Daily, weekly and then bi-weekly COVID-19 updates by health officials have been part of the ongoing pandemic for more than two years.
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Wednesday that it would be the last regularly scheduled update now that COVID cases continue to decline and the last wave appears to be receding.
“We remain committed to the transparent communication of important public health information and we will, of course, provide updates as necessary,” said Hinshaw.
Copping reported on Wednesday that there were 661 people in hospital, including 17 in intensive care as of Monday. That is down from 719 patients, including 19 in intensive care in the week prior.
There were 13 more deaths reported between June 14-20, down from 24 deaths in the previous week. Since the pandemic started, 4,604 people have died from COVID-related complications.
The positivity rate continues to decline — 12.3 per cent down from about 13.2 per cent the previous week.
Wastewater testing is also showing lower levels of the virus, a downward trend that has now lasted two months.
“While there is some fluctuation, the levels in the seven largest cities are now at or approaching levels last fall before Omicron,” said Copping.
Another key indicator — hospitalizations — is also headed in the right direction.
On Feb. 26, when the province announced it was moving to Step 2 of its transition from health restrictions there were 12,095 people in hospital with COVID, 88 in intensive care.
“We’re entering a phase where the pandemic response can be de-escalated, while we remain vigilant and prepared to respond to new variants that may drive another wave of cases and hospital admissions.”
While most restrictions have been lifted, masks will still be required at Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities and may be required in some other settings, such as physiotherapy clinics.
Copping said while COVID appears to be on the wane health officials will continue to monitor the situation and the virus will continue to circulate around the world and a seasonal increase in COVID cases and other respiratory viruses may happen this fall.
Meanwhile, vaccines and rapid testing will continue to be available and the province will update its COVID statistics online weekly.
Hinshaw said many have asked why the province has shifted an isolation requirement to a recommendation if cases are expected to increase in the fall.
“While COVID will continue to pose a risk, we are no longer in a place where we need an emergency public health order to remind us that we should stay home when we are unwell.”
Hinshaw says people should continue to monitor for COVID symptoms and use rapid tests if in doubt and to continue to stay home if sick, even if the test is negative.
She said she believes it is still prudent to wear a mask in indoor settings while the positivity rates are 10 per cent or higher.
Hinshaw said there has been one new monkeypox case identified in someone who was a known close contact with a case outside the province. All of Alberta’s monkeypox cases have been in Calgary and Edmonton zones so far.
In Central Zone, there are 87 people in hospital, down 10 from a week ago, including one in ICU, unchanged from a week ago. There have been 596 COVID-related deaths in Central Zone, including one new death, which was in Red Deer. Since the pandemic began, there have been 112 deaths in Red Deer.
Another 1,086 cases — down from 1,442 — have been identified in Alberta in the past week. Since the pandemic began, 587,890 confirmed cases of COVID.
In Red Deer, the number of new COVID cases over the previous seven days ending on Monday was 14 — down 22 over the previous seven days. The seven-day case rate is 13.2 per 100,000 people, compared with 33.8 a week ago.
The total number of Red Deer cases since the pandemic began is now 15,253.
In Red Deer County, there were seven new cases over seven days, down nine from the seven days prior.
Sylvan Lake has had one new case, Lacombe five, Olds one, Wetaskiwin two, Camrose four and Drumheller four.
Lacombe County has had six, Clearwater County two, County of Stettler one, Mountain View County six, Kneehill County none and Camrose County two.
On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has had five new cases, while Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, had one and Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and part of Lacombe County, had four.