Alberta reports 366 new cases, nears 100K-vaccine mark
EDMONTON -- Nearly 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Alberta.
In total, 99,814 shots have been given, with some 20,000 administered to more than 10,000 Albertans who are now fully immunized.
The province's chief medical officer of health made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, also reporting 366 new cases of the disease found in 8,300 tests.
The province's positivity rate sits at 4.4 per cent. There are 8,652 active cases in the province.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw also reported 14 more deaths linked to COVID-19, saying 626 people remain hospitalized due the disease. Of those, 108 are in ICUs across the province.
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"I wish it were not necessary to keep the current measures in place for a little while longer, but we must be cautious, recognizing that the health system in all parts of the province remains under strain. The rise of new variants in Alberta and around the world also makes it vital that we not move too quickly, which could have dire consequences for our health system and our health," Hinshaw said.
'LIMITED' HOUSEHOLD SPREAD IN SPECIAL VARIANT CASE: CMOH
Hinshaw did not provide an updated number of COVID-19 variant cases in Alberta, repeating a Monday announcement that the data would be reported weekly while cases remain relatively few and to ensure privacy protections.
Of 8,652 total cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, one case weighs more heavily than the rest: a genetically different strain whose origins officials don't know.
Twenty-four of 25 total variant cases have been linked to international travel. One case, however, of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, has no known travel exposure.
"This means that it may have entered the broader community," Minister Tyler Shandro told Albertans at the beginning of the week. "This, now, is very concerning."
According to Alberta's top doctor, contact tracing teams are still investigating the case but have not found a known travel link.
"There has been a limited amount of household transmission at this point… We don't have any evidence that it's spread further beyond the household," Hinshaw commented.
Any household transmission her teams have found among the variant cases often occurred where there was "slippage" in following quarantine rules, she added.
Although early evidence suggests both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being distributed in Canada target the U.K. and South Africa-originating strains, there is also evidence that suggests they are between 30 and 50 per cent more infectious.
Government modelling released Monday projected the strains had the potential to triple infections and hospitalizations within six to eight weeks if the province had no public health measures in place.
Alberta is working to double the amount of cases that undergo full genetic sequencing to identify any mutation, and also increase tests which look specifically for the known mutations.
Shandro has called the vaccine a key part of Alberta's ability to prepare for any potential further spread of the variants – and vulnerable to supply delays from Moderna and Pfizer.
PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS HARASSED
Hinshaw also took a moment to encourage Albertans to seek verified information about the pandemic and keep discussions respectful.
She said it was "very disappointing" to hear of protestors outside the home of her Saskatchewan counterpart over the weekend and cited instances of health care and frontline workers being "harassed."
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"I have heard for many months many different opinions from Albertans. Some have expressed those opinions in very respectful ways, even when they have disagreed, and I really appreciate that because that is the most productive form of dialogue is expressing dissenting opinions but in a respectful way to encourage ongoing discussions," she said.
"Others have been less respectful and again that's not the most productive way of expressing concerns. So what I would encourage all Albertans as they're as they're thinking about the current framework is to recognize that the best way forward is to be considering how we can further that productive and respectful dialogue."