COVID-19 cases in Alberta are steadily on the rise
By Dami Igbinyemi
75% of eligible Albertans have at least one dose of the vaccine while 64% of eligible Albertans are now fully vaccinated. With the new Delta variant spreading rapidly, having both doses of the vaccine is even more critical. In the last 24 hours, Alberta has identified 194 new cases with 84 people in the hospital including 18 in the ICU. Despite having 1,334 active cases Alberta’s hospitalization continues to decline.
Yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the province’s plan to move away from public health restrictions by mid-august. Despite the rise daily in COVID-19 cases and the decrease in vaccination rates, the Alberta government will begin treating COVID-19 the way they treat other respiratory viruses like Influenza. Some key measurements staying in place are having vaccine appointments available, testing of symptomatic Albertans, and managing outbreaks in high-risk areas.
As of today, quarantining for close contact of a confirmed case will no longer be legally required, but is strongly recommended. Testing for asymptomatic folks who have had close contact will be stopped, contact tracers will no longer call close contact, but mandatory isolation for both positive and symptomatic people will still be in place.
“Our top priority is supporting the health of Albertans. COVID-19 is still with us, but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses. We expect to see increased influenza and other viruses this year, and these changes will make sure the health system is ready and able to support all Albertans in the months ahead.” –Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health
Significant changes coming into effect on Aug. 16 are:
– Mandatory masking order will be lifted aside from vaccination sites, hospitals and continuing care facilities.
– 14 days isolation after a positive COVID-19 test will no longer be required but is strongly recommended.
– Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available
– Testing through the assessment centres will be available until Aug 31 but will then be moved to primary care settings.
– Public health will focus on investigating COVID-19 cases that require hospitalization and deaths due to Covid.
– Outbreak management and identification will continue to focus on high-risk locations.
– All other public health measures will be lifted including social gatherings, recreations, businesses, and large events
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said that he is surprised the province decided to lift more public health restrictions with the rise in cases. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was surprised by the end of isolation and testing requirements. He said the changes made going forward won’t be evidence-based.
“Lifting restrictions on people is one thing. But lifting basic public health measures like asking people who test positive to isolate and then not testing anymore strikes me as — I just need to understand the rationale there,” Nenshi said. “I guess it means we’re not going to have a fourth wave because we won’t know, because we’re not testing.”