Alberta's provincial COVID-19 cases are soaring in the fourth wave, reaching the highest daily case count since May, and the government is staying mum on what future measures they may be considering to curb the spread.
On Thursday afternoon Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Dr. Verna Yiu president and CEO of Alberta Health Services announced that, in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, the province would be providing more funding to increase health-care capacity.
While the province provided funding for moving patients out of hospitals, Shandro would not say when they expect the fourth wave to peak, although he noted it may be in the “coming weeks.” He also would not say what options are on the table to further curb the spread of COVID-19, including a vaccine passport.
The minister said in the last 18 months no jurisdiction has been able to predict the future, but the province has Alberta-based modelling available on their website for residents to look at.
Shandro said that because it is impossible to predict the future with 100-per-cent certainty, the government can’t say if they are considering any form of vaccine passport system in the province.
“This is a pandemic that quickly changes, and government responses have to quickly change,” Shandro said.
The province knew the cases were going to increase as a result of opening for summer and the removal of public health-care measures, Shandro said, but expected more Albertans to get vaccinated, which would result in fewer patients in the hospital.
On Thursday Alberta saw another 1,510 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed after 13,800 tests, and a positivity rate of 11 per cent.
There are 679 Albertans in the hospital, with 154 of those in intensive care. There have been nine new deaths reported in the last 24 hours.
Hinshaw and health officials are urging Albertans to get vaccinated to curb the spread, and in the past four months some 84 per cent of those who died have not been fully immunized from the virus.
“Unfortunately we are seeing a small number of breakthrough infections in those who have been fully immunized and some of these people have gone on to have severe outcomes, including death,” Hinshaw said.
“The majority of these severe outcomes have been in those who are older have multiple medical conditions,” Hinshaw said, adding that is why they implemented a third dose for Albertans with compromising health conditions.
While cases in the province surge, Alberta Health Services continues to cancel elective surgeries to free up space to treat COVID-19 patients. In Calgary, all scheduled elective surgeries and outpatient procedures were cancelled for the remainder of the week, which includes some non-urgent paediatric surgeries, transplant cases, and cancer surgeries.
Right now, ICU capacity in the province is at 87 per cent, which includes the surge capacity created to treat COVID-19.
There are 231 people in ICU right now, and about 70 per cent of the patients have COVID-19, Yiu said. In the past seven days the province has added an additional 59 surge beds, for a total of 93 beds above the baseline capacity of 173 ICU spots.
“If we did not create the surge beds, we would be at over 130-per-cent capacity,” Yiu said.
The announcement on Thursday will see Alberta spend up to $36 million in new funding to improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to access home care and facility-based continuing care. Some 400 Albertans are currently waiting in hospitals to move into continuing care facilities.
“We do actually have the ability to actually move about 200 [people] into continuing care spaces in the next week or two,” Yiu said.