Alberta past 6th COVID-19 wave, health minister says

Public health indicators suggest Alberta has passed the sixth wave of COVID-19, spurred mainly by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, Health Minister Jason Copping said Thursday.

2 more monkeypox cases identified in Alberta; total cases up to 4

Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, held a news conference Thursday, providing an update about Alberta's COVID-19 and monkeypox situations. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta, Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Public health indicators suggest Alberta has passed the sixth wave of COVID-19, spurred mainly by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, Health Minister Jason Copping said Thursday.

Hospital and intensive care unit admissions have been declining for weeks. New case counts and the seven-day PCR test-positivity rate have also been dropping.

"We are past this wave and in a period of declining transmission," Copping said during a COVID-19 update Thursday.

"Barring the arrival of any new variant or subvariant that behaves differently, we expect to see low transmission rates through the summer, especially as more activities move outside."

Public health officials identified 42 more COVID-19 deaths during the latest reporting period, May 31 to June 6.

Alberta's total COVID-19 death toll only increased to 4,567, however, because 33 previously reported deaths were deemed to be non-COVID-related.

As of Monday, 816 Albertans were in hospital due to COVID-19, including 24 in ICU.

Data shows the number of people in hospital with COVID is at the lowest level since Jan. 10; the number of  ICU patients is the lowest since Aug. 7, 2021.

The seven-day PCR test-positivity rate dropped to 15.14 per cent, the lowest since December.

More virus is expected to be circulating in the community, as few Albertans are eligible for a PCR test and the data does not include positive rapid test results.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who joined Thursday's news conference virtually, echoed Copping, noting the decreasing indicators and that summertime is near.

Hinshaw cautioned Albertans, however, to continue to be aware of the potential threat of COVID-19.

"Learning to live with COVID does not mean forgetting about it. COVID-19 is still present in our communities and can pose a risk to us, our loved ones, and our healthcare system if we let it," she said.

"We only need to look at our data to see that there are still cases across the province — and while fewer by the day, there are many Albertans who are seriously ill."

Hinshaw urged Albertans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to stay home if they develop symptoms.

2 more monkeypox cases identified: Hinshaw

Officials have confirmed two more cases of monkeypox, pushing the province's total case count to four, Hinshaw said.

Each person who contracted the virus is an adult and they are all self-isolating, she said, adding that the overall risk of getting infected is still low in Alberta.

According to Health Canada, monkeypox is a viral disease that enters the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, as well as skin-to-skin contact.

Symptoms include fever; chills; swollen lymph nodes; headache; muscle, joint and back pain; exhaustion; sores; or rash.

On May 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued public health advice to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, encouraging them to watch for those symptoms.

Alberta Health has reached out to various community organizations about the risk of monkeypox, Hinshaw said. Based on their feedback, the province has provided them with information to send for outreach to their members.

"I want to underscore the importance of not shaming or stigmatizing any one group, and, at the same time, providing accurate information so people can make informed choices about their health," Hinshaw said.

"This specific outreach does not mean this virus can only impact one community. We are working with these organizations and sharing this current risk factor information to ensure people have accurate, timely data about the outbreak."

As of 1 p.m. MT, there were 110 cases across Canada, most of which were located in Quebec, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada's website.