EDMONTON -- As the province continues to mark daily highs of new COVID-19 cases, its top doctor is pleading with Albertans to be more vigilant to slow down the spread before the holidays.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 1,733 coronavirus cases on Monday after provincial labs performed 20,499 tests in the last 24 hours.

Alberta now has 16,454 active cases of the disease, including 7,388 in the Edmonton zone and 6,141 in the Calgary zone.

The number of COVID-19 patients also set new highs Monday, with 453 Albertans, 96 of them in ICU, now receiving care.

“Like all Albertans, I am alarmed by the rising case numbers reported today and over the weekend,” Hinshaw said.

“I suspect we will continue to see cases and hospitalizations rise over the next several days as we wait for the impact of the restrictions that were announced last week.”

Last Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney introduced new restrictions against indoor gatherings and businesses until Dec. 15 in an attempt to curb infections before the holiday season — a message Dr. Hinshaw reiterated Monday.

“The actions we all take this week will help shape how the virus is spreading in the lead up to the holidays,” she said.

“This week we all need to be more vigilant than ever in limiting our contacts with others and slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

Sixteen per cent of Alberta schools, or 376, have nearly 1,500 cases of COVID-19, with 203 of them under outbreak.

The government’s decision to have junior high and high school student learn online until January took effect Monday, and Hinshaw expects school cases to come down soon.

More to come…