The COVID-19 variant is being found in ‘additional locations,’ says Alta. top doc

EDMONTON — Alberta’s top doctor reported 11 more confirmed cases of the COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant on Thursday, including seven that contact tracers haven’t been able to link to travel and two others in additional Calgary schools.

In total, four Calgary classrooms have been the site of potential variant exposures. Two were identified earlier in the week.

While the students had entered isolation as soon as labs confirmed the positive test result, Alberta’s top doctor said with confirmation of the two newest variant cases as the B.1.1.7 strain, families were being offered extra testing.

Altogether, the province has found 68 cases of the mutations first found in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

When asked if the B.1.1.7 strain was being spread definitively in the community, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed some cases had been found in “additional locations.”

“That is of course concerning, but I do need to remind all of us that we are currently able to test almost every single positive COVID case for variant strains and so that does help us detect more that are out there so that we can contain them,” she said.

“Again, we have seen in several cases that while we’ve identified the variant, we have not seen further spread onward because of the interventions that are in place.”

She said that was true so far of the two Calgary schools with B.1.1.7 exposures earlier that week.

That afternoon, she reported 582 new cases, consisting of 421 positive results confirmed on Wednesday and some positive cases that had been found on Tuesday but not reported. Those individuals had been notified of the positive result, Hinshaw said.

Alberta has a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent and 517 people in hospital, including 93 in ICUs.

Thirteen more Albertans have died with COVID-19.

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Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw will give Thursday’s COVID-19 update at 3:30 p.m. MST.

Watch the news conference with the chief medical officer of health live on

The province reported 259 new cases out of some 6,800 tests and a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent the day before.

Alberta has 6,559 active cases of COVID-19 and has counted a total 1,671 deaths to the disease since March. 

According to the latest data, there were 539 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 94 of whom were in ICUs.

Both Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney defended Alberta’s “path forward” reopening plan on Wednesday.

Next week, personal trainers and restaurants will be allowed to offer again one-on-one training sessions and limited dining in.

Hinshaw said steps backward should be prevented by the plan’s built-in triggers, which track key numbers like hospitalizations, positivity and growth rates, and active cases.

Meanwhile, Kenney argued it wasn’t right to continue to reduce business activity.

“I know no one wants to be on the roller coaster, but we cannot guarantee people that there won’t be a change in policy in the future. We don’t want there to be, but what we’ve heard from these small business owners is that they would rather have an opportunity to operate for a period of time for now while our numbers are coming down and the pressure is being relieved from the hospitals,” he told reporters.

“And if necessary in the future if we see exponential growth, we’ll have to act accordingly.”

When Alberta relaunched the first time on May 14, it had 57 people in hospital and fewer than 1,000 active cases.

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