Alberta on track to hit 2,000 daily cases, 20,000 active infections amid ‘alarming’ spread: Kenney

Kenney said Monday the province won’t ease public health restrictions again until rates of new daily cases and total active infections decline

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday the province won’t ease public health restrictions again until rates of new daily cases and total active infections decline, as he predicted record-setting levels of COVID-19 spread in the province in the near future.

Speaking during a news conference, Kenney said COVID-19 cases were rising “at a pretty alarming pace” in Alberta during the third wave of the pandemic.

“Right now, we’re on track to hit probably 2,000 average daily cases in the near future and quite possibly 20,000 active cases,” the premier said.

“Based on the active-case-to-hospitalization ratio, that would apply about 500-600 people in hospital. So that’s why we’ve had to bring in targeted measures because if that number were to continue to increase — if we were to hit, for example, 40,000 active cases in Alberta — then we would be blowing well past the capacity of the health-care system.”

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In December of last year, during the second wave of the pandemic, Alberta topped 21,000 active infections and reached a high of more than 1,800 cases of the novel coronavirus detected in a single day.

The province reported 1,136 more cases on Monday from 12,286 tests, for a 9.2 per cent positivity rate. Of those, 679 were cases of the variant strain first detected in the U.K.

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Alberta now has 7,620 active variant cases of the virus, representing 51.3 per cent of its 14,849 total active COVID-19 cases.

The province also reported five more deaths related to COVID-19, bringing its pandemic fatality toll to 2,018 since March 2020. There were 390 people infected by COVID-19 in hospital across Alberta on Monday, including 90 patients receiving treatment in intensive-care units.

Around 46 per cent of active cases in Alberta were in Alberta Health Services’ Calgary zone.

“What we need to see is that those numbers come down,” Kenney told reporters.

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“Like before, we need to bend the curve, we need to see a decrease rather than an increase on a sustained basis of the daily new cases and the total active cases.”

If those figures decline over the next few weeks, “then we can safely assume that the vaccines are starting to win” and Alberta can relax restrictions again, said Kenney, adding he hoped “to get back to normal this summer.”

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But in the race between variant spread and vaccinations, “right now, the variants are winning that race,” said Kenney.

“The third wave is hitting us hard and cases continue to rise sharply.”

On Monday, the province opened rapid flow-through clinics in Calgary and Edmonton, which are each expected to administer up to 1,000 vaccine doses per hour, and upwards of 6,000 per day.

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Alberta also opened vaccine bookings on Monday to some who qualify under Phase 2C of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout schedule, meaning more than 240,000 health-care workers are now eligible for their first shot.

Health-care workers in patient care facilities, those who provide services directly to clients in the community, and those on First Nation reserves and Métis Settlements can book an appointment. The list extends to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and other health-care professionals and their staff.

It also includes people who work directly with clients for AHS, Covenant Health, Alberta Precision Labs, DynaLife, and students undertaking placement practicums.

The rest of those included in Phase 2C, who will be able to book appointments in the coming weeks, includes residents and staff in settings such as correctional facilities, homeless shelters, meat-packing plants and group homes, as well as front-line police and caregivers.

With more than 1,300 pharmacies and 103 immunization clinics administering the vaccine, Kenney said Alberta is on pace to deliver more than 300,000 shots per week. It hopes to eventually reach 500,000 per week, depending on supply.

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He said half of Alberta’s population should have some level of immunity by the end of May and two-thirds by the end of June. Three-quarters of Albertans should be protected, at some level, by mid-September, either through natural infection or immunization.

“If Albertans rise to the challenge and do everything they can to stop social interaction and transmission, I believe that we’ll be on track about a month from now to look back to relaxing measures,” said Kenney, adding it would be “irresponsible” to ease restrictions any sooner.

“We’re nearing the end of a long and tiring journey. It is our path to recovery and freedom,” Kenney said.

“Once two-thirds of us have immunity, we’ll start to feel back to normal. There’ll be no formal restrictions. Stampede, sporting events, other festivals will be possible, especially if outdoors.

“Once three-quarters of us are immune, we expect we’ll be fully back to normal.”

shudes@postmedia.com
Twitter: @SammyHudes

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