Alberta reports 195 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths

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Alberta reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 more deaths from the illness.

Across the province, 427 people were being treated for the illness in hospitals, including 78 in ICU beds.

More than 124,000 doses of vaccine have been administered so far, with 32,700 people now fully immunized with two doses.

There were 5,831 active cases. A regional breakdown of those cases on Tuesday was:

  • Calgary zone: 2,335

  • Edmonton zone: 1,748

  • Central zone: 656

  • South zone: 325

  • North zone: 758

  • Unknown: 9

One more case of a virus variant was detected over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 104 in the province. Of those, 97 are the strain first identified in the United Kingdom and seven have been the strain first identified in South Africa.

"I know there are concerns about one of these more contagious variants becoming the dominant strain in the province," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday at a news conference. "This is a serious worry for me, too."

According to statistics posted Tuesday on the Alberta government website, more than half of the 104 cases are in the Calgary zone.

The breakdown shows the Calgary zone with 52 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., compared to 32 in Edmonton zone and 13 in Central zone. Calgary zone also has five cases of the other variant of concern, with the other two in Edmonton zone.

Hinshaw said it's important to keep the numbers in context and to understand what they indicate about the spread of the virus.

"For context, the first variant case in Alberta was identified retrospectively in a sample originally taken on Dec. 15 from a returning traveller," she said. "From that day until now, there have been 104 positive variant cases identified among all the samples that have been taken."

During that same time, more than 43,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the province, which means variant cases made up one-quarter of one per cent of all the cases identified since Dec. 15.

'Variants are still very rare'

"This does not in any way minimize the threat that these variants pose or the impact they will have if we let them spread widely," Hinshaw said. "However, so far, variants are still very rare and we are working hard to keep it that way."

Hinshaw said there are six classes in five different schools where a student attended while infectious with a variant of the virus.

"To date, there has been no in-class transmission of variants of concern that has been reported to me," she said.

The precautions in place in schools appear to be protective against in-class spread of the virus, including the variants, Hinshaw said.

"Alberta Health Services has followed up with all of these locations, has offered double testing to all of the students in those classes, and in some cases their household contacts, when there has been a delay based on the timelines of testing."

Monday marked the first step on Alberta's four-stage plan to ease restrictions.

Restaurants were allowed to open their dining rooms and gyms were allowed to open for one-on-one training sessions.

Sports and entertainment-related activities resumed in schools. Lessons and practices for youth team-based minor sports and athletics were once again allowed but games remain prohibited.

Indoor gatherings remain banned

Retail stores and churches can operate at 15 per cent capacity. Entertainment venues such as museums and movie theatres remain closed.

All indoor gatherings remain banned. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people.

The four-stage reopening is tied mainly to hospitalization rates. There will be a three-week lag between each stage to assess any impact on infection rates.

A decision on Step 2 is expected to be made on Feb. 28. If 450 or fewer people are then in hospital with the illness, restrictions could be further eased.

The restrictions have been in place since mid-December, when cases spiked and put dangerous strain on the health-care system. Daily infections topped 1,800 and more than 800 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals.

The total number of deaths now stands at 1,722.