Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, April 7
Province expanding eligibility for 4th vaccine doses and Paxlovid treatment
EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the pandemic, case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing done by provincial bodies like Alberta Health Services, but those testing protocols have shifted to prioritize high-priority groups and people in higher risk settings. In Alberta there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests, meaning many people with COVID-19 aren't reflected in the data.
As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case counts in our coverage, in favour of data and metrics that experts now say are more illuminating — including hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring.
- On April 7, Health Minister Jason Copping said the province is not planning to reintroduce public health restrictions despite an increase in COVID-19 transmission.
- The government has now moved to a once-a-week reporting schedule set for each Wednesday. The numbers released this Wednesday are current as of end-of-day Monday.
- As of April 4, there were 990 people in hospital with COVID-19, up from 964 last week, with 44 of those patients in ICU down from 47.
- The province reported 30 new COVID-19 deaths between March 29 and April 4. A total of 4,104 Albertans have died of COVID-19.
- There were 5,549 new cases reported and 21,314 tests completed between March 29 and April 4. The case count includes only those who test positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans can't access.
- The province announced on April 6 that it's expanding eligibility for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccine and Paxlovid treatment.
- Starting April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in congregate care can receive a fourth dose of vaccine. Appointments for fourth shots can be made five months after those eligible received their third shot.
- While the province says it's still "strongly recommending" Albertans get vaccinated, as of April 6, access to the antiviral drug Paxlovid has been expanded to include First Nations, Métis and Inuit people age 45 and older who are unvaccinated or have received only one dose of vaccine, and individuals living in long-term care and designated supportive living settings, regardless of vaccination status.
- The province says it will receive next week 10,000 doses of Novavax's Nuvaxovid, which is described as a "two-dose protein subunit vaccine that does not use mRNA technology and is approved for those 18 and older."
- "The number of COVID-19-positive patients in hospital remains stable, and the total number of patients in hospital is normal for the time of year," the province said in a release April 6. "However, the Omicron subvariant BA.2 now makes up about 80 per cent of new cases in the province, bringing potential for increased transmission and some increase in admissions."
- Wastewater readings in Alberta are trending up, indicating new COVID-19 infections are rising amid the Omicron subvariant BA.2 becoming the dominant strain of the disease in the province. Those higher readings mirror trends across Canada and a recent rise in global COVID-19 cases.
- Alberta data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Health Informatics shows the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater. The data is updated publicly three times per week. The virus is shed in peoples' feces before symptoms arise, so values in the data associate strongest with cases occurring six days after the samples are collected.
- A note on reading wastewater charts: Numbers taken from different wastewater treatment facilities use different testing and collection methods. Because of this, comparisons across cities cannot be made directly and one should assess only the trends. For example, there is an upward trend in the readings in both Edmonton and Calgary, but one cannot say whether levels are higher in one city or the other.
The latest on restrictions:
- Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan.
- This phase removes indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, removal of capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings lifted and mandatory work from home lifted.
- Masking is still required in high-risk settings including Alberta Health Services-operated and contracted facilities, all continuing care settings, and on municipal transit services. The rule does not cover private services such as taxis or Uber trips.
- As of Feb. 14, there are no masking requirements for children and youth 12 years old and younger and no masking requirements for children and youth in schools for any age.
- Stage 1 took effect Feb. 16 and removed the restrictions exemption program.
- Premier Jason Kenney says the province is working toward a third stage, which does not have a date, where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak protocols will be lifted in continuing care facilities.
- Health Minister Jason Copping said the stages are all conditions-based approach, based on hospitalization trends.
- According to Alberta Health, 76.6 per cent of the province's population — or 86.7 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The province is not currently expanding eligibility for fourth doses, Hinshaw said. It is available only to those with significant immunocompromising conditions. Guidance for those who received an AstraZeneca vaccine remains the same as it does for others — it is not recommended to get an additional dose if people have already had a total of three doses of vaccine.
- Starting April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in congregate care can receive a fourth dose of vaccine.
- Children from six to 11 will have the option of getting the Moderna vaccine starting April 12.
Hospitalizations by region:
As of April 4, there were 990 Albertans in hospital.
- Calgary zone: 292.
- Edmonton zone: 355.
- Central zone: 146.
- North zone: 111.
- South zone: 86.