Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, March 7
Week over week, number of people in hospital has declined by 121
EDITOR'S NOTE: Daily case counts have never been perfect, but at this point in the Omicron-driven wave, they're a deeply flawed metric. Throughout the pandemic, the 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, like health-care workers. So there are likely to be thousands of cases going untested, or tested but not reported, since there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests.
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 — such as COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, which help us understand Omicron's impact on the health-care system and severity of illness it causes, as well as the testing positivity rate, which if it starts to level out and come down could indicate the wave has peaked.
The latest numbers:
- On Monday, the province reported 1,103 Albertans in hospital with COVID (61 fewer than on Friday), and 77 in intensive care (the same as Friday).
- The province reported 18 more COVID deaths over the weekend. A total of 3,972 Albertans have died of the disease.
- The positivity rate over the past seven days for lab confirmed cases is 20.07 per cent.
- There were 282 new cases of COVID reported on March 6 from 1,555 tests.
- There are 7,158 lab-confirmed active cases of COVID-19.
- There are 20 COVID outbreaks at acute care facilities across the province.
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.
- The City of Calgary said in a statement that the pandemic face covering bylaw ended automatically when the province removed its requirement for indoor masking.
- The City of Edmonton's face-covering bylaw remains in effect. People are still required to wear masks in stores, city facilities and while walking around in restaurants within Edmonton city limits. Council is set to review its bylaw next week.
- However, the UCP government announced on March 1 that it plans to amend the Municipal Government Act to restrict the ability of municipalities to pass bylaws that contradict public health policies and rules enacted by the province.
- 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, removed restrictions on food and beverage at entertainment venues, and removed capacity limits for all venues, except those that have a large capacity.
- 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.
- Alberta is now in a period of transition as it begins to shift from a pandemic response to COVID-19 to an endemic one, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health. She pointed to a joint statement issued by chief medical officers of health across Canada outlining the need to make the transition.
- On March 4, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said the rate of student absences due to illness has remained relatively stable over the past two weeks. On Feb. 28, 2019 (pre-COVID), 2.85 per cent of K-12 students were absent due to illness. The current rate of student absence due to illness is a bit higher this year, at around 4 per cent.
- On March 3, approximately 86 per cent of CBE teaching jobs that required a substitute teacher were filled.
- As of March 4, the CBE said there were no classes doing short-term online learning.
- On March 4, the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) said its average teacher fill rate for the past week was 96.2 per cent.
- On March 1, CCSD stopped its 25 per cent absenteeism guideline for transitioning to at-home learning.
- Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said on Twitter on Feb. 22 that none of the more than 2,500 schools in Alberta was shifted to temporary at-home learning to address operational challenges brought on by the virus.
- Wastewater numbers in Calgary show a declining number of new COVID-19 infections. Data for Edmonton also shows a decline. The data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Informatics show the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater has trended downward since a peak on Jan. 11 in Calgary.
- As the Alberta government scales back on widespread PCR testing to focus on those in high-priority settings, the province is now relying on wastewater surveillance more than ever before to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta.
- The province's wastewater — and the amount of infection in it — has been monitored for two years by a group of 23 researchers in a joint project with the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
- The data is updated publicly three times per week.
- It depicts the amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA — the virus that causes COVID-19 — that's in the province's wastewater.
- 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.
- Alberta Health Services (AHS) is temporarily opening COVID-19 pediatric immunization walk-in appointment times in the Calgary Zone to provide for families with children age five to 11 who they wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Clinics are open from March 2 to 16 in both urban and rural Calgary Zone communities. To find an AHS clinic with extended hours and walk-in appointments, visit: www.ahs.ca/vaccine.
- According to Alberta Health, 76.1 per cent of the province's population — or 86.6 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Active cases by region:
As of March 6, there are 7,158 known active cases in Alberta. However, the true number of active cases is likely considerably higher because the province's numbers only include those who test positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans can't access.
- Calgary zone: 2,218.
- Edmonton zone: 2,083.
- Central zone: 1,055.
- North zone: 985.
- South zone: 797.
- Unknown: 20.