Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is warning Albertans to be cautious during the holidays.
As Christmas is typically the time of giving, it is also a time when families and colleagues tend to gather to celebrate the year that was.
With the province announcing an additional 1,307 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, Hinshaw said holidays over the past year have been a vector for transmission of the virus and hopes that isn’t the case with Christmas.
“It’s been a long, hard year and I know how important these holidays are to Albertans. In a year that is anything but typical, how we celebrate won’t be typical either,” she said.
“We don’t yet know what restrictions will be in place in the last week of December… in the past, we have seen holiday gatherings lead to an increase in cases and outbreaks as one case spreads to many.”
The province put forth new, stricter COVID-19 measures on Nov. 23 and those restrictions are in place until at least Dec. 15.
Hinshaw added that the province is aiming to get the reproductive rate of the virus below one in order to ease measures heading into Christmas.
“That’s one of the key pieces that we need to look, actually starting to see a decrease in the overall number of new cases, not just a holding steady,” she said.
“Even if we get R-value to one and just hold steady with our number of cases, we would still see the impact and pressure on the health care system.”
There are now 16,628 active COVID-19 cases across the province, with 479 people in hospital and 97 in the ICU. Hinshaw also reported an additional 10 deaths, bringing the death toll to 551.
In the Central zone, there are 1,249 active cases, with 35 people in hospital including, five in the ICU.
Hinshaw also reported 15,800 tests were completed in the past 24 hours and Alberta’s test positivity rate is 8.4 per cent.
Red Deer has 257 active cases of COVID-19 and Red Deer County sits at 73 active. Lacombe County has 46 active and Lacombe has 39. Sylvan Lake has 64 active cases of the virus, Olds sits at 23.
The City of Camrose has 78 active and Camrose County sits at 28. Ponoka County, The County of Wetaskiwin and Wetaskiwin have 315 active cases combined. Mountain View County has 17 active and Kneehill County has 12 active.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health also responded to troubling projections about COVID-19 hospitalizations.
According to slides from the Alberta Health Services Early Warning System, obtained by the NDP, public health officials project as many as 775 Albertans to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 by December 14, and 161 of them to be in the ICU.
“Cases were spiking and beds were filling at the exact time the Premier went missing,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.
“Behind these numbers are hundreds of Albertans fighting for their lives, and yet Jason Kenney has failed to take simple steps such as implementing a province-wide mask policy, hiring enough contact tracers, or adequately containing the spread of COVID-19 in long term care centres.”
Hinshaw said the Alberta government has been concerned with the projected numbers surrounding COVID-19 for “some time,” which is why the province introduced stricter measures last week.
“Whether we track on that high medium or low line, that really is in the hands of all Albertans. If we can all minimize the close contacts we have every single day, that is what will bring that curve down,” she said.
The province also reported there are active alerts or outbreaks in 393 schools, about 16 per cent of all schools in the province. Currently, these schools have a total of 1,453 active cases. That includes 207 schools with outbreaks, including 92 on the watch list.