As pandemic rages, Alberta now has 7,965 active cases of COVID-19

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Alberta now has 7,965 active cases of COVID-19, an increase of more than 1,000 since late last week.

The province reported 644 new cases on Monday and seven additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 369.

The active case total once again broke all previous records, as did hospitalization numbers: As of Monday there were 192 people being treated in Alberta hospitals for the illness, including 39 in ICU beds.

The previous update reported 171 people in hospital, including 33 in ICU beds.

"The rate of increase and rising hospitalizations are extremely concerning to me," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Monday at a news conference. "We are assessing measures closely. If needed, we do not need to wait 14 days before recommending additional measures.

"This weekend we saw a daily record for cases report on Saturday followed by high numbers on Sunday and today. Although the last few days have been a bit lower, we expect some variation from day to day and we have not yet turned the corner that we must turn."

If cases continue to rise and the province does not bend the curve back soon, more surgeries will likely be postponed and there will be other impacts on health services, Hinshaw said.

Vaccine a 'lifetime' away, Hinshaw says

On Monday, pharmaceutical company Pfizer said early data suggests the vaccine it is testing may be 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19. Authorities continue to stress any vaccine will is unlikely to arrive much before the end of the year, and limited initial supplies will be rationed.

"What I would say to Albertans is that it is good news and that we are watching those vaccine developments closely," Hinshaw said. "But a few months away is a bit of a lifetime away, in terms of being able to change our behaviours right now.

"We're at a really critical time. We're going into colder weather, winter weather. We know that the virus transmits much more easily indoors than out. And we know that when people are spending time in those close quarters, we can see very quick spread. So now is not the time to ease off."

When a vaccine becomes available, she said, it will likely be available only in small quantities, and the province will have to prioritize doses for those who are at highest risk.

"So we unfortunately do have to keep on holding on to our public health measures and looking for that vaccine as a good news story, but it's not here yet," she said. "So in the short term, we need to protect each other with our actions."

Edmonton, Calgary driving case growth

Transmission in Edmonton and Calgary continues to drive most of the new cases in Alberta.

"This is a critical juncture and we need to get cases down to below 100 new cases per day in our big cities with a growth rate, or R value, of less than one," Hinshaw said.

The R value, or reproduction value, in Edmonton is 1.1, up from last week. In Calgary the value is also 1.1, down from last week. The R value in the rest of Alberta is 1.2

The most recent deaths reported to Alberta Health were:

  • a man in his 80s from the Edmonton zone who was not a resident in continuing care.

  • a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Covenant Care Chateau Vitaline in the Edmonton zone.

  • a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Good Samaritan Pembina Village in the Edmonton zone.

  • a woman in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Edmonton General Care Centre.

  • a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Laurel Heights Retirement Residence in Edmonton.

  • a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at the South Terrace Continuing Care Centre in Edmonton.

  • a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at Extendicare Cedars Villa in Calgary.

Alberta Health has confirmed that one previously reported death was not linked to COVID-19, so the total number of deaths increase by six to 369.