Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to continue following public health guidelines over the long weekend as the province reported another 351 COVID-19 cases Thursday.
That includes 36 new variant cases that were found in samples taken from patients as far back as early February.
“That is our largest 24-hour increase [in variant cases],” Hinshaw said.
She explained that samples positive for COVID-19 are all shipped to Alberta’s reference laboratory where they’re screened for variants of concern. That lab can process about 300 samples a day, so a backlog created from days with high case counts coupled with transportation time is what accounted for the delay.
“What we’ve seen is several days of testing that have come in all at once,” she said.
The province has now seen 156 variant cases, and 93 of them had no ties to travel.
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Another 16 people died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll to 1,744. There are still 397 people in hospital with the virus, including 71 in the ICU.
“We must keep this downward trend occurring,” Hinshaw said.
With the Lunar New Year celebrations, Valentine’s Day, and Family Day all happening this long weekend, Hinshaw remarked that Albertans would usually spend the next few days gathering with family and friends.
She thanked those who are finding different ways of doing it this year.
She asked Albertans to keep indoor gatherings to members of their own household. If Albertans do plan to meet a friend, Hinshaw reminded them to stay outdoors and keep two metres’ distance.
“Our numbers are declining, but this virus is still here and cases can rise quickly if given the chance.”