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No official decision yet on further reopening as COVID-19 cases plateau

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 8:38 am MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Alberta is recording 273 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, including 11 new cases of the variants.

Overall, numbers are fairly steady, with 324 in hospital and 53 in intensive care around the province.

An alert or outbreak status is in effect at 235 schools, and 16 new deaths have been recorded for a total of 1,843. However, 11 of the newly recorded deaths stretch between Dec. 4 and Jan. 16, as COVID-19 was determined as the cause of death post mortem, and the other five deaths are from February.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said that it seems like cases are plateauing, with no significant increase or decrease over the past couple of weeks. She said while this indicates the public health measures are working, a decision on moving to stage two of reopening businesses hasn’t been officially made.

“We need to be watching for whether or not those leading indicators are stable, are they declining or are they increasing. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past several days is that our positivity rate has started to go up and that our R-value has also started to go up in a concerning way, so we are seeing growth.”

Dr. Hinshaw clarified those comments Tuesday morning saying that unlike step one, when the province told restaurants they would get one week notice, restrictions could be lifted immediately, for step two meaning the changes might take effect Mar. 1.

“We’ll see how our numbers are trending over the next several days to the end of this week,” Hinshaw added.

The positivity rate for tests is at 4.5 per cent after more than 6,000 tests were done over the past 24 hours, and the R-value is at 1.03 province-wide. The rate of transmission is lower in Calgary and Edmonton, while it is over one in the rest of Alberta.

Overall, Hinshaw said they continue to take a cautious approach and also would not say if there’s consideration for different public health measures based on different regions of the province.

On the topic of variants, there are now 289 total cases of the more dangerous mutations of the virus, and 282 of them are the variant originating from the United Kingdom. Seven cases are linked to the South African variant.

Hinshaw said that while any of the variant cases are concerning, these numbers are also fairly stable, and they don’t know exactly how many cases are being transmitted through the community, although it seems like the variants are established at a “low level.”

“Around 11 new variants as I reported today, up to 15 or 16 new variants, and we’ve seen that new daily number over the past several weeks,” she said. “We don’t want to conflate the early screening numbers of travel-related cases with community-acquired cases, so we need to give a bit more time to understand what we’re seeing with respect to community transmission.”

Hinshaw also wanted to highlight some good news, though, including the falling number of cases in long-term care and supportive living facilities and the fact over 173,000 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Cases have also been steadily declining in schools, and death rates are also falling.

Moving ahead, Hinshaw said we need to maintain the course to ensure the next stage of reopening can move forward, and there are some positive signs showing that we have the ability to limit transmission.

“The really important part that Albertans can take away from this is that collectively we need to continue doing all of the things we’ve been doing to bring those numbers down, as I’ve shown today so that we are able to continue considering that path forward and that will only happen if we all work together.”