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COVID-19 will not be going away: health official

COVID-19 cases will likely fluctuate like the flu
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says 318 people are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital across the province, including 64 in the ICU. (File photo by Government of Alberta)

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 continues to fall but it remains a deadly diagnosis for many.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said 55 people died from COVID complications in the six days ending on May 15, down from 70 deaths the previous full week. The full weekly death toll and the Alberta Health webiste’s detailed numbers will be updated on Wednesday , the usual day for the weekly update.

“It’s hard to see numbers such as these due to a virus that has upended all of our lives and is still prevalent despite our collective efforts to put it in the past,” said Hinshaw. “These are the most severe outcomes of infection and the last impacts to fall as a wave recedes.”

Hinshaw said the numbers of deaths is not unexpected although it is a “tragic reminder of the severe impacts of this virus.”

A drop in the number of new cases and a dropping positivity rates followed by hospitalizations are the first signs a wave may be ending, she said, adding deaths are one of the last indicators.

Hinshaw warned that COVID is not going away and the number of cases will likely continue to fluctuate.

“We should expect it to return, especially when we get to colder months in the fall and the start of the season when we traditionally see a rise in the respiratory viruses.”

For now, Alberta is in a “transitionary period” between the latest wave and what will become the usual level of the virus in the community, likely in a few months.

As of Monday, there were an average of 1,190 people — down from 1,225 — being treated in hospital for the virus, including 39 in intensive care — up slightly from 37 last week.

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said the positivity rate from COVID PCR tests continues to fall. It was just under 20 per cent over the last week, compared with just under 23 per cent the previous May 3-9 reporting period.

“There are more signs we are putting the BA.2 wave behind us,” said Copping.

The wastewater surveillance program also shows that COVID levels in most centres is declining or fluctuating at levels far below the BA.1 peak, he said.


Hospitalizations down but 70 more deaths

Copping said the pressure on the health-care system remains high with big hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary still well over 90 per cent occupancy and some over 100 per cent.

Hinshaw said the virus has also taken a toll on many people’s mental health and she encouraged those struggling to reach out to others or medical resources including the provincial Health Link 811.

Three vaccine doses protects most people from the most severe effects of the virus and fourth doses remain reserved for those over 70 or those with other risk factors.

“It is important for people to remember that those who are younger the third dose is still very effective at preventing severe outcomes.”

Hinshaw said work to analyze blood samples for virus antibodies is underway and a detailed report is expected by the end of the month.