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Vaccination urged as COVID-19 cases on the rise

Latest variant appears less dangerous but health minister urges all to get vaccinated
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping urges all eligible Albertans to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases rising. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

While the latest COVID-19 variant does not appear as dangerous as others, Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping urged Albertans to get their shots.

“COVID has not gone away. The wastewater data shows that there is still a lot of it around and if you’re not vaccinated it remains a real risk,” said Copping in the weekly COVID-19 update.

He urged everyone to get all the shots they are eligible for and to now wait to get a booster when transmission rates get bad again.

“Please don’t wait. There is enough Omicron circulating right now to be a real risk.”

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said an average of seven Albertans a day died between April 12-18.

Nine of those deaths — including two in Red Deer — occurred in Central Zone.

There have now been 4,190 deaths in Alberta connected with COVID. As of Wednesday, there were 1,126 in hospital and 43 in intensive care.

Copping said there are positive signs the pandemic may be easing.

COVID-19 hospital admissions are on the rise but not increasing as fast as they did during the Omicron wave.

Some bigger Edmonton and Calgary hospitals are above 100 per cent capacity which is a concern but not unusual at this time of the year, Copping said.

“We are seeing some impact from the BA.2 sub-variant, but so far it’s much less than we saw a few months ago with BA.1. That’s what we’ve been expecting, based on other jurisdictions, cuch as B.C. and Ontario and given our high vaccination rate and recent exposure to BA.1.”

There are some signs that BA.2 transmissions may be plateauing, he said.

“More importantly, we’re not seeing the impact on hospitalizations that we did before. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 ticked up this past week about three per cent to 1,126. That follows a similar increase from the week before.”

Copping said the “system continues to complete near-normal volumes of surgery. The waiting list continues to come down gradually.”

About 7,200 are on a waiting list, compared with 76,600 at the beginning of March and 68,000 before the pandemic.

“That’s good, but to be clear, we’re going to bring it down a lot faster,” he said, adding more details will be released in coming days.

In Red Deer, the number of new cases over the previous seven days ending on Monday was 217 — up from 212 over the previous seven days. The seven-day case rate is up to 200.4 per 100,000 people, from 199.3.

The total number of Red Deer cases since the pandemic began is now 14,482 and the death toll in the city is still 104, up two from last week’s report.

In the Central Zone, there are 180 people — up 14 from a week ago — in hospital infected with the virus, including two in the ICU. So, far 534 people have died — up nine from a week ago — from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began.

In Red Deer County, there were 47 new cases over seven days, up one from the seven days prior.

Sylvan Lake has had 20 new cases, Lacombe 18, Olds 30, Wetaskiwin 41, Camrose 51 and Drumheller 32.

Lacombe County has had 13, Clearwater County 23, County of Stettler 17, Mountain View County 20, Kneehill County 14 and Camrose County six.

On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has had 68 new cases, while Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, had 13 and Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and part of Lacombe County, had seven.

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