Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Sunday, May 15

EDITOR’S NOTE: Throughout the pandemic, case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing done by provincial bodies like Alberta Health Services, but those testing protocols have shifted to prioritize high-priority groups and people in higher risk settings. In Alberta there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests, meaning many people with COVID-19 aren’t reflected in the data.

As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case counts in our coverage, in favour of data and metrics that experts now say are more illuminating — including hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring. 


The latest:

  • Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping and the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, gave an update on COVID-19 in the province on May 11. 
  • The province’s most recently released COVID-19 figures were for the period of May 3 to May 9. 
  • As of the end of day on Monday, 1,225 people were in hospital with COVID, down from 1,267 last week. 
  • There were 37 in intensive care, down from 46 last week. 
  • The province reported 70 new COVID deaths between May 3 and May 9. A total of 4,391 Albertans have died of the disease.
  • There were 4,551 new cases reported out of 21,906 tests. The case count includes only those who test positive on a PCR test, which most Albertans can’t access.
  • The average positivity rate was 20.72 per cent, compared with last week’s 22.98 per cent. 
  • In a news conference on May 11, Hinshaw said the rate of COVID-19 deaths should go down following the decline of other indicators like hospitalizations and wastewater numbers. That said, Hinshaw added the disease will remain with us in various future waves. “We should expect that it will return potentially in the fall with other respiratory viruses.”
  • Copping said Wednesday he expects to see a rise in the number of Albertans getting the fourth dose of their vaccine in the coming weeks as they become eligible.
  • As of May 4, the province is now allowing community providers, such as family physicians, to prescribe Paxlovid to those eligible for the COVID-19 treatment. A positive rapid test will now be accepted to confirm COVID-19 infection in order to prescribe Paxlovid.
  • Politicians and health officials have yet to label the most recent surge a “sixth wave,” despite statements from doctors and scientists that it is here.
  • On April 27, Hinshaw said Canada will stop the use of AstraZeneca products after this week with respect to COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The province has received 10,000 doses of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid, which is described as a “two-dose protein subunit vaccine that does not use mRNA technology and is approved for those 18 and older.” 

Wastewater monitoring:

The Y axis denotes the number of SARS-CoV2 RNA particles detected in each sample. The numbers show the first number multiplied by 10 to the power of the small number above. For example 2.1 x 10¹⁵ written out in full is 2,100,000,000,000,000 or 2.1 quadrillion RNA particles detected. (Rob Easton/CBC)

The Y axis denotes the number of SARS-CoV2 RNA particles detected per millilitre of wastewater. This chart should only be interpreted as a measure of progress against itself and not used to compare with other cities or measurement sites. (Rob Easton/CBC)

  • Alberta data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Health Informatics shows the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater. The data is updated publicly three times a week. 
  • Levels in both Calgary and Edmonton have been declining since roughly the third week of April.
  • The virus is shed in peoples’ feces before symptoms arise, so values in the data associate strongest with cases occurring six days after the samples are collected.
  • A note on reading wastewater charts: Numbers taken from different wastewater treatment facilities use different testing and collection methods. Because of this, comparisons across cities cannot be made directly and one should assess only the trends. For example, there is an upward trend in the readings in both Edmonton and Calgary, but one cannot say whether levels are higher in one city or the other.

The latest on restrictions: 

  • Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan. 
  • This phase removes indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, removal of capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings lifted and mandatory work from home lifted. 
  • Masking is still required in high-risk settings including Alberta Health Services-operated and contracted facilities, all continuing care settings, and on municipal transit services. The rule does not cover private services such as taxis or Uber trips.
  • As of Feb. 14, there are no masking requirements for children and youth 12 years old and younger and no masking requirements for children and youth in schools for any age.
  • Stage 1 took effect Feb. 16 and removed the restrictions exemption program
  • Premier Jason Kenney says the province is working toward a third stage, which does not have a date, where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak protocols will be lifted in continuing care facilities. 
  • Copping said the stages are all conditions-based approaches, based on hospitalization trends. 

Vaccinations:

  • According to Alberta Health, 77 per cent of the province’s population — or 86.9 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • According to the latest statistics from Alberta Health, 44.2 per cent of Albertans 12 and up have had three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • As of April 12, all Albertans age 70 and older, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta age 65 and older, and all seniors in congregate care can receive a fourth dose of vaccine. 
  • Children from six to 11 have the option of getting the Moderna vaccine as of April 12. 

Hospitalizations by region:

As of end of day on May 9, there were 1,225 Albertans in hospital with COVID.  

  • Calgary zone: 454.
  • Edmonton zone: 413.
  • Central zone: 157.
  • North zone: 118.
  • South zone: 83.




Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

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