Another 70 Albertans, including two in Red Deer, died from COVID-19 in the last week but those numbers are expected to start falling, says the province’s top health official.
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there are signs that transmission rates are trending downward but it may be some time before the death rate declines. In past waves, rising case counts and positivity rates show up first followed by hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
“Deaths are usually one of the latest indicators, both to rise and then to fall,” she said. There were 69 deaths from April 26 to May 2.
“So, I would not expect us to see this high level of deaths continue. I would expect that this is that final, late indicator showing the impact of the BA.2 surge.”
So far, 4,391 Albertans have died from complications of COVID.
“These deaths are a reminder that it is a very serious disease for many people and the importance of having all doses of vaccine that people are eligible for to make sure that people have as many layers of protection as possible against those severe outcomes.”
Hinshaw warned that COVID will remain with us and will likely return in the fall with other respiratory viruses, such as influenza. She urged people to get vaccinated and take precautions, such as staying home when sick.
Health Minister Jason Copping said the average positive test rate in the May 3-9 period was about 20.7 per cent, compared with 27 per cent a month ago.
“Compared to the peak in early January, we’re almost down by half. This downward trend indicates that transmission is slowing.”
Wastewater virus levels are also on a downward trend at almost every site, he said.
The number of people in hospital and in intensive care for COVID-19 went down over the past week. There are now 1,225 — down from 1,267 last week — in hospital, including 37 — down from 46 — in ICU.
Hospitalizations appear to have peaked on April 26, said Copping.
“Assuming it continues, it will mean fewer admissions, fewer beds blocked and fewer staff off sick because of COVID.”
Copping said some hospitals in the big cities are still at over 100 per cent capacity. Hospitals in the five regional areas are in line with past years. Copping said more capacity is being added to the system and more details will be coming out soon.
Emergency departments continue to be under strain, partly because of flu season and other infections that are circulating as people return to their normal activities.
Demand is also being fed by people returning to emergency rooms who did not go during the pandemic.
“But COVID-19 is going to keep impacting the system right across the country for some time, even as the current wave of the virus recedes.”
Copping also announced that those eligible for the Paxlovid COVID treatment is being expanded to more people.
About 2,000 subscriptions of Paxlovid have been filled and there are 30,000 doses available. About 120,000 eligible Albertans have also received their fourth vaccine dose.
Hinshaw said there also have been two possible cases of acute severe hepatitis identified in Alberta youth under 16. One was treated and released from hospital and is doing well. The other is still being treated in hospital.
Alberta is continuing to monitor and has advised doctors what to look for.
Influenza cases are also on the rise and three deaths have been reported so far this year.
Influenza season is later than normal likely because COVID protection measures were extremely effective in stopping the spread of influenza.
In Red Deer, the number of new COVID cases over the previous seven days ending on Monday was 110 — down 89 over the previous seven days. The seven-day case rate is down to 103.4 per 100,000 people, compared with 187 a week ago.
The total number of Red Deer cases since the pandemic began is now 14,970.
In the Central Zone, there are 157 people — down 20 from a week ago — in hospital infected with the virus, including three — down one — in the ICU. So, far 567 people have died — up 13 from a week ago — from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began.
In Red Deer County, there were 16 new cases over seven days, down 15 from the seven days prior.
Sylvan Lake has had seven new cases, Lacombe 40, Olds nine, Wetaskiwin five, Camrose 40 and Drumheller eight.
Lacombe County has had four, Clearwater County 20, County of Stettler four, Mountain View County 24, Kneehill County 10 and Camrose County seven.
On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has had 36 new cases, while Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, had 15 and Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and part of Lacombe County, had two.