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

A decision on whether Alberta will move to Step 3 of its reopening plan could come as early as Monday, but one infectious diseases specialist said things are not looking good.

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.

“Honestly I would be surprised if we did move to Step 3 at this point.”

Click to play video: 'Will Alberta move to Step 3 of reopening?' Will Alberta move to Step 3 of reopening?

Will Alberta move to Step 3 of reopening?

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.

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

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.

Click to play video: 'Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw' Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw

Most of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant’s spread is community-based: Hinshaw

Hinshaw was then asked what her personal comfort level would be with moving to the next stage of reopening.

She referenced how several countries in Europe where the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, has become dominant and did have a high second wave are experiencing a “very significant” third wave, including a spike in deaths.

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“We’re seeing other provinces in Canada that are seeing rapid acceleration of cases. We need to make sure we are watching closely other jurisdictions and considering all of those factors in any potential easings,” Hinshaw said.

“Given that, again, we are in this critical time where the variant is rising and we don’t yet have enough vaccine on board to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Read more: Have COVID-19 variants pushed Canada into a third wave of the pandemic?

Hinshaw said a comparison of serology results with COVID-19 tests that are PCR positive show that the province is picking up about one in four cases of the disease.

Alberta recorded 50 additional cases of variants on Wednesday, bringing the total to 1,097. Variant cases make up 11 per cent of active cases in the province.

Alberta recorded 479 total new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, with a positivity rate of about 4.7 per cent.

There were 262 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, 44 of whom were being treated in intensive care.


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