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Alberta reports 62 COVID-19 hospitalizations since Friday, further reduces PCR testing eligibility

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Alberta Health registered an increase of 62 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 17,913 cases over the weekend.

Hospitalizations increased by 179 in the past seven days to a total of 635 as of Monday, a count that includes 72 ICU patients.

The province also reported six new deaths on Monday, including that of a person aged between 10 and 19 years of age.

It is the fourth death in a person under 20 and brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Alberta up 3,344.

Known active cases climbed to 57,332, but infections are likely much higher as the province's data doesn't include rapid-test results and most Albertans are not eligible to get a PCR test.

On Monday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced more changes that continue to reduce PCR testing eligibility as demand increases with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The full list of people eligible to get tested, available online, includes continuing care residents and health-care workers in continuing care or acute settings with symptoms or part of an outbreak investigation.

The list also includes hospital patients who develop COVID-19 symptoms or people admitted with COVID-19 symptoms.

"We're asking those who are not eligible for PCR testing, who do not fit one of the categories I have just outlined, to please cancel testing appointments that may have previously been booked," Hinshaw said.

"The Omicron variant is so prevalent in our communities right now that if you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as a stuffy or runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, or loss of sense of smell or taste, you should assume you have COVID-19 and are legally required to isolate."

More than 7.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta to date with 79.7 per cent of all Albertans having had at least a first dose and 73.2 per cent having had a second dose.

More than a quarter of all Albertans, 26.1 per cent, have also had a booster dose.

Compared to those with two doses, unvaccinated Albertans remain multiple times more likely to suffer a severe outcome such as hospitalization or death.

Alberta will update its COVID-19 data on Tuesday.

OTHER COVID-19 RELATED NEWS 

Alberta schools resume in-person classes on Monday. School districts in Calgary prepared for the return to classrooms by improving ventilation systems. A school district in St. Albert purchased N95 masks for staff and students and contracted PCR testing for employees.

N95s – a respirator-style mask now recommended by health professionals – are sold out across Edmonton, many stores are reporting. Alberta's top doctor says fitted and filtered cloth or surgical masks still offer "significant benefit." 

The Edmonton Oilers added two more players to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on Sunday, also postponing Monday's match up with the Ottawa Senators. 

Police in Alberta's capital city are investigating reports of homeless people being offered money to get vaccinated while pretending to be someone else. 

According to Alberta Health Services, 811 Health Link has never been busier than last month. Pre-pandemic, call volume averaged about 60,000 per month. Since March 2020, that monthly average has soared to approximately 250,000 calls.

Health-care workers are concerned about the impact the Omicron variant could have on Alberta's hospital system. Information leaked from AHS' early warning system shows COVID-19 hospitalizations could number between 480 and 1,500 by the last week of January. AHS has said it is ready and able to increase hospital and ICU capacity if needed. 

Most major hospitals in the Edmonton health zone have at least one COVID-19 outbreak, with the largest affecting 22 patients and 11 staff members. More than 50 of Calgary's long-term care and supportive living facilities were on outbreak status, too, as of Friday. 

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