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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, July 28

Health and infectious disease experts say the rate at which COVID-19 cases are growing in Alberta is alarming, with the disease spreading faster than during the height of the pandemic's third wave. On Wednesday, the province reported 194 new cases.

Dr. Hinshaw says unvaccinated people make up 95% of new cases

Ami Tymchak, 29, gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot on July 22. Alberta Health says 54.7 per cent of Albertans are now fully vaccinated against the virus, and 64.3 per cent have now received at least one dose. (AHS)

The latest COVID-19 numbers

  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, provided her first update on the COVID-19 situation in weeks, saying the province is further relaxing restrictions to treat coronavirus more like other respiratory viruses. 
  • "I know that the rise in cases over the last week has created anxiety in some people," Hinshaw said, adding that vaccination uptake makes a corresponding surge in hospitalizations unlikely.
  • Alberta reported 209 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. There was a discrepancy between the total of new COVID-19 cases and the increase in known active cases that was reported by the Alberta government.
  • Experts note that the virus is now spreading faster in Alberta than during the pandemic's third wave.
  • The R-value, which represents the number of people infected by each infected person, was 1.48 (with a confidence interval of 1.38-1.59) in Alberta as of Sunday, according to Alberta Health. That number — which has doubled in recent weeks — means 100 people with the virus will spread it to 148 others.
  • No new deaths were reported. There have been a total of 2,325 deaths.
  • There are 84 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19 in Alberta. Of those, 18 are in intensive care units. Hinshaw said only one patient of the 18 currently in ICU was fully vaccinated.
  • While COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to decline, the province is experiencing a surge in daily case counts, active cases and positivity rate.
  • The positivity rate is 2.9 per cent.
  • There are now 1,334 active cases of COVID-19 across the province, an increase of 161 from the previous data update.
  • At least 84 people caught COVID-19 at the Calgary Stampede, Hinshaw says, which is up by 18 from the previous day.
  • Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical officer of health for the province, said it's likely that significant case growth associated with the Stampede won't be recorded until August, as the event wrapped on July 18, less than 10 days ago. 
  • 230,216 Albertans are considered to have recovered from COVID-19.

The latest on restrictions and reopenings:

  • Despite the growing case numbers, positivity rate and R-value, Alberta is relaxing a number of restrictions in a two-phased approach over the next few weeks. 
  • As of Thursday, July 29, the following changes will be in effect:
    • Quarantine for close contacts will no longer be mandatory but recommended. 
    • Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts. Contact tracers will continue to investigate high-risk settings like continuing care facilities. 
    • Asymptomatic testing will no longer be recommended. 
  • On Aug. 16, the following changes will go into effect:
    • You will no longer be required to isolate if you test positive for COVID-19, but isolation will still be strongly recommended. 
    • Isolation hotels and quarantine supports will no longer be available. 
    • Testing will be available for symptomatic people when needed to help direct patient care decisions.
    • After Aug. 31, testing for COVID-19 will be available for patients whose symptoms are severe enough to need care in hospitals or physicians' clinics.
    • Masking won't be required in schools. 
    • Masks will no longer be required on public transit, or in most continuing care facilities. 
  • The U.S. land border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Aug. 21, according to a renewal order issued by the American government. The U.S. government said while vaccination rates have improved, opening the land border to non-essential travel still poses too high a risk.
  • Ottawa says starting Aug. 9 at 12:01 a.m. ET fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents living in that country will be able to visit Canada without having to quarantine for two weeks.
  • The government said it plans to allow fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries to enter Canada without quarantine on Sept. 7.
  • Canadians and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated will need to show documents proving they received doses of vaccines approved in Canada at least 14 days prior to entering the country.
  • Officials said travellers must electronically submit COVID-19-related information to the government's ArriveCAN app before arriving, meet the pre- and on-arrival test requirements, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan.
  • Alberta entered Stage 3 of its three-stage reopening plan on July 1, lifting all restrictions.

(Note the latest daily count of new cases in the above chart will usually vary slightly from the net new cases Alberta Health announces each day. For more on why, click here.)

The latest on vaccines:

  • 54.7 per cent of Albertans are now fully vaccinated against COVID, and 64.3 per cent have now received at least one dose (or 75.6 per cent of those eligible). 
  • Alberta Health has partnered with a coalition of businesses to launch a mobile clinic that will administer first and second doses of the vaccine at remote work camps, rural communities and hard-to-reach populations. Its tour of the province began Monday in the Banff and Kananaskis areas.
  • An immunization clinic is running in Calgary at the Crossroads Community Centre at 1803 14 Ave N.E. on July 29. 
  • Rapid flow COVID-19 immunization clinics at the Expo Centre in Edmonton and the Calgary Convention Centre will close by the end of July, Alberta Health Services said last week.
  • A poll released on July 21 by the Angus Reid Institute suggests that vaccine hesitancy is more common in Alberta than in the rest of the country. The survey found that one in five Albertans remain disinclined to get a shot — twice the national average. 
  • According to the poll, in B.C. the hesitancy rate is 12 per cent, and in Ontario and Quebec it's just nine per cent.
  • Hinshaw tweeted on July 21 that the province's latest data reaffirms that vaccination provides excellent protection against infection and variants.
  • Hinshaw said one dose proves to be 57 per cent effective against the B.1.617 variant, and increases to 85 per cent with two doses. Against the B.1.1.7 variant, two doses prove to be 91 per cent effective.
  • She also noted that 96 per cent of Albertans who have tested positive for the virus since Jan. 1 had not had two doses of vaccine, and 91 per cent of COVID-19 deaths and 95 per cent of hospital and intensive care unit admissions followed the same trend.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported by the province on Wednesday.

  • Calgary zone: 799.
  • Edmonton zone: 245.
  • Central zone: 73.
  • South zone: 124.
  • North zone: 91.
  • Unknown: 2.

You can see active cases by local health area on the following interactive map. Scroll, zoom and click on the map for more information:

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press

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