Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced today (Monday, March 22) that Alberta will not be moving to Step 3 of the Path Forward plan of restriction easement. The move would have meant easement of restrictions for places of worship, museums, movie theatres, art galleries, zoos, casinos, and indoor social gatherings. However, with the rising numbers of active cases and especially a concerning number of variant cases now is not the time to relax the rules. Shandro said, "It is absolutely necessary to help us avoid a third wave that will take more lives and once again put more pressure on the hospital system."
Yes, the province is below the benchmark of 300 hospitalizations, but those numbers have been rising not declining. Shandro voiced concern that the province may see hospitalizations rise to 300 within a week.
"Today, while hospitalizations are indeed below 300 they've risen in recent days. The decline we saw in January and early February has stopped. Alberta now sits at 280 covid hospitalizations which is a rise of 16 from a week ago."
Dr. Hinshaw spoke to the fact that although 488,000 Albertans have been vaccinated, that is not enough to ensure a safe transition to Step 3. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the vaccine could not catch up if restrictions were eased. "Eighty-eight percent of those in ICU right now because of COVID-19 are younger than 65 years of age. Our current immunization program has not yet moved to offer the vaccine to those under 65 with high-risk conditions and even if after receiving the vaccine, it takes about two weeks for the shot to provide protection."
Monday's COVID-19 numbers were as follows.
- There were 456 new cases in the past 24 hours with 7,500 tests performed for a positivity rate of 6.1%.
- There were 110 new cases of variants of concern identified. Variants are now accounting for 16% of new cases as opposed to 11% last week.
- There are alerts or outbreaks in 339 schools in the province or 14% of schools.
- There are 280 people in the hospital and 48 in ICU.
- Five new deaths were reported.
- Stoney Nakoda is reporting two new cases for a total of 13 active cases. Rocky View County is reporting 61 active cases.
- Cochrane is now sitting at 23 active cases.