With rising hospitalizations, Alberta has decided to push back moving into Step 3 of its phased reopening.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Monday that the province expects to see more than 300 hospitalizations within the week.
The number of hospitalizations had to be 300 or under, or showing a decline, for the province to move into Step 3 and as of Monday Alberta sits at 280 COVID hospitalizations.
“There will be no easing of any restrictions at this time. This is the safe move, this is the smart move to make for our province right now,” Shandro said.
“It is absolutely necessary to help us avoid a third wave that would take more lives and once again, put more pressure on the hospital system. This pause is prudent and it’s essential. But I know that for many people it is a disappointment.
“The weather is warming up and we’re all tired of the pandemic and the restrictions on our businesses and activities. Most of all I know Albertans are tired of worrying about this virus and the risk to families and loved ones.”
Officials also indicated there is no specific date to re-assess easing measures in Step 3. Further easing measures will only happen when hospitalizations, which have continually risen over the past seven days, start to decline again. On Friday, the province reported 276 people in hospital compared to 255 on March 15.
Shandro added it would be unfair to ease restrictions Monday, only to reinstate them as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
Of people in hospital across the province, Shandro noted that 46 per cent are 65 and under and 88 per cent in the ICU are 65 or under.
The province’s reproductive rate for COVID-19 is at 1.14, above the rate the province hoped for to move to the next step. Alberta’s COVID-19 test positivity rate, which was over six per cent Monday, has also risen over the last week, another concern for public health officials.
Alberta also reported over 100 new variant cases Monday and they account for 16 per cent of the province’s active COVID-19 cases.
“We cannot take the risk of easing any measures at this point,” Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“Now is not the time to abandon tried and true practices that have protected our communities and our health care system over the past year. COVID-19 is still very much with us.”
Alberta was set to move into Step 3 Monday. That would’ve loosened restrictions on adult team sports, casinos and bingo halls, private indoor social gatherings, movie theatres, zoos, museums and places of worship. Further easing of restrictions on youth sports was also originally intended to be included.
Alberta eased some restrictions and moved into Step 2 of its reopening on March 8. There were 257 hospitalizations and 457 total variant cases. As of Monday, there were 1,711 variant cases in the province.
“There are rising case numbers, rising variant cases, and rising hospitalizations in Alberta, but the premier failed to show his face, and failed to offer Albertans a plan to respond to this growing danger,” said Alberta NDP health critic David Shepherd.
“A third wave is rising, but the decisions the government makes this week will determine how large and how deadly that wave is. Now more than ever, Jason Kenney needs to come clean with Albertans about what he knows and what his intentions are.”