Reintroducing COVID-19 measures not planned in Alberta as disease indicators climb

The province's top doctor is urging Albertans to take precautions against COVID-19 in light of a potential sixth pandemic wave — although the provincial government will not be expanding public health restrictions at this time.

Hinshaw advises those who are worried to keep taking precautions

Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, provided a COVID-19 update to Albertans Thursday. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta, Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta is not planning to reintroduce public health restrictions despite an increase in COVID-19 transmission in the province, Health Minister Jason Copping said Thursday.

At the same news conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, advised Albertans to take precautions if they don't want to risk infection.

PCR test-positivity and wastewater data show increased transmission of the novel coronavirus in Alberta over the past week. Officials had previously advised Albertans that a rise in infections was expected after almost all public health measures were lifted last month. 

On Thursday, Hinshaw urged people to return to those measures if they're worried about exposure.

"We need to make decisions that best fit our risk factors, risk tolerance and comfort level," Hinshaw said.

Masks, distance and outdoor visits

She encouraged Albertans, especially those with a higher risk of severe outcomes, to get whatever vaccination dose they are eligible for, stay home when sick, wear masks when inside crowded public places and opt for outdoor social visits.

Hinshaw also suggested picking up free rapid test kits from pharmacies in case someone in a household develops COVID-19 symptoms.

Using rapid tests three times per week to screen for COVID-19 can detect infection early, preventing further community spread, she said. 

"These small actions can have a big impact on community transmission and our individual risks. Living with COVID means finding the right balance as we navigate this transition together."

The seven-day PCR test-positivity rate increased to 26.36 per cent as of April 1, provincial data shows. The daily test-positivity rate as of April 4 was 32.05 per cent.

Provincial wastewater surveillance data shows increased transmission in the Edmonton and Calgary health zones, as well as some other areas.

Copping said the spikes are not like those seen in late December when the Omicron wave hit.

"It's a concern and we're monitoring it closely, but it remains to be seen how much more increase we'll see, and in particular, how that will translate into serious illness and hospital admissions," Copping said.

He said the Alberta government is not looking to make any adjustments to public health measures at this time because it does not anticipate a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations that would strain the health-care system.

Copping added the provincial government is monitoring the situation in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom.

990 Albertans in hospital

There were 5,549 new cases reported between March 29 and April 4. The case count includes only those who test positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans can't access.

There are 990 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 44 in ICU.

There were 30 new COVID-19 deaths reported from March 29 to April 4, including a man in his 20s and a woman in her 30s, according to Alberta Health.

A total of 4,104 Albertans have died from the illness since the pandemic started.

"These [new] deaths and our leading indicators remind us that COVID-19 is still very much with us," Hinshaw said. "Transitioning to an endemic state does not mean the virus has disappeared, but rather that we have tools to protect ourselves, allowing us to adjust to living with it.

"Part of living with this virus is continuing to adapt to emerging evidence. Research is revealing more about COVID-19 every day."

Thursday marked Hinshaw's first news conference since March 23.

She took some time off to be with her family. Also, earlier this week, she was testifying in court in defence of the public measures she instituted to try to control the spread of COVID-19, as a group of plaintiffs seeks to have Alberta's pandemic-related restrictions ruled unconstitutional. 

The legal challenge taking place in the Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary is ongoing.


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