Rising variant cases worries Hinshaw while vaccination birth years expand; 21 active cases in Fort McMurray

·3 min read

With cases rising in southern Alberta, Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned of a possible third COVID-19 wave if public health orders are ignored.

At her Thursday update, Hinshaw said she is concerned about a recent rise in cases in Lethbridge. On Feb. 25, the city had 19 active cases, but reported 469 cases yesterday. Many new cases are linked to indoor and family gatherings.

“The rise in cases is a reminder that the actions of small number of people can have a far-reaching impact,” said Hinshaw. “I don’t ask Albertans to fear COVID-19. I ask us all to respect it.”

Many European countries are seeing a third wave of rising hospitalizations and deaths linked to COVID-19. Hinshaw pointed out this is happening even as those countries outpace Alberta with vaccinations.

“We are so close to having the ability to prevent these consequences with vaccine,” said Hinshaw. “I ask all of us not to waste the sacrifices that have been made this past year.”

Earlier in the day, Premier Jason Kenney said Hinshaw will soon provide advice to the Alberta government on whether the province should move to Step 3 of its reopening plan, which it will be eligible to do next week.

Step 3 includes potentially easing restrictions for adult team sports, casinos, racing centres and bingo halls, youth sport and recreation activities, indoor social gatherings, movie theatres and auditoria, museums, art galleries, zoos and interpretive centres, along with places of worship.

This step requires fewer than 300 hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 across Alberta, which Kenney says was met one month ago.

“It’s clear that things have plateaued,” he said. “We have stopped seeing the decline in new daily cases, total active cases and hospitalizations, but they have been stable.”

Hinshaw said her recommendations haven’t yet been finalized. In deciding whether to allow indoor gatherings, Hinshaw said a balance must be struck that reduces risks associated with continued isolation and health risks from large gatherings.

“It’s critical that, honestly, whatever the rules are that people follow what’s in place,” she said.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is opening all online COVID-19 immunization bookings to all remaining birth cohorts in Phase 2A of the vaccine rollout on Friday. This includes Albertans between the ages of 65 and 74, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples aged 50 and older.

Tomorrow, online booking will be closed between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Anyone included in Phase 2A can book vaccinations after 8 a.m.

Kenney said 259 pharmacies in 107 communities are now offering vaccinations. This now includes the Shoppers Drug Mart on Signal Road.

In recent days, some residents have complained about a requirement to wear masks while doing low-intensity exercises at MacDonald Island Park's pool. Masks are not required during swimming lessons. When asked if this was necessary, Hinshaw said some pool activities do not require people to put their faces underwater.

“We're really leaving it up to operators of those types of programs to determine if that can be safely done,” said Hinshaw. “If it can’t be safely done, then those types of group activities should not be happening at this stage.”

-with files from Sammy Hudes

swilliscraft@postmedia.com

Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today