Further restrictions possible in Alberta if growth in COVID-19 cases continues, Hinshaw warns
But she also expressed hope for summer festivals with vaccinations, drop in cases
The province continues to see a rising number of people being admitted to hospital for COVID-19, Alberta's top doctor said on Tuesday.
"Hospitalizations are increasing provincewide and cases continue to rise sharply," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference. "My team is monitoring closely and if we do not see growth slowing soon, further measures may be required."
On Tuesday, 402 people were in hospital in Alberta with 88 of those patients in intensive care.
Alberta also reported 1,081 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths, which brings the total number of deaths to 2,021.
It recorded 705 more cases of the highly contagious variants of concern, which now account for 52 per cent of active cases in Alberta.
"Looking at levels of transmission in our communities right now is like watching a flood rise higher and higher," Hinshaw said.
"Vaccines are building a barrier against this flood to protect our communities from becoming overwhelmed, but until everyone has had a chance to receive vaccine, we cannot dismantle the existing barrier or our collective actions to prevent spread, and this includes the same protective actions in those who are immunized."
Hinshaw encouraged all Albertans to get vaccinated as soon as they can.
'These vaccines work'
"These vaccines work, even against variants," she said. "The evidence available indicates that all three vaccines that we currently have — Moderna, Pfizer and Covishield/AstraZeneca — effectively stop the variant that's most dominant in Alberta, the B117."
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As of end of day Monday, 970,272 vaccine doses had been administered across the province with 186,156 Albertans fully immunized.
Watch | Hinshaw discusses vaccine efficacy
Currently, the province does not have the level of vaccine protection required to prevent people who get sick from needing to go to hospital, Hinshaw said.
"As our new cases rise in the coming days and weeks, if they continue to do so, what we know is there will be a subsequent rise in hospital and ICU admissions about three to four weeks later," she said.
"We cannot wait three weeks and watch. We have to make sure that we're watching within the next week to 10 days ... and consider if our trajectory continues on a steep upward climb, whether those additional measures will be needed."
At the same time, Hinshaw suggested it may be possible to host some big events this summer if enough people are vaccinated and case numbers drop.
"If we have high-enough uptake of vaccines; if we can build a strong-enough wall of protection, and if we are able to turn our cases and our hospitalization numbers down, I believe that it's possible we could have large events this summer," she said.
"They may look a bit different in terms of masking, distancing, some alterations in terms of indoor events."
Premier Jason Kenney has made several references in the past week to the Calgary Stampede, which is held in early July, saying it along with sporting events and other festivals may be able to go ahead.
Organizers have already cancelled Edmonton's Folk Music Festival and Big Valley Jamboree.
This week the province launched rapid flow clinics in Edmonton and Calgary. Kenney said Monday Alberta is on track to administer 300,000 doses of vaccine per week and offer every adult at least one dose by the end of June.