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69 more COVID-19 deaths but infection peak may be in sight: health minister

Four Red Deer deaths and 11 in central Alberta
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping says while hospitalizations are increasing there are signs the BA.2 variant may be peaking. (File photo from The Canadian Press) Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping says while hospitalizations are increasing there are signs the BA.2 variant may be peaking. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

While COVID-19 claimed another 69 Albertans and hospitalizations are climbing, there are signs the BA.2 variant may be peaking, said the health minister.

“We are seeing signs that transmission is declining,” said Jason Copping, in his weekly COVID update.

From April 26 to May 2, average positivity rates have fallen to 23 per cent, compared with 25.9 per cent last week. As well, the virus levels detected in wastewater is dropping at most sites, he said.

Copping said BA.2 is having less impact on people’s health than earlier variants thanks to vaccines and prior exposure.

However, hospital admissions are still rising and are expected to continue rising for a few more weeks.

Of the 69 COVID-related deaths, 11 deaths were in central Alberta, four of those in Red Deer. The ages of those who died ranged from 28 to 102.

There have now been 4,321 deaths in Alberta, including 108 in Red Deer, connected with COVID.

Across the province, 1,267 people — up 47 from last week — were in hospital with COVID, including 46 — down one from last week — in intensive care.

A total of 5,735 COVID cases were reported in Alberta over the latest seven-day period, and 570,806 were confirmed so far during the pandemic.

The province is continuing to add capacity to the hospital system, which remains under stress, he said.

“We’re seeing the equivalent of yet another winter peak in patient volumes, especially in EMS and emergency departments.”

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said seasonal flu cases are also on the rise.

“We’re experiencing a rise in seasonal influenza with levels higher than they have been at any time in the past two years,” said Hinshaw, adding the flu is “not ideally matched” to the flu vaccine this year.

Alberta has diagnosed 700 flu cases, the vast majority in the last two months. Sixty-eight people have been hospitalized and three required ICU care.

The same precautions for COVID apply to control the spread of the flu, Hinshaw said. Wash hands regularly, stay home if sick and wear a mask in public if you are vulnerable.

The province also announced on Wednesday it was making it easier for COVID sufferers to get Paxlovid. As of Wednesday, it can now be prescribed to those eligible for the treatment by physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

As well, the results of rapid tests will also be accepted in some circumstances to confirm a COVID-19 infection prior to being prescribed Paxlovid.

In Red Deer, the number of new COVID cases over the previous seven days ending on Monday was 199 — up 17 over the previous seven days. The seven-day case rate is up to 187 per 100,000 people from 171.1.

The total number of Red Deer cases since the pandemic began is now 14,862.

In the Central Zone, there are 177 people — up five from a week ago — in hospital infected with the virus, including four — up one — in the ICU. So, far 554 people have died — up 11 from a week ago — from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began.

In Red Deer County, there were 31 new cases over seven days, down four from the seven days prior.

Sylvan Lake has had 19 new cases, Lacombe 28, Olds 25, Wetaskiwin 14, Camrose 64 and Drumheller 14.

Lacombe County has had 20, Clearwater County 21, County of Stettler 10, Mountain View County 28, Kneehill County five and Camrose County seven.

On the local geographic area setting, Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has had 32 new cases, while Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, had 11 and Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and part of Lacombe County, had six.

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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