Edmonton

Alberta reports 663 new cases of COVID-19, 26 more deaths

New measures to protect children and youth include contact tracing in schools, declarations of school outbreaks and rapid-test kits for parents of school-age children.

One-quarter of Alberta's active cases are between ages 5 and 19

Alberta's top health and political officials, including Premier Jason Kenney, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, will update the current situation with COVID-19 in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta; Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta reported 663 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and 26 additional deaths.

About 8,000 tests were performed in the previous 24 hours, with a positivity rate of 8.8 per cent, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, told a news conference.

With higher numbers of new cases reported through the weekend — 1,629 on Friday, 1,282 on Saturday and 1,126 on Sunday — Hinshaw said the latest number is a good sign. 

"But we must continue to watch closely, as a single day's numbers are less important than overall trends and the coming days will be critical to determine what those trends are," she said. 

At the news conference, the government announced new measures to protect children and youth from COVID-19 including school contact tracing, declaration of school outbreaks and rapid-test kits for parents to test younger children.

"We have seen the highest age-specific rates recently in school-aged Albertans," Hinshaw said.

"While the majority of all of our cases are still in unvaccinated adults, currently, those between the ages of five and 19 make up about a quarter of our active cases."

Hinshaw was joined at the news conference by Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Jason Copping, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

As of Tuesday's update, there were 19,456 active cases in Alberta, with 1,094 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospital, including 252 in intensive care.

The R-value — the average number of COVID-19 infections transmitted by each diagnosed case — is now below 1, which means transmission is no longer growing.

Thanksgiving ahead

At the news conference, politicians and health officials alike implored Albertans to be mindful of the existing — and newly tightened — restrictions on social gatherings this Thanksgiving weekend.

Kenney announced that the limit on private outdoor gatherings has been lowered to 20 people, down from 200, with physical distancing to be maintained between people from different households.

Current guidelines allow vaccinated people to gather indoors with no more than two households to a maximum of 10 vaccinated people. There are no restrictions on children under 12.

Indoor social gatherings are not permitted for vaccine-eligible people who are unvaccinated.

"If millions of people get together like it's a normal Thanksgiving, in intimate, indoor family gatherings in homes, especially folks who are unvaccinated, we will likely see all of the progress that has been made lost overnight," Kenney said. 

Yiu noted that last year, Thanksgiving contributed directly to a spike in cases.

"We all need to ensure that this doesn't happen this year. Our hospitals and our frontline teams do not have the capacity to handle another significant spike in cases," she said.

Kenney said one of the ways Alberta has handled the surge of ICU cases is the widespread postponement of surgeries. 

Since the end of August, AHS has delayed or postponed about 8,500 surgeries, including 805 pediatric surgeries, Yiu said.

"The fact that we've made some progress in, so far, avoiding a worst-case scenario and seeing some encouraging modest trends in the right direction by no means suggests we are out of the woods," Kenney said. 

Third doses of vaccines for older Albertans

Starting Wednesday, Albertans age 75 and older, as well as First Nations, Inuit and Métis people age 65 and older, can begin booking for a third dose of vaccine, at least six months after their second dose. Appointments can be booked online or by calling 811.

Alberta is one of the first provinces to offer third doses to these groups of older people. Third doses were made available earlier for immunocompromised people and people living in congregate care settings.

Currently, 75.1 per cent of eligible Albertans are fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses. More than 84 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose.

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