'We must take action': Alberta CMOH likens quickly spreading virus to snowball as province adds 1,549 cases
EDMONTON -- Ahead of a meeting with government officials who will decide on a strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced 1,549 new cases of the disease on Monday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw also reported five more COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the province’s total number to 476.
“It’s clear that we have reached a precarious point in Alberta. The virus is spreading faster and more widely than at any other point in the pandemic,” Hinshaw told Albertans.
“Last Monday, we announced 860 new cases. On Sunday, less than a week later, we announced 1,584. The number of fatalities from this virus is growing and the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions continues to rise.”
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As of Monday, 328 Albertans were in the hospital with COVID-19, 62 of whom were receiving intensive care.
The top doctor also warned Alberta is likely to see a spike in hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the coming weeks, regardless of what restrictions are put in place, due to a seven-to-10 day lag period that she said generally follows a rise in cases.
The province has a positivity rate of about eight per cent.
‘THIS IS LIKE A SNOWBALL ROLLING DOWN A HILL’: HINSHAW
Hinshaw spoke briefly before heading to a meeting with the cabinet’s priorities implementation committee, which was discussing that afternoon what action to take on Tuesday.
Asked repeatedly what she would be advising government, Hinshaw did not reveal any specific recommendations. She reiterated her role was to advise and the government’s to make decisions.
However, she did hint that the colder season should be factored into Alberta’s pandemic response.
“What we know now and what we can see not just in Alberta but around the world is that this virus spreads much more rapidly in the fall and winter than it does in the spring and summer, and we can see that the interventions that were successful earlier this year are not as successful in the moment because our circumstances have changed,” Hinshaw said.
“This is like a snowball rolling down a hill, growing bigger and faster and it will continue unless we implement strong measures to stop. We must take action. Waiting any longer will impact our ability to care for Albertans in the months and weeks ahead.”
CHANGE IN CONTACT TRACING
The growth of COVID-19 in Alberta continues to exceed the capacity of the province’s contact tracing system.
As a result, there is a backlog of several weeks of positive cases who have not yet received a call from Alberta Health Services to start a case investigation.
On Monday, Hinshaw also announced that AHS would no longer be calling those COVID-19-positive Albertans for contact tracing if 10 days had passed since they received their result. The hope, she said, is that teams will have a chance to address the backlog.
“I recognize this lack of follow up of some cases is far from ideal, but we need to focus our resources on current cases in order to have the most impact.”
Instead, those Albertans will receive a text notifying them they will not receive a call and instructions about their isolation period.
Investigators will focus their efforts on the newest cases and work their way backwards, prioritizing those with the “greatest benefit in reducing further transmission.”
Hinshaw confirmed that all of the cases in this backlog had been notified of their positive result and directed to quarantine.
According to AHS, most of the 425 contact-tracing positions it has posted have been filled or are in the final steps of being closed. The new employees are expected to be fully on-boarded within four to six weeks.
There are about 800 staff on AHS' contact-tracing teams.