55 more COVID-19 deaths reported in Alberta, hospitalizations drop

Public health officials reported more than 50 COVID-19 deaths in the latest reporting week, while hospital and intensive care unit admissions have dropped.

First case of Omicron subvariant BA.4 identified in Alberta: Hinshaw

Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, will next speak in-person the week of June 6, as the province moves to bi-weekly in-person updates. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta, Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta public health officials reported more than 50 COVID-19 deaths in the latest reporting week, while the number of people with the illness being treated in hospital and intensive care has dropped.

Provincial data shows 55 COVID-19 deaths were reported from May 17 to 23. According to Alberta Health, the people who died ranged in age from their 50s to 90s.

There have been a total of 4,507 COVID deaths since the pandemic started.

Hospitalizations dropped to 1,040, including 31 patients in ICU, data shows.

There were 1,165 hospital patients, including 42 in ICU, at the end of the previous reporting week.

"The peak of BA.2 cases has passed and the current wave is receding," Health Minister Jason Copping said during a news conference Wednesday. 

"That's good news, especially for the people working in our health-care system."

Alberta's seven-day PCR test-positivity rate is 17.52 per cent, down from 19.93 per cent the previous week.

There were 2,737 new lab confirmed COVID-19 cases from May 17 to 23 — 269 fewer cases than the previous reporting week.

The amount of virus circulating in the community is believed to be higher, however, because the numbers do not account for positive rapid test results.

Of all Albertans, including those ineligible for a vaccine, 77.1 per cent have received two doses; 81.4 per cent of the province's population has at least one dose.

Case of BA.4 subvariant identified: Hinshaw

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced that one case of Omicron subvariant BA.4 has been identified in the province.

"The appearance of new variants and subvariants is not surprising. This is what viruses do," Hinshaw said.

The World Health Organization started tracking the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants last month. At the time, cases had been identified in South Africa, Denmark, Botswana, Scotland and England.

So far, evidence suggests those subvariants are more transmissible, "but are on the same plane of severity" as the original Omicron variant, Hinshaw said.

Alberta to move to bi-weekly news conferences

Due to decreasing positive PCR test rates and COVID-19 hospitalizations, the Alberta government will be holding in-person updates every two weeks, Copping said.

Provincial data will continue to be updated each week, but he and Hinshaw will only get up to the podium every two weeks, he explained.

The next in-person update is currently scheduled for the week of June 6, Copping said.