Alberta continues to make progress in the fight against COVID-19, but there’s a growing concern about the new variant of the virus, says Alberta’s chief medical officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
The province announced 268 new cases of COVID-19, on more than 7,900 tests over the past 24 hours. There were also 13 deaths over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,660.
Alberta now has 6,912 active COVID-19 cases, with 116,259 recovered cases. There are 556 in hospital, including 97 in intensive care.
“The potential for rising cases, including the spread of variant, is one of the things we will be watching closely for in the days ahead,” said Hinshaw Tuesday.
“New trends and positivity rates will help determine if we need to pause further actions or potentially increase restrictions in the future.”
Hinshaw said concern about the variant has caused the province to alter self-isolation rules for those who come in contact with the new strain of COVID-19. That isolation period could be up to 24 days.
“We are ensuring that any new variant cases or contacts are aware of hotel isolation and quarantine options. If cases stay home during their isolation period, their household contacts need to stay at home as well in quarantine, until 14 days have passed from the end of the case’s isolation period, for a total of 24 days,” she said.
So far, Alberta has located 50 cases of the U.K. variant and seven of the South Africa variant. Almost all of those are from returning travellers, with six cases being detected from close contacts of those returning travellers.
Hinshaw said eight of the 57 total variant cases, in five different households, have no links to travel.
“The main reason we are concerned about these variants is they spread more easily from person to person, which is why we must be cautious,” she said.
“These variants spread in the same way as the strain that is currently dominant in Alberta, just more efficiently.”
She added that officials have been able to link between four of the variant cases to a daycare outbreak and that border testing has identified 28 cases of the variant.
“This is concerning but it does mean we have a better chance of controlling spread when we understand the links between cases,” she said, adding that in some of the cases, the individuals with the variant were asymptomatic.
The province also formed a dedicated variant contact tracing team. Alberta labs have increased capacity to run tests for variant and also do more genetic sequencing to better locate it.
“The lower our overall case count, the greater the proportion of positive tests we are able to screen,” Hinshaw said.
Central zone sits at 655 active cases of COVID-19, with 49 people in hospital and six in intensive care.
Red Deer is up to 185 active COVID-19 cases.
On the municipality setting, regions are defined by metropolitan areas, cities, urban service areas, rural areas, and towns with approximately 10,000 or more people; smaller regions are incorporated into the corresponding rural area. Red Deer County sits at 19 active cases and Lacombe County has 29 active. Sylvan Lake has 33 active cases of the virus, Olds has five and Lacombe has 15 active.
Mountain View County has 11 active, Clearwater County 54 active, Starland County has 10 active, Kneehill County has three active.
Camrose sits at 41 active and Camrose County seven active. The County of Stettler has six active and Flagstaff County has two active.
The City of Wetaskiwin has 28 active cases of the virus.
On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has 133 active cases. Ponoka, including East Ponoka County sits at 12 active cases. Rimbey, including parts of Lacombe County and West Ponoka County has two active cases.