There are 1,094 Albertans in hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19 as the province gears up for the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Alberta Health said 1,254 new infections were identified Thursday after 15,595 tests were completed. The province now has 18,411 active cases, with the Calgary and Edmonton zone leading the province for active infections.
The positivity rate is approximately 8.1 per cent and the seven-day average for new cases is 1,341.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said it was “encouraging” to see four days in a row of a positivity rate below 10 per cent.
“It is much too early to declare victory,” she said. “This weekend poses a significant risk.”
Over the last week, 86 Albertans died from COVID-19 – including 13 reported Thursday.
The province reported 248 patients in ICU – 87 per cent of whom are unvaccinated. Seventy per cent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 and outside the ICU are unvaccinated.
“Vaccines work,” Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday afternoon. “That’s why we introduced Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program or proof of vaccination system.”
The premier announced a new set of supports and grants for businesses to ensure they can successfully implement the province’s vaccine passport system. The province expects the QR code reader app to be ready for use next week.
DO NOT TEMPT FATE THIS WEEKEND: KENNEY
Kenney reminded Albertans the second wave of COVID-19 started after Thanksgiving last year. While he says the province has been making gains in the fight against COVID-19, with ICU admissions remaining relatively stable over the past seven days, that reality can quickly change.
“Those gains are very tentative,” he said. “They could all be lost overnight, this weekend if Albertans do not carefully follow the public health guidelines.”
“Particularly over the days to come, if you are not vaccinated – that is a choice that you have made – but please understand that you are at a much higher risk of both transmission, infection, and hospitalization,” Kenney added.
The premier said that the unvaccinated should not “tempt fate” by socializing over the long weekend with people outside their household. Currently, public health restrictions prevent indoor social gatherings for those who are vaccine-eligible but are unvaccinated.
“The health care system is still under severe stress,” he said. “I plead with Albertans not to read into some recent encouraging data a licence to ignore the public heath guidelines and restrictions that are in place.”
As of 12:25 p.m. Thursday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) told CTV News there are 374 total ICU beds. Overall, 309 of those beds are in use, or 83 per cent of the ICU system’s capacity.
The North zone is operating at 100 per cent of current ICU capacity levels. The South zone is at 94 per cent capacity while the Central zone is at 88 per cent capacity.
The Edmonton and Calgary zones are at 81 and 79 per cent operating capacity, respectively.
The Edmonton zone continues to have the most patients in ICU out of all zones since Aug. 18.
Hinshaw added that last year before the Thanksgiving weekend, Alberta only had 92 patients in hospital seeking treatment for COVID-19 total, including 24 in intensive care.
“Now there are 248 (in ICU),” she said.
“We need all Albertans to have a safe Thanksgiving by having gatherings as small as possible.”
PLEA FOR PREGNANT WOMEN TO GET VACCINATED
During the media availability, Hinshaw urged pregnant women to get vaccinated to ensure they reduce the risk of serious outcomes should they test positive for COVID-19.
“We have seen a continued rise in the number of pregnant Albertans admitted to ICU over the last month,” she said.
Hinshaw reported that since July 15, a total of 14 women were admitted to ICU due to contracting COVID-19 – including eight pregnant women since Sept. 9.
“While this may not seem like a big number to some, it is double the number of pregnant ICU admissions we saw in the entire first year of the pandemic,” she added.
“We need everyone who is pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or who has recently delivered, to receive the protection of both doses of COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. This is the best way to protect you and your baby from COVID-19.”