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Alberta reports more than half of people over 12 have received first COVID-19 shot

877 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday
FILE - Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says the province has reached a COVID-19 vaccination milestone, with more than 50 per cent of the population over the age of 12 getting at least one shot.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says new case numbers are dropping but the province’s positivity rate is still a concern, because it has been high for several weeks.

She notes that the positivity rate is 11.4 per cent, much higher than the 1.5 per cent it was last May.

Hinshaw says that difference shows why public health measures are still needed.

But she says it’s safe for children to go back to school next Tuesday after the long weekend, noting that moving to online learning was “an operational decision” by the education ministry.

A spokeswoman for Alberta Education says the ministry will monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed, but adds officials are confident students will return to classrooms to finish the school year.

“We recognize the importance of resuming in-person learning as soon as it is possible,” Nicole Sparrow said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Hinshaw said in-class learning was cancelled earlier this year because high community transmission was putting pressure on the school system.

“Exposures were causing many people to quarantine and (there were) difficulties finding sufficient staff and substitute teachers to continue to operate schools,” she said.

“We see numbers beginning to decline … and, as community transmission reduces, pressures on schools will also reduce.”

There were 877 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday for a total of 20,013 active cases. A total of 691 people were in hospital, with 187 of those patients in intensive care. Another four Albertans died.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.