Alberta sees uptick in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, variants but no deaths Friday

Alberta Health recorded 696 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and completed 11,918 tests in the last 24 hours.

That puts the province’s positivity rate at about 5.8 per cent.

On Friday, Alberta Health confirmed 130 cases of variants of concern.

As of Friday, there were 276 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 48 being treated in intensive care units.

No deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours. It’s the first time since Nov. 22 Alberta has reported zero daily fatalities due to COVID-19.

Read more: Infectious disease doctor says indicators not looking good for Step 3 of Alberta’s relaunch

As of March 18, 439,069 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered and 92,935 Albertans are fully immunized with two doses.

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A decision on whether Alberta will move to Step 3 of its reopening plan could come as early as Monday.

One infectious disease expert said she’d be surprised to see Alberta ease any more restrictions right now.

READ MORE: Alberta opens rest of Step 2 relaunch as 278 new COVID-19 cases confirmed

Dr. Ameeta Singh, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Alberta, said the numbers in regards to case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU admissions have plateaued.

“If anything, [they] are starting to rise again, starting to creep up. We are starting to see more variants present and that, as you know the experience in other places including in Ontario for example, the rise can be very rapid if those take hold,” she said.

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Step 3 would allow facilities such as museums, art galleries, theatres and casinos to reopen and would allow indoor social gatherings with restrictions. Only some sectors in Step 2 of reopening were initially allowed to open earlier this month; the province completely entered Step 2 on March 8.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said a variety of factors, such as positivity rate, case counts and R value will be looked at.

“Given our trends and variant cases and the increase in positivity over the past few days, of course that does need to be considered.

“But the final decisions are made by cabinet with looking at multiple different factors,” she said Wednesday.At an unrelated news conference on Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney was asked whether Albertans can expect to move into Step 3 of reopening on Monday.

Click to play video: 'Alberta COVID-19 committee will discuss Step 3 in coming days' Alberta COVID-19 committee will discuss Step 3 in coming days

Alberta COVID-19 committee will discuss Step 3 in coming days
He then pointed to the Path Forward plan released in February that indicated the key metric for moving to the next step was hospitalization numbers. Step 3 requires less than 300 hospitalizations.“We have been at under 300 hospitalizations now for maybe about a month, maybe it’s more like five weeks, and so it’s been pretty stable,” he said.

“It’s clear things have plateaued. We have stopped seeing the decline in new daily cases, total active cases and hospitalizations but they have been stable.”

Kenney said there is concern over growth of the variants of concern but noted it is not yet the dominant strain in the province.— With files from Julia Wong, Global News

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