Premier Jason Kenney, Dr. Deena Hinshaw to provide COVID-19 update

Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, will provide an update on COVID-19 in the province.

The news conference will begin at 3:30 p.m. MT. Tuesday. Watch it live here. 

The news conference comes as many Albertans await information on the spread of the Omicron variant over the holiday period.

Updates to the provincial COVID-19 statistics were paused over the holidays, with the most recent numbers accurate as of Dec. 22. New COVID-19 numbers in Alberta will be provided on Wednesday and again on Jan. 4, Hinshaw said last week. 

ICU capacity at 73% Friday

Public health officials have been racing to contain Omicron, the highly transmissible variant that continues to spread rapidly across Canada.

Since the first case of Omicron in Alberta was announced on Nov. 30, there have been 2,637 confirmed cases. It is now considered the dominant strain and Hinshaw has cautioned that cases are doubling every two to three days.

As of last Thursday, the most recent full update of COVID-19 in Alberta, there was a total of 8,359 active cases. There were 318 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 64 in intensive care.

As of Friday, provincial ICU capacity was at 73 per cent. That breaks down to 167 people, including both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients, occupying 229 currently available ICU spaces, which includes 56 additional beds.

Alberta has opted to fight the exponential growth in cases on various fronts to mitigate the impact of a possible fifth wave on hospitals.  

The province has increased the availability of rapid testing, expanded its third-dose vaccine campaign, tightened some public health restrictions and urged Albertans to cut their social interactions in half.

Rapid tests preferred to preserve lab capacity

The province has also made a number of changes that will impact its ability to accurately track case counts and infection rates in the weeks ahead. 

Most Albertans have been urged to avoid getting a PCR test in a bid to preserve limited lab capacity for tracking outbreaks in high-risk settings such as continuing care.

Except for some priority groups such as health-care workers, the province now recommends rapid tests — instead of more accurate lab-based PCR tests — for people with symptoms. 

Because of rising COVID-19 caseloads, the province also announced it will provide all unimmunized physicians and health staff the option of frequent COVID-19 testing if they wish to return to work.

About 1,400 full-and part-time staff were on unpaid leave because they are not fully vaccinated.

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