Albertans dying from COVID-19 at more than three times the average Canadian rate

Albertans are dying from COVID-19 at more than three times the average Canadian rate as the province is hammered by the pandemic's devastating fourth wave.

Province has one-tenth of Canada's population, almost half of active COVID-19 cases

Staff members work at an ICU in an Alberta hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Monday's update, a total of 2,645 Albertans have died due to COVID-19. (Submitted by AHS)

Albertans are dying from COVID-19 at more than three times the average Canadian rate as the province is hammered by the pandemic's devastating fourth wave.

It has now been 12 days since the provincial government first introduced a slew of new public health measures and eight days since many went into effect, including the restrictions exemption program — Alberta's version of a vaccine passport system.

Yet the number of new cases continues to grow, and COVID-19 patients — most of them unvaccinated — continue to fill Alberta hospitals. In the seven-day stretch starting Sept. 20, 62 Albertans have died due to the disease. 

Nationally, the average COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 people for the last seven days was 0.7, according to online aggregate data from Monday. Alberta's rate was 2.3, while Saskatchewan's was 2.6.

Over the last 14 days, the national average of COVID-19 deaths was 1.2, with 4.1 for Alberta and 4.0 for Saskatchewan.

The two provinces bottom out the country for vaccination coverage. According to CBC's vaccination tracker, 82.6 per cent of Alberta's eligible population had a first dose compared to the Canadian average of 87 per cent. 

For two doses, it was 73.5 per cent compared to a national coverage of 80.5 per cent.

Alberta also continues to lead the country in active cases, accounting for almost half the active cases in Canada, despite only having about one-tenth of the nation's total population. The province had 21,307 active cases as of Monday.

New daily case counts have regularly surpassed 1,500 since mid-September. Over the past weekend, Alberta reported 5,181 new cases.

The health-care system is at a breaking point as Alberta Health Services scrambles to create more intensive care capacity in hospitals across the province.

As of Monday, there were 1,063 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 265 of those patients in intensive care.

There were 370 ICU beds in Alberta as of Monday, including 197 surge spaces. Capacity hit 84 per cent of surge capacity or 180 per cent of the baseline.

A 52-page critical care triage protocol developed by AHS describes how the health-care system will cope if intensive care units no longer have the resources to care for every critically ill patient.

Fire-breaker restrictions

Premier Jason Kenney rejected calls for a "hard lockdown" during an appearance on a radio program Sunday.

That was the same day the province's former chief medical officer of health co-signed a letter sent to the current health minister strongly recommending additional measures in the province, as the pandemic's fourth wave continues to strain hospital capacity.

On Monday, the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) released a statement asking the province to institute "significant and immediate" public health measures as a "fire-breaker" to aggressively control COVID-19 cases and protect the health-care system.

AMA president Dr. Paul Boucher said Monday that increasing the vaccination rate will help in the future but will not make a difference in facing down this wave of the pandemic.

"What we are calling for exactly is a tight lockdown again, like we saw last spring, in order to allow case numbers to fall," he said Monday.

"We're deep in it now — nostril or two above water — and dangerously close to having to make some very difficult decisions."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the situation Tuesday, telling reporters that he hoped to speak with Kenney the following day.

"Over the past week, officials at all levels of government have been engaged with their counterparts in Alberta and in Saskatchewan to offer any and all support we can," he said.