Alberta's top doctor says race is on between COVID-19 vaccines and variants

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EDMONTON — The percentage of active COVID-19 cases that involve more transmissible virus variants is rising in Alberta, prompting the province's top doctor to urge people to keep following public-health guidelines and get vaccinated if they're eligible.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that Alberta's aggressive screening, dedicated contact tracing and other measures have bought time for vaccines to work.

"In some ways, there is a race between the variants and the vaccines," she said, as Alberta recorded 62 new variant cases.

"We need to limit the spread of these variants and all other strains of COVID-19 while we work over the next several months to immunize Albertans who are most vulnerable to ending up in hospital and other severe outcomes."

Hinshaw has said that in late January three per cent of active cases involved variants. Last week she said that had risen to nine per cent. As of Tuesday, 11 per cent of virus cases were variants.

She reminded Albertans to wash their hands, wear masks indoors with people outside their household, maintain physical distance and stay home if sick.

"These simple steps continue to be our best bet at keeping COVID-19 under control and allowing us to hang on for a few more months while we roll out the vaccine to all in Alberta."

There were 355 new COVID-19 infections recorded in Tuesday's update and three more deaths. The percentage of tests coming back positive was nearly six per cent.

Alberta had 260 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 44 in intensive care.

So far, more than 380,000 doses of vaccine have been administered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press