No decision on second phase of reopening until at least March 1; 36 active cases in Fort McMurray

·2 min read

The Alberta government is not making any decisions about moving to the second phase of the province's reopening plan until March 1. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in her Monday update new active COVID-19 cases have stopped falling and are now plateauing, while new variant cases are rising.

Hinshaw added Alberta Health is taking the full three weeks to assess moving forward. The province's plan to ease restrictions includes waiting at least three weeks between phases. The second phase includes easing restrictions on retail, conference centres, hotels, and banquet and community halls.

“We are being cautious as it is too early to say if this recent increase is significant or but a temporary pause in the strong downward trend we have seen over the past several months,” said Hinshaw.

Alberta Health is reporting a steady number of new COVID-19 variant cases and Hinshaw this extra time will help show how fast these cases are spreading.

“All this means is we must be extra cautious,” said Hinshaw. “If given the chance, this virus will spread widely and we risk losing the gains we have made together.”

Premier Jason Kenney made similar comments on Friday when he said a “troublesome increase” in metrics such as hospitalizations, infections, positivity rate or reproductive value could delay reopenings.

“And if things were to get really bad—and let’s say we end up with a huge spike in cases and hospitalizations driven by the more contagious variants—I’ve been clear we might need to introduce additional measures that limit social interaction," he said.

There was still some good news during Monday's press conference, as Hinshaw reported cases in long-term care centres, hospitals and schools are dropping.

Active cases in long-term care homes have dropped 92 per cent in less than two months. Cases went from a high of 776 on Dec. 27 to 63 active cases on Feb. 20. On Jan 2., there were 27 outbreaks in acute care facilities across the province. There are now 8 active outbreaks in those facilities.

Hinshaw also said the number of active new cases in school-aged Albertans have continued dropping since classes resumed in person.

“These trends were not inevitable and are not due to just the passing of time,” said Hinshaw. “These trends are the result of our willingness to put our community’s needs first and care for each other every day.”

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today