'Positive signs' in pandemic battle despite more deaths, Hinshaw tells Albertans

·4 min read

Alberta reported 25 more deaths due to COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths in the pandemic to 815, but Dr. Deena Hinshaw says she sees "positive signs" in the province's pandemic fight.

On Thursday the province reported a record-breaking 30 deaths.

"I know this has been yet another tough week for many Albertans," Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference Friday.

"A difficult week in a difficult year. However, we are starting to see some early positive signs in our province."

The number of new cases reported each day has been dropping through the week with 1,413 new cases reported Friday, bringing the number of active cases in Alberta to 19,607, which is well below the high of over 21,000 last week.

"I want to be clear: our fight is far from over. We expect that hospitalization and ICU admissions will continue to rise in the coming weeks as these are lagging indicators."

As of Friday 759 people were in hospital, including a record 141 in intensive care.

"Our health system continues to feel the strain which will increase in the days ahead," Hinshaw said.

"But what these numbers show us is that together we have the power to protect our communities and to change our future. We must continue to do everything possible to protect the care system we all rely on."

However Hinshaw warned Albertans not to let their guards down.

"In the past we have seen COVID-19 cases level or dip before, only to rise again. The positive indicators we are seeing can be reversed in a matter of days if we all don't keep doing our part. It is up to us to continue this momentum."

Death of woman in 20s a 'tragic reminder'

The people whose deaths were reported Friday ranged from a woman in her 20s to seniors in their 90s.

Hinshaw was asked about the woman in her 20s. She died in the Calgary zone and had no known pre-existing health conditions.

"This is a tragic reminder of what we have been saying, which is that while the risk is lower for individuals who are younger, it is not zero and it is unfortunately, again, an example of how we can lose people to COVID-19 of all ages," she said.

Here is a breakdown of cases across the health zones:

  • Edmonton zone: 9,376

  • Calgary zone: 6,971

  • Central zone: 1,473

  • North zone: 1,201

  • South zone: 511

  • Unknown: 75

Don't let Christmas accelerate case count, Hinshaw says

Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to adhere to restrictions despite the Christmas rush.

"With the weekend upon us, I'm asking all Albertans to remain vigilant in following the restrictions in place," she said. "I know many people are still busy preparing for the holidays and shopping for groceries and gifts, but we all need to do so in the safest manner possible. Do not try to crowd into malls or stores."

Hinshaw cautioned that the latest case numbers are "extremely high" and warned that if Christmas proves to be "an accelerating factor," Alberta could easily be seeing well beyond 2,000 new cases a day within a few weeks of the holiday.

"If we enter into January with high case numbers, our restrictions will last for longer, and if we hit February with very high case numbers, even with a vaccine, it takes longer to bring the case numbers down," Hinshaw said.

It won't be until February before the province will start looking at what types of events might be possible next summer, she said.

"We'll be looking at trends, we'll be looking at our vaccination doses that we're expecting and we'll be looking at the kinds of protocols that may be required."

Vaccine arrives

This week the province kicked off the COVID-19 vaccination campaign as thousands of health-care workers in Edmonton and Calgary began receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Also this week, the government began rolling out rapid testing to supplement conventional tests for COVID-19 this week. The testing will be expanded to homeless shelters, 25 rural hospitals, designated supported-living facilities and long-term care centres.

But as a sobering reminder the battle is not over, the province announced this week Alberta Health Services and the Red Cross are setting up a 100-bed temporary hospital in Edmonton to house recovering COVID-19 patients, in case hospitals become overwhelmed.

Alberta already has a field hospital outside the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary which is being used to allow for extra physical distancing for treatment of emergency care patients.