COVID-19 situation in Alberta 'grim': chief medical officer

Hospitals are gearing up to expand COVID-19 care spaces across the province in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 that has claimed an  increasing amount of Albertans' lives.

On Wednesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena  Hinshaw announced 732 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the past 24  hours with Alberta Health Services gearing up to expand Intensive Care  Unit (ICU) and hospital space in preparation for a continuing surge of  COVID-19 cases.

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Overnight, 11 more Albertans died from the virus, while 287 people  remain in the hospital and 57 of them in the ICU, out of the available  70 current available ICU beds.

Since the pandemic began, 443 Albertans have died. Hinshaw said Wednesday a quarter of those deaths have happened this month.

“This is deadly serious,” Hinshaw said.

“As individuals, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to stay home and get tested.”

The province has conducted 13,000 tests in the past 24 hours and the current positivity rate in the province is 5.5 per cent.

Overall, there are 10,057 active cases in the province

“We are all so tired right now and the stakes are so very high,” Hinshaw said.

As a result of the second wave surge, AHS has started to put in place  contingency plans to expand hospital capacity by equipping cardiac  units, unused hospital space and post-op space with the equipment to  transform them into ICU spaces.

Because of this transformation, Hinshaw said there will delayed  access to other care to make sure there is space to treat COVID-19  patients.

Overall there have been 320 schools that have active outbreaks,  totalling 13 per cent of all schools. Some 64 schools are on the watch  list while 157 schools have seen in-school transmission.

Last week, the province implemented new measures to get COVID-19  under control, including requiring restaurants to close early and  banning group fitness activities for two weeks, but Hinshaw said she is  disappointed to hear some businesses are trying to find loopholes to  continue to operate as usual.

Hinshaw said those restrictions were put in place for two weeks to  help curb the spread and if Albertans don’t comply the province will  need to consider additional measures.

“I continue to be concerned about these numbers as the human costs of COVID-19 are rising rapidly,” Hinshaw said.

Since the second wave surge of COVID-19 started, Alberta has halted  its contact tracing efforts temporarily until more employees can be  hired, but until then Hinshaw said the province is working with limited  data on the virus’s spread in the province.

Currently, we know around 40 per cent of cases are from private  gatherings and household spread, 10 per cent is from continuing care,  four per cent from childcare and school and three per cent from  household outbreaks.

Hinshaw said the vaccine will be distributed on a per capita basis,  with Aberta slated to get 680,000 doses of the vaccine early next year  with 465,000 from Pfizer and 221,000 from Moderna. Vulnerable  populations and healthcare professionals will be given the first doses.

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