Health Minister Jason Copping, said the government will stop releasing daily COVID-19 numbers. (Photo by Government of Alberta)

Health Minister Jason Copping, said the government will stop releasing daily COVID-19 numbers. (Photo by Government of Alberta)

Province to stop releasing daily COVID-19 counts: health minister

Case numbers will be released on a weekly basis beginning next week

Despite recent increases in daily COVID-19 case counts, the Alberta government will stop releasing daily case numbers beginning next week, Health Minister Jason Copping announced on Wednesday.

Copping said Alberta is shifting out of “crisis mode” to an endemic response and it makes sense to change reporting. Weekly numbers will now be reported each Wednesday.

“We’re at a point where trends over longer periods of time are more relevant that day-to-day fluctuations,” he said in a COVID update.

There were 593 new COVID cases reported on Wednesday, up from 459 on Tuesday and 447 reported Monday.

Copping said daily case counts could be reported again if there is another wave, he said.

“If it’s still out there and we need to ramp up our communications we will do so. But it’s going to be dependent on what comes at us next and what the impact is going to be on our health-care system.”

Copping said that it does not appear that the easing of measures on Feb. 1 and again on March 1 have caused an uptick in COVID numbers.

“We continue to see a decrease or decline in both our lagging or leading indicators.”

As of Wednesday, there were 989 people in hospital for COVID, including 70 in intensive care — down 40 per cent from when the province began easing restrictions, he said.

“It will take time for hospitalizations to get down to the level before the fifth wave but this is promising news for the health system.”

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said given the current health situation reducing reporting is the “right thing to do.

“Change is difficult especially when there is no single, correct answer to the difficulties we face. This reporting change may be challenging for some of us who have grown accustomed to seeing numbers daily.

“I know for many this has been a way to help make sense of a seemingly surreal situation. Fortunately, we are in a different place now.

“Not only do we have a better understanding of the virus, but we also have highly effective vaccines and anti-viral treatments.

“And reducing the frequency of reporting is what makes the most sense in our current situation.”

Hinshaw said the province plans to keep track and alert the public about other respiratory viruses, similar to the at-least weekly flu updates that have been a regular feature of past flu seasons.

To put the COVID pandemic in context, Hinshaw noted that in the three years before COVID — 2017-19 — there were 1,076 deaths from infections in people of all ages.

“Covid has taken almost four times more lives in just two years,” she said.

Four more deaths were reported on Wednesday. Hinshaw said that after examining all deaths, Alberta has now revised its death count to 4,013, which is 12 fewer than the previous high.

There were 6,449 active COVID-19 cases — down from 6,878 a week ago — in Alberta, according to confirmed lab testing results.

In the Central zone, there were 928 active COVID cases, with 125 people in hospital and eight in intensive care. There have been a total of 509 deaths — down three from previous reporting — in the zone. Two of those deaths removed from the last were in Red Deer, reducing the city’s pandemic toll to 97.

Active COVID cases in Red Deer have fallen by 11 from a day earlier to 287, according to geospatial mapping on the provincial government’s website Wednesday.

Stettler County had 20 active cases, Clearwater County has 64, Mountain View County had 25, Red Deer County had 66, the City of Lacombe had 38, Lacombe County had 21, Olds had 21 and Sylvan Lake had 30.

Wetaskiwin, including Maskwacis, had 74 active cases, while Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, had nine and Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and part of Lacombe County, had six.

The City of Camrose had 40, Kneehill County had 10, Camrose County has 10 and Drumheller had eight.

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