Dr. Deena Hinshaw took to the podium for the first time in a month to provide a COVID-19 update today (Wednesday, July 28).

In the past 24 hours, there were 194 new cases with a positivity rate of 2.9 per cent. 

There are 84 people in the hospital and 18 in ICU.

Dr. Hinshaw says the rise in COVID cases is not a surprise.

It was anticipated that with the lifting of restrictions the province would see an increase in COVID-19 cases, especially in unvaccinated people. 

Hinshaw once again stressed the importance of being fully vaccinated with two shots in order to be protected from the fast-spreading Delta variant.

Since July 1, 95 per cent of all cases were in unvaccinated people, 94 per cent of hospitalizations were unvaccinated individuals, and 95 percent of deaths were of unvaccinated people. Having two doses of vaccine has never been more important.

Dr. Hinshaw says, "The threat of this still dangerous virus is shifting while COVID-19 cases may rise in the coming weeks and months, a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely thanks to vaccines. I know that the rise in cases over the last week has created some anxiety in some people after all we have been closely watching case counts for well over a year."

Alberta's top doctor also spoke about coming changes to the COVID-19 response that will be made in the coming weeks.

With strong vaccine uptake, Alberta will gradually bring COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses to ensure the health system is prepared for the fall.  

The following changes will be effective July 29:

  • Quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.
    • Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
    • Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
  • All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
  • Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
  • Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
  • Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
  • Mandatory masking remains in acute and continuing care facilities, publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-share.

The following changes will take effect on Aug. 16:

  • Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.
  • Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but strongly recommended.
    • Individuals with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
    • Staying home when sick remains an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection.
  • Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
  • Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when it is needed to help direct patient care decisions.
    • This testing will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.
    • COVID-19 testing will also be offered as needed in high-risk outbreaks such as in continuing care facilities.
  • Public health will focus on investigating severe cases that require hospitalization and any deaths due to COVID-19.
  • Outbreak management and preventative measures will continue focusing on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
    • Community outbreaks will continue to be addressed as needed.
    • Daycares and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if outbreaks are identified.

For more details go to alberta.ca.