Despite Alberta’s declining COVID-19 cases, health system still under stress, Hinshaw says


Despite the decreasing number of people ending up in hospital with COVID-19, Alberta’s medical system remains under duress, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference Wednesday.

Alberta reported 604 people in hospital with COVID-19, 110 of whom are in intensive care, considerably lower than the peak of more than 900 at the end of December.

“This is encouraging news and a signal that we are making meaningful progress. Every one of us should take pride in this,” said Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. 

“However, it also means that there are just as many people in hospital today as there were on Dec. 4, when our acute care system was struggling under the impact of COVID-19.”

Alberta reported 459 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 12 more deaths. The province now has 8,203 active cases, down from 8,652 on Tuesday.

WATCH | Hinshaw speaks about restaurants defying health orders

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says central Alberta restaurants that have opened their doors to diners despite public health restrictions are not acting in the best interests of their communities. 1:46

That strain on the health system affects anyone who needs care, she said. 

“If we’re not careful, people who need to be admitted to hospital can then spend longer in the emergency department while waiting for a bed,” Hinshaw said. 

“This, in turn, can lead emergency departments to fill up faster, challenging their ability to take new arrivals, leaving Albertans with broken bones and less-severe needs in waiting rooms.”

Hospitalization rates is one of the metrics that will dictate how long health restrictions remain in place Hinshaw said.

“Everyone should know that if they are in need of urgent care, that care is available,” she said. 

“To keep it that way, it is essential that we keep the restrictions in place for a little while longer, so we can ensure care is readily available for all Albertans, across the province, whatever their health needs are.” 

Provincial labs completed more than 12,800 tests for the virus with a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent.

The province has distributed over 101,000 doses of vaccine, with 11,000 people having received a second dose.

Here is a breakdown of the active cases in the province:

  • Calgary zone: 3,252 cases
  • Edmonton zone: 2,862 cases
  • North zone: 1,009 cases
  • Central zone: 712 cases
  • South zone: 355 cases
  • Unknown: 13 cases

So far, 1,599 people in the province have died from the disease.

Consider the wider impact

Hinshaw was asked Wednesday about restaurants in rural Alberta opening in protest of the strict health restrictions imposed in December.

One diner, the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., saw a steady stream of customers when it opened on the weekend at 50 per cent capacity. 

Hinshaw expressed sympathy for the business owners who are struggling as a result of the restrictions, but called on them to consider the wider impact of what they are doing.

“These actions could potentially put at risk the sacrifices that we’ve made and the progress that we’ve made over the past couple of months.

“Decisions that are being taken to open in contravention of the orders are not in the best interests of our communities.”

Hinshaw said officials tasked with enforcing public health orders will be speaking with those individuals to remind them why they need to stick to the health measures and of the penalties for ignoring those orders.”



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