COVID-19 counts in Red Deer’s wastewater system and others around the province continue to fall, a sign the Omicron BA.2 variant wave is receding, says Alberta’s health minister.
“The updated COVID-19 data posted June 15 is more good news, especially for the people working in our hospitals, family physicians and other health-care providers, said Health Minister Jason Copping in a statement on Thursday.
“The Omicron wave continues to recede.”
As of Monday, there were 719 people in hospital — down from 816 a week ago — with COVID, including 19 — down from 24 — in intensive care, according to the last update, which covers the June 7-13 period.
Copping said wastewater levels are “trending down” in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Fort McMurray.
The levels are higher in Edmonton and Calgary but also trending down.
The 791 people in hospital is less than half the Omicron peak, the lowest since early January “and we expect the numbers to continue to trend down,” he said.
Hospitals, EMS and other health services remain under strain, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, he said. A number of factors have played a role, including the large number of patients with Omicron variants, a surge in patients whose care was deferred because of the pandemic, as well as an influx of patients with the flu and other respiratory viruses picked up during the late flu season.
“The pandemic is adding to the strain in other ways, including depleting the workforce and forcing hospitals to ‘block’ beds for infection control,” said Copping. “The result is that emergency departments are struggling to keep up even with staff being added across the system, including 800 more staff in emergency departments than before the pandemic.”
Copping said this pressure will ease as the latest virus wave recedes and patient volumes are already moderating in the five major centres, including Red Deer, where occupancy ranges from 85 to 91 per cent, the same as or lower than June for the five years from 2-15 to 2019 before COVID.
Hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton continue to see large numbers of patients and occupancy is over 100 per cent at two sites.
In Central Zone, there are 97 people in hospital, including one in ICU. In Red Deer, the number of new COVID cases over the previous seven days ending on Monday was 36 — down 14 over the previous seven days. The seven-day case rate is 33.8 per 100,000 people, compared with 47 a week ago.
“It’s been a tough spring for our health system in Alberta and across Canada,” said Copping. “We’ll keep adding capacity to help the system recover from the latest wave of COVID-19, and to give Albertans better access to care.”