were for the period of April 26 to May 2.
- As of end of day on May 2, 1,267 people were in hospital with COVID, up from 1,220 last week.
- There were 46 in intensive care, down from 47 last week.
- The province reported 69 new COVID deaths between April 26 and May 2. A total of 4,321 Albertans have died of the disease.
- There were 6,735 new cases reported out of 25,568 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 22.98 per cent, compared with last week’s 25.7 per cent.
- Copping said Wednesday that while it looks like we are passing the peak of Omicron subvariant BA.2 circulation, hospital admissions are still rising. “They will continue to rise for a few more weeks, even assuming virus levels continue to decline,” he said.
- Copping said wastewater levels are dropping in most areas of the province; however, levels remain high in Calgary.
- As of May 4, the province is now allowing community providers, such as family physicians, to prescribe Paxlovid to those eligible for the COVID-19 treatment. A positive rapid test will now be accepted to confirm COVID-19 infection in order to prescribe Paxlovid.
- In a news conference on April 27, Hinshaw said it’s likely Albertans will continue be exposed to COVID-19 for years to come.
- 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 27, Hinshaw said Canada will stop the use of AstraZeneca products after this week with respect to COVID-19 vaccines.
- 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, 76.9 per cent of the province’s population — or 86.9 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- According to the latest statistics from Alberta Health, 44.1 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 May 2, there were 1,267 Albertans in hospital.
- Calgary zone: 466.
- Edmonton zone: 423.
- Central zone: 177.
- North zone: 121.
- South zone: 80.