Premier Jason Kenney set to announce plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta
Alberta reports 387 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, nine more deaths
With COVID-19 cases numbers now steadily declining, Albertans who have hung on through three waves of a life-changing pandemic may get some good news Wednesday when the government unveils its strategy for easing public health restrictions.
Premier Jason Kenney will be joined by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Doug Schweitzer, minister of jobs, economy and innovation, at an 11:30 a.m. news conference to discuss the plan.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, alluded to the impending announcement Tuesday during her pandemic update, where she reported 387 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest single-day count seen since March 15.
"They say that the last few miles in a race are the hardest and that is what we are facing right now," Hinshaw said.
"With cases declining and more vaccines being administered every day, we are rapidly approaching a point when we can safely begin to ease measures. It's close and getting closer every day."
'Efforts are making a difference'
On his official Twitter account, Kenney wrote on Monday that he would have "exciting news" to share this week about "the great Alberta summer that lies ahead."
Hinshaw noted that the recent decline in new and active cases is the result of people following health guidelines.
"It has now been three weeks since our latest health measures were announced, and I know that they have impacted all of us," she said. "Yet the numbers show that our collective efforts are making a difference."
Alberta's reproductive rate, or the R-value, was 0.67 over the last week, she said.
"We are now seeing promising declines in hospitalization numbers, and although it has rebounded a little bit in the last few days, we have started seeing our positivity rate decline as well."
There are currently a total of 12,078 active cases across the province, a drop of 52 per cent from the peak earlier this month, Hinshaw said.
As shipments of vaccine continue to arrive, she said, the province is looking at ways to reach key groups that may be having trouble accessing them.
The province is also looking at the current 16-week wait for second doses to see if that window can be shortened, she added.
Over the May long weekend, more than 16,000 people got tested in Alberta while more than 86,000 were vaccinated, Hinshaw said.
Hospitals were treating 565 patients with the illness on Tuesday, including 158 in ICU beds.
There were nine new deaths reported in the last 24 hours, with the ages of those individuals ranging from 42 to 84.
More than 2.55 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the province.
Most Alberta students, except those in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo where cases remain elevated, returned to in-person learning on Tuesday.
All kindergarten to Grade 12 students had been attending classes online since May 7 when the province ordered that classrooms be shuttered for two weeks as surging case rates threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
At that time, Alberta had 23,623 active cases, the highest total since the pandemic began, and hospitals were treating 671 patients including 150 in intensive-care beds.