Alberta reduces its reporting of COVID-19 outbreaks

The withdrawal of outbreak reporting comes the same week, Alberta changed the availability of receiving a PCR test

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COVID-19 outbreaks outside high-risk environments will no longer be publicly reported, Health Director Dr. Deena Hinshaw Thursday.

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She said outbreaks in acute and persistent care settings, as well as community housing, will continue to be reported every Tuesday and Friday when there are two or more cases in a facility. The province will no longer report other outbreaks.

“Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and the proliferation of Omicron, Alberta Health Services is focusing its case investigation resources only on cases in high-risk environments. This includes hospitals, care facilities and other assembly environments such as shelters and penitentiary facilities.” said Hinshaw. “This approach is consistent with what other provinces are doing given the dramatic increase in cases.”

Hinshaw urged all workplaces to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention practices and ensure that employees can stay home when they are ill.

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The change takes effect Friday. Alberta Health spokesman Jason Maloney said the province will move to a new approach to reporting school outbreaks. He said more details will be shared when available.

Hinshaw said another change is coming soon and advised all Albertans who do not have access to a printer to make sure they can get a copy of their COVID-19 vaccine records with a QR code.

The withdrawal of outbreak reporting comes the same week Alberta changed the availability of receiving a PCR test. Hinshaw announced it on Monday only high-risk individuals will be able to receive such a test, once again citing the high spread of Omicron as the cause.

On Thursday, Hinshaw announced that pregnant Albertans with COVID-19 symptoms may request a PCR test. Albertans who are not eligible to receive a PCR test are encouraged to use a rapid antigen test at home.

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“Not having access to the same level of detail and data can feel disorienting. Not having access to test for mild symptoms can be frustrating, “Hinshaw said.” We still have hospitalization data for acute caregivers who will be similar to previous waves. We also have wastewater data that can show societal trends independent of test access, and most importantly, we have the opportunity to access vaccines and follow public health measures. “

Maloney said the provincial PCR testing capacity has held about 15,000 tests a day throughout the pandemic. He said there is potential to create wave capacity, but it is unsustainable in the long run.

“Widespread vaccination has led to several mild and asymptomatic cases in society that can best be managed with basic public health measures such as self-isolation,” Maloney said.

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AHS spokeswoman Kerry Williamson said steps are being taken to increase the capacity of PCR testing, including relocating staff and adding more shifts to deal with increased demand.

“However, we do not have as many staff available for extra work as we did earlier in the pandemic,” Williamson said. “Our focus is on providing sufficient resources to meet the current requirements for PCR testing, which is available to the highest risk groups, and provide results to those being tested within 24 hours.”

Alberta on Thursday reported 6,010 new cases from 14,347 tests. Active cases rose to 62,733 while there are 786 people in the hospital, up from 748 on Wednesday. There are 79 people on intensive care, a drop of three from Wednesday.

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It is assumed that the actual number of cases may be as high as 10 times the amount reported by the province.

Hinshaw reported eight more deaths Thursday.

Prime Minister Jason Kenney said that given the large number of cases in the province, he expects hospitalizations to continue to grow. Speaking with Hinshaw on Thursday, he said that given how the waves have taken shape in other jurisdictions, he is ‘hoping’ that Alberta is on the last half of the top of Omicron.

“But, as Dr. Hinshaw says, the numbers are just huge,” Kenney said.

Kenney stressed once again the importance of the Albertans getting their vaccines and booster shots. He said about 70 percent of people in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

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NDP health critic David Shepherd responded to Thursday’s update by saying the government needs to do more to encourage young people and communities that have not had good uptake of the vaccine to get their shots.

“We need to deal with the rapid spread of this highly contagious variant among the lowest vaccinated population. In fact, he admitted that his government would do nothing new to address these pressing challenges when asked if the prime minister had plans to set up a system to ensure barriers are removed for families to have children vaccinated, Shepherd said. .

“Jason Kenney and the UCP continue to do the absolute minimum to ensure that vulnerable Albertans have access to vaccinations. The Albertans deserve better.”

dshort@postmedia.com

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