Alberta reports highest daily COVID case count since January, variants rising

·2 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta reported Thursday its highest single-day COVID-19 case count since January when growing hospitalization rates forced the province to impose stricter health measures.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said there were 764 new cases in the province — and 191 of those were linked to highly contagious variants of the virus.

Hinshaw said 294 people were in hospital with the illness, with 55 of them in intensive care. There were also three new deaths.

About 1,400 of the active cases are linked to the variants of concern, which make up 20 per cent of the total, she added.

"The choices we make now will determine if cases are still growing in the days after Easter," she said in her COVID-19 briefing.

"Spring is here. And I ask that all of us use that fact for encouragement to hang on just a few months longer to the actions that we know will protect those around us and our communities."

Earlier in the day, Dr. Theresa Tam, Hinshaw's federal counterpart, said variant cases have been increasing throughout Canada, with the highest numbers in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

Alberta's rising hospitalization rates and variant cases have delayed plans for further easing public-health restrictions.

The next reopening stage would have included relaxed rules on worship services. Doors would have reopened on entertainment venues, including museums and casinos, and adult team sports would have resumed. Restrictions on indoor gatherings would have been eased as well, but remain banned.

There is also concern the variants will become the dominant strain and drive a third wave of infection. Hinshaw cautioned earlier this week that additional restrictions may be necessary to slow the spread and ease the effect on hospitals.

"We need to be looking at that overall picture ... before we are able to make good decisions on what kinds of things may be necessary," Hinshaw said.

She noted that almost half of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta were acquired at home.

"There is no other activity that even comes close to that proportion of our new cases," she said.

"I would remind all of us again that while home is the place where we feel we can let our guard down, if somebody in a household starts to feel symptomatic, if somebody in a household has been exposed to a case of COVID-19, there are things that we can do in our households to prevent the spread within that group."

She also urged people who cannot properly isolate at home to stay in designated hotel rooms free of charge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mach 25, 2021.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press