Experts worried about increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta

Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, during July 2019.  (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)
Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, during July 2019. (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)

Over the last two weeks hospitalizations around Alberta have nearly doubled with a similar rate of growth in intensive care units.

Now experts are worried that without increased vaccine uptake the situation will only grow worse.

"I would like to see more people get vaccinated and there needs to be more leadership in that. We can't just leave it," said Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury.

Chowdhury is an intensive care doctor at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and works at hospitals around the city. He has seen first hand the toll the past year and half has taken on staff.

"I'm very concerned that this is going to become overwhelming to our hospital capacity," Chowdhury said. "We don't have the same ability to absorb that extra volume because of our staff shortages."

He would also like to see a mask mandate returned along with the implementation of a vaccine passport system

Craig Ryan/CBC
Craig Ryan/CBC

A group of ER doctors this week accused Alberta Health Services of downplaying problems with bed closures. On Friday afternoon it was announced that AHS would be postponing some non-urgent surgeries "to create more acute-care and intensive-care unit capacity."

CBC News reached out to Premier Jason Kenney to address the rise in hospitalizations and case numbers. A spokesperson said that he is currently on vacation, which ends next week.

Alberta Health reported 1,168 new cases on Friday, the highest daily case count since April 30, while 336 people were in hospitals around Alberta, including 74 in ICU.

Two weeks ago there were 124 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 39 in ICU.

More vaccines needed

University of Calgary infectious disease expert Craig Jenne is not shocked to see the current case numbers.

"Our behaviour hasn't changed," Jenne said. "So, it's not surprising that growth since the end of July has continued. It's essentially growth, on top of growth, on top of growth ... There's simply not enough people vaccinated."

Jenne said initial estimates showed that with 75 to 80 per cent of a population vaccinated some level of community protection could be achieved.

But now the virus has mutated.

"We're dealing with a virus that's much easier to spread right now and anything that becomes more infectious tends to require a higher level of vaccine in the community."

Jenne said the current target would be more like 90 per cent.

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