Wastewater COVID-19 counts rising in Edmonton and Calgary
'There are simply more opportunities for the virus to spread,' health minister says
Wastewater COVID-19 counts are rising in Alberta as the novel coronavirus finds more opportunities to spread, Health Minister Jason Copping said Wednesday.
"A number of sites across the province, including Edmonton and Calgary, are showing initial signs of increasing trends," Copping said in the province's weekly update.
"However, as we know, wastewater data can be highly variable, so we will continue to monitor these levels and other leading indicators in the coming days and coming weeks."
Alberta's positivity rate is up slightly from last week.
Over the last week, the daily positivity rate of PCR tests ranged from 21.7 per cent to 27.1 per cent, with an average of 24.5 per cent — a slight increase from the 22 per cent average in the previous seven days, Copping said.
"Given that we have lifted the vast majority of public health measures over the last seven weeks, it is not unexpected that we are seeing a slight increase in transmission of COVID across the province," he said.
"There are simply more opportunities for the virus to spread as more and more people work from the office, return to travelling, socialize in various settings and resume their regular routines."
Sixth wave coming?
Lab testing has found that about 70 per cent of positive cases in Alberta are the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, making it the dominant strain of coronavirus in the province.
"Fortunately, the available evidence does not so far suggest that it causes more severe illness than the previous Omicron strain," Copping said.
He hesitated to say if the province is looking at a sixth wave of COVID-19.
"We're going to have to wait and see," he said. "If we look at other jurisdictions around the world and across the country, we have seen an increase in BA.2, an increase in cases.
"What remains to be seen is how big that wave will be and then what the impact will be on our health-care system."
As of Wednesday, there are 964 people in hospital with COVID-19, up slightly from 956 last week, with 47 of those patients in ICU down from 56.
Copping announced 30 more people with COVID-19 have died since last Wednesday, bringing the death toll in Alberta since the start of the pandemic to 4,074.
And while the province is bracing for an upswing in transmission, Alberta remains relatively restriction-free.
Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan.
A date for Step 3 — when COVID-19 cases will no longer need to isolate and remaining continuing care measures will be removed — has not been set.
Copping has said it will be contingent on hospitalization trends.
Dr. Deana Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, is on a break this week but will return to the podium next Wednesday, Copping said.