Alberta sees COVID-19 uptick; Copping says they’ll wait on measures
‘There’s some other jurisdictions that are ahead of us on this. We’ll watch what they’re doing and then we’ll see, from our own indicators, what actions we may or may not have to take,’ Copping said
Alberta’s health minister says the province will wait before considering new COVID-19 measures as cases rise in Calgary and Edmonton.
During the weekly COVID-19 update, Health Minister Jason Copping said the province’s positivity rate and wastewater data both show signs of rising transmission, but had little to say about any potential response plan.
“We are seeing a slight initial uptick, particularly in Calgary and Edmonton, but there’s high variability in that so we’re going to have to watch that over the next days and weeks,” Copping said Wednesday.
“There’s some other jurisdictions that are ahead of us on this. We’ll watch what they’re doing and then we’ll see, from our own indicators, what actions we may or may not have to take.”
Alberta reported 4,612 new lab-confirmed cases and 30 deaths over the past week, with the new BA.2 variant being the dominant strain. The average positivity rate also increased from 22 per cent last week to 24.5 per cent.
There were 964 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 47 people in ICU, a decrease of nine since March 23.
Wastewater samples collected from Calgary show the level of COVID-19 infection began to increase in the city at the beginning of March.
Meanwhile, top health officials in other provinces are reporting signs of a sixth wave. Public health officials in Quebec said COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise and the surge should not be taken lightly. Health officials in some Ontario regions are advising residents to keep wearing masks in light of rising COVID-19 trends.
“If we look at other jurisdictions around the world and across the country, we have seen an increase in BA.2 variant, but what remains to be seen is how big that wave will be,” Copping said. “We’re still going to see how that may impact our health-care system.”
On Tuesday, U.S. regulators approved a second booster dose for Americans aged 50 and older, as well as immunocompromised people age 12 and up. Copping said the province isn’t moving forward with fourth vaccine doses for Albertans.
“(Alberta’s chief medical officer of health) Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw spoke about fourth doses last week, at this point in time, only for potentially the immunocompromised and not going any further,” Copping said. “We will rely on the expert advice from the National Committee on Immunization as well as our Alberta committee.”
Copping appeared alone on Wednesday as Hinshaw is expected back next week. When asked why a deputy CMOH was not made available to answer medical questions, Copping said he didn’t think it was necessary.
Pharmacies can order Paxlovid on Friday
All pharmacies in Alberta will be able to order shipments of Pfizer’s Paxlovid COVID-19 treatment this week, Copping announced. Initially the medication was thought to only be available at 135 pharmacies in Alberta due to limited supply, he said.
“I’m pleased to report that as supply has increased, beginning this Friday any interested pharmacy in Alberta will be able to order Paxlovid treatments to dispense packs to eligible Albertans.”
Paxlovid is an antiviral drug taken orally to treat COVID-19 infections available for people with a prescription and a positive PCR test. On Tuesday, Copping said the province’s initial shipment was arriving, with 3,200 courses of treatment available to eligible Albertans beginning Jan. 31.
The oral, at-home antiviral treatment is designed for use in mild and moderate cases of COVID-19 to prevent severe outcomes, with Pfizer’s clinical trials showing a nearly 90 per cent reduction in hospitalizations or deaths when taken within five days of infection. Health Canada approved the pill for adults last week.
Copping also encouraged Albertans to get their third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and to pick up rapid test kits at local pharmacies.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Jason Herring