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PCR testing, sewage shows COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Alberta

Alberta officials said Tuesday there were continued signs of declining cases of COVID-19 in the province.

From May 10 to May 16, the average PCR positivity rate was just under 20 percent, compared to 23 percent the week before and 25.9 percent the week before.

“This is the third week in a row that we are seeing a drop in positivity rates, meaning there is less virus transmission in Alberta,” said Alberta Minister of Health Jason Copping.

“Our wastewater monitoring program shows the same thing – levels in most centers are declining or fluctuating well below the BA.1 peak.”

Copping found that areas with smaller populations, such as Airdrie, Brooks, Drumheller, Edson, and Grande Prairie, have low wastewater levels; while larger centers like Lethbridge, Edmonton and Calgary are still high, “but (fall)”.

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“All in all, the data shows that we have overcome the BA.2 wave and that is good news,” he said. “But the pressure on the system is still high, with major hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary operating at well over 90 percent occupancy and some at over 100 percent.”

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dr Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the average number of hospitalized patients was also down, at 1,190 patients from 1,225 the week before.

ICU rates have remained stable with 39 Albertans requiring critical care this week compared to 37 last week.

From May 10-15, Alberta Health reported 55 COVID-19-related deaths, or an average of nine per day.

Hinshaw expects the number of deaths to fall slightly behind the decline in positivity and sewage rates in the coming weeks.

“Deaths are usually one of the last indicators to drop. For this reason, this high number of deaths that we have seen in the last few weeks as well as this week, although it is a tragic reminder of the serious impact of this virus, is not unexpected.”

She noted that spring and summer weather in Alberta also accounts for falls, and they could pick up again in the fall.

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“We have to remember that COVID is going to stay with us,” Hinshaw said. “We should expect it to return, especially as we move into the colder months in the fall and early in the season when we traditionally see a surge in respiratory viruses.”

Hinshaw reiterated the point that all Albertans should receive their allowable vaccine doses.

However, she noted that Alberta has yet to lower age requirements for fourth doses after Saskatchewan, which currently offers fourth doses to residents aged 50 and older.

“We continue to review the evidence … about which groups will benefit most from this extra dose,” she said. “Especially when you look again at the risk of serious consequences.

“It’s important for people to remember that (for) those who are younger, the third dose is still very effective in preventing serious consequences.”

In Alberta, the fourth dose is available to all people aged 70 and over, First Nations, Métis and Inuit aged 65 and over, and all seniors in nursing homes regardless of age.

Hinshaw also said Tuesday that serology data from March will be released in the next few weeks, which will detail the number of people in Alberta with COVID-19 antibodies.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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