Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province is keeping a close eye on hospitalizations as cases climb. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province is keeping a close eye on hospitalizations as cases climb. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta to drop mandatory COVID-19 isolation for positive cases on Aug. 16

Province won’t require masks in schools or mandatory quarantine for close contacts

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Alberta, provincial health officials are urging calm.

The province reported 194 new cases of the virus Wednesday, based on 7,100 tests, for a positivity rate is 2.9 per cent Wednesday.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province is keeping a close eye on hospitalizations as cases climb.

There are currently 84 people in hospital across the province, including 18 in the ICU.

“Cases have risen recently almost entirely in those who have not been vaccinated, as we expected would likely happen,” Hinshaw said, adding that similar trends have been seen in other provinces.

With 1,334 active cases of the virus in the province, officials are making significant changes to the COVID-19 safety measures in the coming weeks.

“With the vaccine readily available, the need for the types of extraordinary restrictions has diminished. At the same time, we must also start preparing for other health challenges,” Hinshaw said, adding there was not a single case of influenza during last year’s flu season.

As of Thursday, quarantine will no longer be legally required for close contacts of confirmed cases, although it still could be required for outbreak management or certain vulnerable settings.

The province is still recommending anyone who is a close contact and not fully vaccinated stay away from public places. Mandatory isolation for positive cases and symptomatic people is still in place.

But starting Aug. 16, isolation will no longer be legally required if you test positive for the virus. Hinshaw said it will still be strongly recommended.

“Staying home when sick will remain an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection,” she said.

As of Aug. 16, testing for COVID-19 will also only be recommended for those who have severe symptoms and need hospital care. It won’t be required for those who have mild symptoms. Provincial mandatory mask mandates will also be lifted. Hinshaw added the province won’t require universal masking in schools but will be recommending it as an outbreak intervention.

“Schools will also be asked to support those who choose to wear masks,” Hinshaw said.

The chief medical officer of health also continued to push Albertans to get vaccinated Wednesday, in her first public remarks since late June.

She said since July 1, people who are not fully immunized made up 95 per cent of all COVID-19 cases, 94 per cent of all those who have needed hospital care and 95 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths.

Overall, 75.6 per cent of the population 12 and over have at least one dose and 64.3 per cent of Albertans are fully vaccinated.

“Having two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has never been more important. The delta variant spreads more easily and that second dose is critical for protection,” she said.

Alberta’s R-value, or the rate at which the average number of people that someone with COVID-19 will infect, has risen to 1.48.

That’s the highest number since the spring when over 1,000 cases were reported daily.

“While COVID-19 cases may rise in the coming weeks and months, a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely thanks to vaccines,” she said.

“I know the rise in cases over the last week has created some anxiety in some people, after all, we have been closely watching case counts for well over a year.”