Alberta Chief Medicial Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 19 deaths due to the COVID-19 virus. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta Chief Medicial Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 19 deaths due to the COVID-19 virus. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

19 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, 1,301 additional cases

Central zone has 1,391 active cases of the virus

Alberta reported an additional 1,301 cases of COVID-19, as the province nears 900 deaths from the virus.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw expressed remorse for families who lost loved ones during the pandemic, as she announced that 19 deaths had been reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 890.

“This time of year can be especially painful for those mourning the loss of a loved one and my thoughts are with you,” Hinshaw said.

Alberta now has 17,821 active cases of the virus, down 490 cases from Tuesday. The province completed over 19,000 COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours and has a test positivity rate of 6.8 per cent.

There are 821 people in hospital across the province, with 146 in the ICU.

The central zone has 1,391 active cases, with 79 people in the hospital, including 10 in the ICU.

Red Deer sits at 358 active cases and has 944 recovered.

Red Deer County has 78 active cases, Lacombe County has 41 active, Mountain View County has 33 and Kneehill County has 22 active. Clearwater County has 36 active.

Lacombe has 24 active, Sylvan Lake has 20 active and Olds has 29 active.

Camrose has 55 active, Camrose County has 17 active.

Ponoka County, The County of Wetaskiwin and Wetaskiwin have 476 active cases combined.

As COVID-19 cases plateau in Alberta, Hinshaw said there is some new hope with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Health Canada approved that vaccine Wednesday it is expected to ship out to the provinces soon. Exact delivery dates for Alberta are still being determined.

“The incoming arrival of a second vaccine is good, but it also does not change the seriousness of our current situation,” she said.

Hinshaw also said that recent evidence suggests there is a small amount of in-school transmission of COVID-19 in the province.

She said as case numbers rose in schools throughout November, they saw a plateau in late December.

She said after the new restrictions were put in place across the province in certain communities, and elementary students were still in school, cases for that age group, as well as junior and senior high students, seemed to plateau.

She said that indicates it is other activities, like sports and recreation groups or within the community, where school-age children are picking up the virus.

“The school model in place is protective against in-school transmission. Instead, it seems it is mainly all the other in-person activities that children undertake that are exposing them to the virus and allowing them to spread COVID-19,” she said.