No loosening of restrictions for Easter long weekend as Alberta continues to shatter COVID-19 case records

EDMONTON — Alberta continued its upward trend of COVID-19 cases Thursday as the province recorded 875 cases – a new record for cases since mid-January.

The province reported 875 new cases after reporting 871 cases Wednesday. Of those, 322 were variants of concern. The testing positivity rate was 6.5 per cent. 

Nearly 37 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta are now variants of concern.

Four additional deaths from the disease were reported, bringing the total to 1,994. One of the deaths was on March 26, two were on Wednesday and one occured on Thursday. To date, 62 per cent of deaths from COVID-19 have been in long-term care facilities or supportive living sites.

There are 8,653 active cases with 292 in hospital and 59 in ICU.

Three hundred hospitalized patients was a key metric in the province’s reopening plan which required a lower number “and falling” to lift restrictions.

Every health zone across the province had active cases with the Calgary zone leading with 4,058 active cases. The Edmonton Zone has 1,889 while the North Zone has 1,058. The South Zone and Central Zone have 864 and 741 cases respectively. There are 43 active cases in zones to be confirmed as of Thursday.

To date, 138,560 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.

Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw pleaded for Albertans to heed calls to follow public health restrictions as the Easter long weekend begins Friday.

“Going into the Easter long weekend I had hoped to be able to tell you that we had turned a corner in our fight against COVID-19,” Kenney said, “that the spread of the disease had slowed and that we could all gather around the table with extended family and friends to celebrate Easter, Passover, Vaisakhi or just to enjoy the spring break.”

“Unfortunately we are not in that situation today,” he added.

NO MESSAGE OF OPENNESS: KENNEY

“Instead of delivering a message of openness and optimism, I am here instead with a plea,” Kenney told Albertans. “Please, please follow Alberta’s health restrictions and guidelines this weekend and in the weeks to come.”

Kenney reinforced that there is a ban on socializing indoors except for those already belonging to the same household, reminiding Albertans that if they live alone, they can see their two designated close contacts.

“Not gathering inside is the single most important thing we can do at this time.”

No new restrictions were announced by the province.

COVID-19 VARIANT ON TRACK TO BECOME DOMINANT STRAIN IN ALBERTA: HINSHAW

Kenney said that it is only a matter of time until variant of concern cases outpace regular COVID-19 cases.

“Variants are not only more contagious but also in the case of B. 1.1.7 more likely to cause severe illness, which means an even higher percentage of younger cases likely to need hospital cases,” Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw she added that the second wave daily averages of hospitalizations was around 500 Albertans under the age of 75, with 119 needing ICU care and five dying.

Currently, the average age of hospitalizations is 62 and that the average age of requiring ICU care is 58.

As of today, Hinshaw said that only six per cent of Albertans under 65 have received their COVID-19 vaccination meaning that the province is projecting for every 1,000 cases there will be around 40 hospitalizations occurring a few weeks later.

“We are a long way from being able to offer vaccine to all those for whom a COVID-19 infection means a need for hospitalization or life support,” she said.

As of Wednesday, 653,010 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administerd in the province translating to 14,767.7 doses per 100,000 people. Just about 104,000 Albertans have been fully vaccinated.

KENNEY SAYS ALBERTA CANNOT SIMPLY RE-OPEN LIKE SOME U.S. STATES

Kenney responded to Albertans who believe the province should follow what Texas or Florida did in terms of re-opening.

For him, the main difference between those two states and Alberta is vaccination rates.

“They have a huge head start over us on vaccination,” Kenney remarked.

“If our federal government didn’t put Canada at the back of the line for buying vaccines, we’d be where they are in those U.S. states.”

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