Red Deer has hit a new COVID-19 infection high.
The city is up to 454 active cases of the virus, up 34 cases from Tuesday and topping the previous high of 434 active cases on Dec. 19 during the second wave.
Central zone now has 697 cases and 8,844 recovered cases.
The spike comes at a time when health officials are growing increasingly concerned about a rising lack of co-operation between infected people and contact tracers.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said contact tracing has been a fundamental part of the province’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus, of which there were 277 new cases province-wide on Wednesday.
Since last fall, Alberta Health Services has boosted its contact tracing and a detailed update on its success will be coming out in a few days, she said.
“Unfortunately, recently we have seen a small but significant increase in the number of people who aren’t participating in the contact tracing process.”
Up to December, fewer than one per cent of people could not be reached by contact tracers.
“Since then, we’ve seen a concerning rise in those we can’t get hold of.”
In January, tracers could not reach 1.9 per cent of cases and in February 1.3 per cent have not been contacted.
“In addition to this there has also been an increase in those initially willing to speak to contact tracers, but then later unwilling to provide the necessary information needed for us to follow up with contacts.
“This leaves gaps that COVID is happy to fill.”
Public health officials make multiple efforts to reach infected people, including sending written notice under the Public Health Act.
Some may be tempted to think that not providing information will make the virus go away, she said.
“Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Trying to ignore COVID and not participate in contact tracing only pushes back the day we can ease restrictions further by giving the virus the opportunity to spread farther and faster without being stopped.”
Even a “handful” of people not co-operating can significantly increase the spread of the virus, she said.
Hinshaw said about 7,500 tests were completed in the last 24 hours, putting the positivity rate at about 3.9 per cent.
There are 370 Albertans in hospital with 60 in ICU. Seven more people have died — none in Central zone — bringing the total to 1,798 deaths.
The province has now administered more than 152,000 doses of the vaccine and 56, 594 have been fully immunized with two doses.
On the government’s website using the municipality setting to sort COVID-19 cases, regions are defined by metropolitan areas, cities, urban service areas, rural areas, and towns with approximately 10,000 or more people; smaller regions are incorporated into the corresponding rural area.
With that setting Red Deer County sits at 38 active cases of the virus, while Lacombe County has 10 active cases.
Lacombe has 33 active cases, Sylvan Lake sits at 13 active cases, Olds has two active and Drumheller has 11 active.
Mountain View County sits at 10 active, Kneehill County has four active and Clearwater County 12 active.
Camrose County has five and the County of Stettler has five active cases.
Camrose sits at 13 active and the City of Wetaskiwin has 18 active.
On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis has 46 active. Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, has nine active. Rimbey, which includes west Ponoka County and parts of Lacombe County, has no active cases.
There are active alerts or outbreaks in 260 schools — about 11 per cent of the province’s schools. Since Jan. 11, the schools have had 862 cases.