Hospitals 'under strain' as Alberta reports another record high in admissions
Alberta reported 1,377 people are in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, an increase of 30 per cent over the past week, according to the health minister.
There are currently 51,157 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province, but because of PCR test eligibility restrictions, the real number is higher, added Jason Copping. There were 2,722 new cases reported Tuesday, after 6,718 tests.
The province is testing wastewater to help track COVID-19 infections and that data is showing the number of infections appear to be dropping in some places, like Edmonton.
The average positivity rate is sitting at 43 per cent and has not risen since Jan. 6, added Copping.
“Taken together, these are positive signs that cases and new transmissions may be slowing, however, even though there are early indications that numbers are coming down, our hospitalizations are continuing to increase,” said Copping.
A drop in hospital admissions is expected to occur in the next few weeks, a trend which happened in previous waves, according to Copping.
“It means, I hope, we’re at a turning point in the current wave and we can start to see the end of it,” added Copping. “But make no mistake, the coming weeks are going to be the toughest yet.
“Our hospitals are under strain, especially in the larger urban centres. Staff are tired, not just from the current wave of cases, but from five waves over two years.”
On average over the last seven days, 58.5 per cent of new, non-ICU admissions and 66.1 per cent of new ICU admissions were directly due to COVID-19. Currently in Alberta, 111 people are in the ICU with COVID-19.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, also reported that 13 people have died due to COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.
PAXLOVID SHIPMENT TO ARRIVE SOON
The health minister also announced that the first shipment of PAXLOVID, a drug recently approved by Health Canada to treat symptoms of COVID-19, is set to arrive on Jan. 31.
“Initially, 3,200 courses of treatment will be available as another option in addition to the antibody therapy we’ve been using for the past several months to help keep eligible individuals with mild to moderate COVID from experiencing severe illness and ending up in hospital,” said Copping.
The treatment needs to begin within five days of COVID-19 symptoms appearing to be effective, added Copping. Due to “some side effects” and supplies, the drug will only be available by prescription to specific groups of people who contract COVID-19.
“As we learn more, we will be able to evaluate the data and update eligibility criteria as appropriate,” said Hinshaw. “In the future, we will also be transitioning to a broader community prescription approach, but this will take time, for now do not call pharmacies or physicians to get a prescription for PAXLOVID.”
More information on PAXLOVID can be found at the Canadian government's website.
Alberta has also received around 500,000 additional doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“While we know that both mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, I know some Albertans have been waiting for Pfizer, as they prefer to receive the same vaccine for all three doses,” said Copping. “So if you’ve been waiting, it’s here, and please book your appointment.”
CHILDREN IN HOSPITAL WITH COVID-19
Hinshaw reminded Albertans that children aged five to 11 could soon become eligible to receive a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There were 75 unvaccinated children in that age group who were hospitalized over the past 120 days, compared to six children who had a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine who were hospitalized, added Hinshaw.
She added that children who are too young to be vaccinated that live in households where no adults are vaccinated are one-and-a-half times likelier to be hospitalized if they contract COVID-19.
“While children… are, individually, at a lower risk of severe outcomes, that risk is not zero and those kids can also take COVID-19, if they get infected, home to their families,” said Hinshaw.
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