14 more deaths as Alberta moves from pandemic to endemic approach to COVID-19
'There is no one right way to respond to these changes,' Dr. Deena Hinshaw says
Alberta is now in a period of transition as it begins to shift from a pandemic response to COVID-19 to an endemic one, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday.
"This is a shift all provinces are undertaking," Hinshaw told a news conference. Health Minister Jason Copping also spoke at the update on COVID-19.
Hinshaw pointed to a joint statement issued by chief medical officers of health across Canada Monday outlining the need to make the transition.
"After nearly two years of requirements to modify the way we have lived, worked and socialized to help reduce transmission of the virus and protect each other, it's going to take time and effort to adjust away from mandates and towards personal risk assessments and actions," Hinshaw said.
"For some Albertans, this transition will seem quick and easy. For others it will be much more challenging. And for many people, it will likely be somewhere in between. There is no one right way to respond to these changes."
Hinshaw said there are individuals who will continue to be at a high risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19.
"Every person's experience through the pandemic has been unique, depending on the challenges they have faced," she said. "COVID risk to individuals and the population is not a binary on-off or yes-no state."
The virus will continue to affect the patient load in hospitals for the short term, and capacity is not yet back to a baseline state, Hinshaw said.
The province reported 14 more COVID-related deaths on Tuesday. Alberta's total deaths from COVID-19 have now reached 3,790.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,538 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 123 in intensive care.
More restrictions to be lifted
If the Omicron-driven fifth wave continues to recede, most of Alberta's public health restrictions will be gone by the end of the month.
Step 1 took effect last week. Alberta's vaccine passport system was cancelled.
On Monday, masking requirements were lifted for children 12 and under, and for K-12 students of any age.
If the pressure on provincial hospitals continues to wane, additional restrictions will lift on March 1 when Alberta enters Step 2.
Remaining school requirements, including cohorting, will be over. Gathering limits and the work-from-home mandate will be lifted. Indoor masking will no longer be required. Capacity limits will be lifted for all venues.
Premier Jason Kenney said last week the province is working toward a third step where mandatory isolation for COVID-19 cases would be lifted. Isolation would only be a recommendation. As well, COVID-specific measures in continuing care facilities would be removed.
There are now 19,050 known active cases in the province. The number has dropped but the case count is expected to to much larger as Alberta's lab-based testing remains restricted.