Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Dec. 29

The latest COVID-19 numbers: 

  • The province released updated COVID-19 numbers Wednesday, as daily case numbers hit a record high.
  • There were 2,775 new COVID-19 cases Dec. 28 out of 9,398 tests, a new daily high for the province. 
  • There were 1,395 cases Dec. 27 out of 6,473 tests.
  • There were 686 cases Dec. 26 out of 4,084 tests.
  • There were 1,568 cases Dec. 25 out of 7,240 tests.
  • There were 2,484 cases Dec. 24 out of 11,479 tests.
  • There were 2,010 cases Dec. 23 out of 11,549 tests.
  • 349 Albertans were in hospital with COVID-19, including 57 in ICU. 
  • There were 11 new deaths included in the updated numbers released Wednesday. A total of 3,310 Albertans have died of COVID-19.
  • 336,917 Albertans have recovered. 
  • A total of 7,025 Omicron cases have been reported in the province. More than half — 4,149 — are in Calgary. 
  • Daily updates to the government’s pandemic tracking dashboard have been slowed over the holidays. New data will be provided next on Jan. 4 (so the charts in this story will have gaps in data throughout the week).
  • Alberta has seen a precipitous rise in COVID-19 cases over the holidays — with more than 5,000 new cases in a five-day period, prompting a warning that now is the time to stop the spread from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, and Premier Jason Kenney at the latest provincial update, on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Hinshaw warned Tuesday she expects the active case count from government PCR tests are “just the tip of the iceberg” because they do not include people who haven’t been tested or who have confirmed their cases through rapid tests at home. 
  • In Calgary and Edmonton, about one in three people going for a PCR test are positive.
  • Experts and the government have acknowledged that future tallies of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta will be greatly underreported, after the government changed its testing protocols in response to the anticipated surge of cases tied to the more highly infectious Omicron variant.
    • On Dec. 23,  the government urged Albertans to avoid getting a PCR test if possible to preserve limited lab capacity for tracking outbreaks in high-risk settings such as continuing care. Instead, it now recommends home rapid antigen testing kits for people with symptoms, except for some priority groups. 
    • People who get a positive rapid test kit result are now told to consider it to be a COVID-19 confirmation; people who are feeling symptomatic are also told the same. They’re being told to isolate and notify their close contacts. 

Watch | Alberta’s top doctor says Omicron cases spreading too fast to ID with testing:

Omicron cases ‘just the tip of the iceberg,’ Dr. Hinshaw says

1 day ago

Duration 1:16

Dr. Hinshaw says Albertans should assume that someone infected with the Omicron variant is in every public place. She said in the fourth wave, the province’s tests caught about one out of every six cases, but testing can’t maintain that ratio any longer. 1:16

  • On Tuesday, Kenney advised people to reconsider their New Year’s Eve plans amid the spike in COVID-19 cases, as well as urging eligible Albertans to get their vaccinations and booster shots as well as using rapid testing before attending gatherings.

The latest on rapid testing, restrictions, outbreaks and more:

  • Kenney said Tuesday that Alberta doesn’t plan to follow Quebec’s lead in allowing some health-care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or come in close contact with a confirmed case to remain on the job to protect hospital capacity. However, he didn’t entirely rule it out.
  • Earlier in the month, in anticipation of anticipated demand from soaring Omicron variant cases, the province directed Alberta Health Services to allow any unimmunized physicians and staff who want to return to work to do so, with participation in a temporary testing program
    • This affected approximately 1,400 full- and part-time staff who are not fully immunized, who have previously been placed on unpaid leave. Testing will be at staff expense. 
  • The government is also reviewing whether to adjust the 10-day isolation protocol for vaccinated individuals with COVID-19, Kenney said Tuesday. He noted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its recommendation to a five-day isolation period followed by five days wearing masks in public if asymptomatic. He said there could be a decision on this later in the week.
  • Another one million rapid tests bought by Alberta have arrived and another three million will arrive next week, Kenney said. The province bought its own 10 million rapid tests, he said.

WATCH: How to perform the rapid antigen test:

How to use a take home COVID-19 test kit

13 days ago

Duration 1:51

With the province releasing home rapid COVID-19 test kits, Edmonton pharmacist Shivali Sharma shows CBC’s Pippa Reed how to use one properly. 1:51

  • New public health restrictions in Alberta took effect on Dec. 24. They include:
    • Venues in the Restrictions Exemption Program that seat more than 1,000 people are to be at 50 per cent capacity. For venues with capacity of 500 to 1,000 occupants, 500 people is the limit. No food or drink can be consumed in these venues.
    • Restaurants, pubs and bars are to have a maximum table capacity of 10 people. Mingling between tables and interactive activities like dancing or billiards are not permitted.
    • They must stop serving liquor at 11 p.m. and close at 12:30 a.m.
    • Hinshaw strongly urged people scale back their gatherings, but acknowledged gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed.
    • The tightened restrictions came after Kenney loosened private social gathering restrictions on Dec. 15, scrapping the rule that only people from two households can get together indoors. He said social gatherings could consist of people from any household, but shouldn’t exceed 10 people (not counting those under age 18). He also dropped the requirement that everyone at indoor social gatherings be fully vaccinated
    • Alberta has had a restrictions exemption programa voluntary vaccine passport system, in place as of Sept. 20 after suffering through a disastrous fourth wave of COVID-19. A full list of restrictions and exemptions is available on the government’s website. 

  • The Omicron variant has prompted several post-secondary institutions across the province to return to online learning for the first few weeks of the winter term.
  • This includes the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University, University of Lethbridge, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Mount Royal University.

WATCH | What is the Omicron variant? Infectious disease expert Craig Jenne simplifies what the variant is:

What is the Omicron variant?

12 days ago

Duration 5:00

Infectious disease expert Craig Jenne simplifies what the variant is, and what it means for the latest round in our battle against COVID. 5:00

The latest on vaccines:

  • As of Dec. 29, Alberta placed last of all provinces and territories in terms of the percentage of eligible people (ages five and up) who had received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker
    • 72.3 per cent of the province’s total population — or 76.8 per cent of eligible Albertans (ages five years and older) — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
    • 78.7 per cent of the province’s total population, and 83.5 per cent of those ages five and older, have received at least one dose.
    • That compares with 82.5 per cent of the total population Canada-wide that has received at least one dose of vaccine, and 76.6 per cent of the total population that has been fully vaccinated. Among those eligible across the country, 86.8 per cent have had one dose, and 80.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
    • In Calgary, the city’s mobile vaccination clinics will continue into 2022. The program was set to conclude at the end of this year, but due to Omicron it will be extended. Two mobile vaccination clinics are currently in use. 

  • Starting Dec. 21, the Alberta government announced that anyone aged 18 and older who received their second COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago could now book a third dose.
  • Boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be offered to Albertans 18 to 29 years of age due to a slightly increased risk of myocarditis in younger Albertans, especially males, from Moderna — although the government emphasizes that individuals are much more likely to experience myocarditis from COVID-19 infection than from the vaccine.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the latest detailed regional breakdown of active cases, as reported by the province on Dec. 29:

  • Calgary zone: 9,293.
  • Edmonton zone: 6,216.
  • Central zone: 687.
  • North zone: 597.
  • South zone: 471.
  • Unknown: 132.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

The latest updates on COVID-19 in Alberta in charts and graphs:

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