Alberta hit what Premier Jason Kenny called a “tragic milestone” over the holiday season with 1,002 deaths now linked to COVID-19.
Over the last five days, 112 Albertans have died from the virus, including 18 on Christmas Eve, 17 on Christmas Day and 27 on Boxing Day.
Red Deer recorded its fourth death: a woman in her 80s, from COVID on Dec. 22. The woman was a resident of Points West Living seniors facility. All four local deaths have been linked to the facility’s outbreak.
On Monday evening, Points West was on the government’s province-wide list of outbreaks.
Premier Jason Kenney offered his condolences to those who have lost loved ones on Monday.
“This tragic milestone is more than a number or statistic. It represents more than 1,000 mothers, wives, fathers, husbands – empty spaces around the table that can never be filled. Each one means that there is a family that is grieving, a friend who has lost someone they loved, a child who lost their parent, a partner who lost their true love.”
Kenney appealed to Albertans to “double down” on public health measures.
“Let’s prevent as many Albertans as we can from experiencing the same pain and loss that so many already have,” he said in a statement.
Alberta has also seen its first case of the mutated COVID virus, said Alberta Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in her daily update on Monday. It was brought into the province from someone who had recently arrived from the United Kingdom.
Hinshaw said fortunately the traveller did everything right as far as observing health protocols including self-quarantining when they returned home.
“At this point, there is no evidence there has been any further spread,” she said.
Hinshaw said health officials are closely watching for the variant virus, which early evidence suggests may spread much more easily than the more common form of the virus. Another variant has also recently appeared in South Africa.
Alberta Health Services is recommending that anyone who has been in the United Kingdom or South Africa in the last 14 days get tested.
Health officials have worked with the federal government to get a list of all of the people who have been in those places and will be contacting those in Alberta.
Health officials are also tracking people who were on the same UK flight as the person with the variant, particularly those sitting nearby.
So far, there is no evidence that the vaccine will not be effective on the new variants but scientists are still studying that.
Hinshaw said that the “selfless actions” of Albertans during the holiday season have helped slow the spread of the virus but the health-care system is still under significant pressure.
However, the decline in new cases is partly due to the lower number of people who got tested over the holidays. On Christmas Day, 14,193 tests were done and 914 new cases identified. On Boxing Day, only 459 cases were found out of 6,866 tests. On Sunday, 9,633 tests revealed 917 new cases.
There are 878 people being treated in hospital, including 148 in intensive care.
Just over 6,000 doses of the COVID Pfizer vaccine have been given to health workers so far, she said. The first doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in Alberta this week.
In the most recent update, Red Deer had 291 active cases of COVID-19. At its peak this month, Red Deer had 434 active cases.
Red Deer County has 84 cases. Sylvan Lake sits with 25 actives cases, Lacombe, 29; Lacombe County at 45; Mountain View County, 34 and Kneehill County, 17.
Clearwater County has 29 active, and Olds, 28.
Ponoka County, County of Wetaskiwin and the City of Wetaskiwin have 611 active cases combined.