By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Alberta continues to deal with several hundred new cases of COVID.
As of Dec. 14, there are 873 new cases of COVID reported over the weekend, bringing up the total number of active cases to 4,182. Additionally there was active alerts or outbreaks in 144 schools. 357 patients with COVID are in the hospital, with 68 in the ICU. Alberta has 228 ICU beds including 55 surge beds. Without these surge beds the ICU capacity would be at 107 per cent.
“I extend my condolences to those who are grieving the loss of these Albertans and any others,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Dec. 7. “Each death continues to be a sad reminder of the kind of impact this virus can have and why our collective efforts against it matter so much.”
Also as of Dec. 14, Omicron cases have climbed to 30 with community transmission suspected in one case, with 21 of these cases being in the Calgary health zone. Alberta has the third highest reported Omicron cases in Canada behind Nova Scotia with 30 and Ontario with 95. Hinshaw assured they are currently utilizing an “aggressive testing program” and states it is likely they will continue to detect more cases.
“I would like to remind families of school-aged children that there continues to be mitigation strategies in place in school that are effective to help continue to prevent spread. This includes mandatory masking for students in Grades 4 to 12, and staff in all school and child care facilities. Masking is recommended for Kindergarten to Grade 3.”
Hinshaw also addressed the question as to why close contacts are not being legally required to quarantine at this time.
“Close contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases who are not fully immunized are strongly recommended to quarantine at home for 14 days after their last exposure. All close contacts — whether or not they are fully immunized should also monitor for symptoms, and if they become symptomatic, they must stay home and arrange for testing. From what we have seen from Albertans over the past 21 months, we know the vast majority will work with us to minimize spread in this way.”
While this approach is more cautious than the approach they took the past several months, the government just wishes to minimize transmission risks while learning about Omicron.
“However, due to the rate of vaccination in Alberta and the effectiveness of vaccines of preventing infection, lowering the risk of exposure from a close contact and reducing general community transmission, we are not looking to re-instate legally mandated quarantine at this time.”
“I know that after nearly two years of this pandemic, a new variant is not welcome news — but I would like Albertans to keep in mind that based on all our previous experiences and the early information about this variant, I am confident that vaccines and our tried and true routines will continue to help us protect one another against COVID-19.”