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Alberta hits high COVID positivity rate; premier calls for Albertans to do their part

Detailed COVID-19 numbers for the province will be available Dec. 29.
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Premier Jason Kenney addresses Albertans during a press statement on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. SCREENSHOT/Photo

Premier Jason Kenney encouraged Albertans to "band together and do the right thing," on Tuesday afternoon, a day after COVID-19 case numbers across Canada climbed above the two-million mark. 

In a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 28, Kenney asked Albertans to do their part to stave off the potential worst consequences of the fifth COVID wave after reporting an approximate 22-per-cent positivity rate in the province.

“As you finalize your plans for New Year's Eve and the rest of the holiday season, I urge you to reconsider your plans in light of the situation that we find ourselves in now," said the premier.

“Follow the restrictions in place and please don't look for loopholes. Keep your gatherings small and don't congregate with more than nine other adults. Get the vaccine dose you're eligible for and utilize one of the free rapid test kits available,” he said.

Alberta has had the highest positivity rate over the past five days than it has had in any other previous wave.

“That is 100-per-cent higher than just a week ago, and 450-per-cent higher than the four-per-cent average positivity rate that we saw through much of December,” Kenney said.

The approximate number of cases confirmed in Alberta over the last 24 hours is about 1,400 out of about 6,500 tests performed.

Despite rising case numbers, Kenney said high vaccine rates put Alberta in a better position today than the province was during any previous wave of COVID.

Kenney said the first million rapid tests of the 10 million purchased will arrive in the province this week and another three million will arrive next week. These will continue to be available in pharmacies and at select Alberta Health Services sites.

Finally, Kenney asked Albertans to reduce in-person contacts by at least half.

"Do everything you can to break the chain of transmission in this fifth wave," he said.

Despite the spike in new cases, hospitalizations have remained relatively stable in the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said during the Dec. 28 press conference.

As of Monday, Dec. 27, Canada reported 2,026,399 total cases of the virus.

Detailed data for the province was not available Tuesday. 

The province plans to post a breakdown of case numbers from Dec. 24 to Dec. 28 on Wednesday, Dec. 29, according to Hinshaw, who announced the reporting change on Dec. 23 to give teams a break for the holidays.

As of Dec. 23, the province had reported 1,625 new cases, with a positivity rate of 13.6 per cent.

Omicron transmission has consistently doubled every two to three days in jurisdictions around the world, including across Alberta.

During an update on Dec. 23, Hinshaw said symptomatic Albertans should use rapid tests, if they have access, instead of going for a PCR test, which she said is not to be used for asymptomatic testing for close contacts.

As case numbers grow, the province has opted to conserve testing capacity and reserve PCR tests for higher-risk groups.

High-priority groups include those who live or work in continuing care or health or those who qualify for COVID antibody treatment because of a clinical condition, Hinshaw said on Dec. 23.

Also on Dec. 23, in anticipation of the Omicron variant's demand on the health system, the province directed Alberta Health Services to provide unimmunized physicians and staff the option of temporary frequent COVID-19 testing — now available to any unimmunized staff who want to return to work.

Testing will be available at the staff member's expense. Unimmunized staff must provide proof of a negative Health Canada-approved COVID-19 test completed no more than 48 hours before each working shift, said the Dec. 23 press statement.

The policy will be reviewed by the end of March 2022.

As of Dec. 23, about 1,400 unimmunized staff had been placed on unpaid leave.

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