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‘Grim’: Alberta COVID-19 case counts hit another record high

Update: On Saturday, there were 1,300+ cases of COVID-19.

On Sunday: 1,586.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said the province’s COVID-19 situation is grim, as cases once again eclipsed record highs.

Alberta recorded 1,155 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, on more than 17,000 tests, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. The provincial rate of positive cases climbed to 6.5 per cent.

Eleven people died, bringing the provincial total to 462 deaths. There are currently 310 in hospital, with 58 in the intensive care unit.

“Our current situation is grim,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

Of Alberta’s 2,400 schools, there are outbreaks or alerts in 294 schools, or roughly 12 per cent. Transmission has likely occurred in 166 schools, Dr. Hinshaw said, and 87 have only had one new case. She said, they don’t operate in a closed system, and we need to be cautious.

“Students, guardians, teachers, parents and staff are part of our communities. As we continue to have increasing cases throughout Alberta, this will correlate with cases in our institutions, including school, and hospital,” she said.

Dr. Hinshaw delivered the information on a day many other Canadian provinces announced stiffer measures to stop the second wave spread of COVID-19.  There are no new measures for Alberta.

When asked, Dr. Hinshaw said that elected officials make the decisions on new restrictions.

“What I will say, as a part of the recommendations that I’ve made has always been a consideration of the impacts of COVID-19 and the impacts that restrictions have,” she said.

“It has been challenging to consider what the right balance is and what that right suite of measures would be to be able to bring down COVID-19, while maintaining the mental health benefits of the activity and socialization, the benefits of being employed, the benefits of being able to have physical activity.”

Impact on health services

While ICU numbers dropped slightly in the past 24 hours, the effect increasing numbers have on the overall health system is concerning, said Dr. Hinshaw.

ICU bed numbers are being increased in Edmonton as their numbers are more than double that of Calgary. But when they open ICU beds, Dr. Hinshaw said it takes from other health services.

“The reason that we are not wanting to have all of those beds to be filled with COVID patients, of course they could be made available, but what that would mean is, we would be able to less able to offer services to people with other health needs,” she said.

Dr. Hinshaw said Alberta has always had a potential suite of several hundred ICU beds that could be made available. Seventy was chosen as a benchmark as a point in time that it would stress the health system.

“Creating this capacity means stopping or delaying other services and this is the impact we want to avoid,” she said.

The comorbidity questions

A recent piece by the Toronto Sun’s Anthony Furey questioned the number of deaths in Alberta that didn’t have comorbidity attached. His piece mentioned that 10 “otherwise healthy” people had died so far in Alberta due to COVID-19.

In Friday’s briefing, Dr. Hinshaw addressed the connection of COVID-19 deaths with comorbidities. She said deaths aren’t just tied to those nearing the end of their lives.

She referenced two people in their 30s who died this week. Both had comorbidities, she said, but on their own they wouldn’t have been life-threatening.  She said chronic medical conditions are common – everything from high blood pressure to diabetes.

Dr. Hinshaw said more than half of men over 50 and 70 per cent over 65 have high blood pressure.

“That should not be a death sentence,” she said.

“We must remember that our actions, protect these people, as well as ourselves,” she said.