Edmonton

Alberta reports 70 new COVID-19 deaths, drop in hospitalizations

Alberta's COVID-19 death toll spiked again this week, but the province's chief medical officer of health says the high number of weekly deaths should not last for long.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw calls deaths a lagging indicator of Omicron BA.2 subvariant wave

Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, updated Albertans about COVID-19 on Wednesday. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta, Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta's COVID-19 death toll spiked again this week, but the province's chief medical officer of health says the high number of weekly deaths should not last for long.

From May 3 to 9, public health officials reported 70 new deaths related to COVID-19. In the previous week, from April 26 to May 2, there were 69 deaths reported.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw described the high number of deaths as a lagging indicator of the wave of infections associated with the Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

"'Deaths usually is one of the latest indicators both to rise and then to fall. So I would not expect us to see this high level of deaths continue," Hinshaw said during Wednesday's COVID-19 update with Health Minister Jason Copping.

In past waves, transmission of the virus was first seen in case counts and test-positivity rates, followed by hospitalizations and ICU admissions, then deaths, she explained.

"I would expect ... that as we're seeing some of those other indicators start to turn downwards that we would expect to see the same thing in our number of deaths," she said.

But Hinshaw noted there will be more waves of COVID-19, and the deaths should act as a reminder that it is a serious illness for many people.

There have now been 4,391 Albertans who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Other statistics released by the province Wednesday indicated that the current wave seems to have peaked.

There are 1,225 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 37 ICU patients, as of Monday. A week ago, there were 1,267 hospital patients, including 46 in ICU.

The seven-day PCR test-positivity rate is 20.72 per cent, compared to 22.98 last week.

Public health officials identified 4,379 new COVID-19 cases from May 3 to 9.

Both the positivity rate and the case counts only reflect the results of PCR tests, which are not available to most Albertans.

Despite the favourable indications from positivity rates and case counts, the health minister encouraged Albertans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with either the primary doses or a booster.

"Even though the BA.2 wave is coming down, it's still circulating out there," Copping said. "We continue to urge everyone who hasn't got their shot, or hasn't got their booster, to please do so, because that's the best protection that they can provide for themselves."

As of Monday, 77 per cent of all Albertans — including those ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines — have received two doses, while 37.6 per cent of Albertans have three doses.

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