COVID-19 Delta variant spreads inside Calgary hospital; 16 cases linked to 2 outbreaks

The COVID-19 Delta variant first identified in India has now spread inside a Calgary hospital.

Read more: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta: WHO officially names COVID-19 variants of concern

Four units are currently under outbreak status at Foothills Medical Centre, two of which have outbreaks with Delta cases.

“As of June 7, 2021, AHS has identified 16 cases of the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant in patients on two units at Foothills Medical Centre,” according to an Alberta Health Services email statement on Monday.

“Management and caregivers on the affected units have been instructed to exercise extra vigilance with respect to PPE and fit-for-work screening.”

An investigation is now underway to figure out the source of the outbreaks and how the virus spread.

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Read more: Alberta resumes testing all positive COVID-19 cases for variants as concern grows over B.1.617

The hospital is still open and accepting patients, but as with all units under outbreak, control measures have been put in place in the affected areas.

“Admissions to the two affected units are currently on hold as are patient transfers to long-term care centres or other community-based lodging,” the statement read.

“Patients discharged home will be given guidance on isolation and will be followed up by public health. Patients who have no place to isolate will be provided with accommodations in a designated isolation hotel.”

COVID-19 testing of all impacted patients and staff members is ongoing.

A total of 25 patients and two health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 connected to the four units under outbreak at FMC.

Delta variant concerns

AHS said the first Delta variant case was confirmed in Alberta on April 8.

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Between April 8 and May 24, 72 Delta cases were diagnosed, according to AHS.

Alberta Health labs started testing daily for the Delta variant in the last week after it developed a way to screen the polymerase chain reaction test for that particular variant and it resumed testing all positive cases for variants of concern (VOC).

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta identifies 1st case of B.1.617 variant as province confirms 1,857 new cases

Since daily VOC screening started, the number of Delta cases has jumped significantly in Alberta.

As of June 7, there were 175 confirmed cases, with 150 of those in the Calgary zone, according to officials.

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One of the big concerns from medical experts around the world and in Alberta is how effective one dose of the vaccine is in protecting against this particular variant.

Recent data collected by Public Health England (PHE) found one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines is only 33 per cent effective in protecting against the Delta variant.

PHE said data shows that protection level increases to 88 per cent with two doses of Pfizer and 60 per cent with two doses of AstraZeneca.

“This becomes very important because what the virus is going to do is try and find a niche to continue to infect people,” said Dr. Chris Mody, University of Calgary, department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases.

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“It becomes very important as we move along to be fully vaccinated so community and individuals are protected.”

Several Alberta physicians have voiced concerns over the reported vaccine resistance of the Delta variant.

Read more: Alberta doctors ask Iveson, Nenshi to keep mask bylaw until 70% have 2 doses

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association wrote an open letter to Premier Jason Kenney outlining its concerns with the Open for Summer plan, including a push for more second dose protection because of the Delta variant.

“This virus will take advantage of us,” said Dr. Darren Markland, an ICU physician in Edmonton.

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“It’s not done until both (doses of) vaccine are in and your immune response is completely constituted at two weeks.”

Second doses are currently open to anyone who had their first dose in March or earlier, but Alberta Health Services confirmed Monday all acute care staff are now eligible for second doses, regardless of what site they work at.

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