Monday marked three weeks since Alberta began Step 2 of its “Path Forward” plan, meaning a decision was expected today about moving into Step 3 restrictions.
Step 3 would see restrictions relaxed for places of worship, and adult and youth team sports. It would reopen museums, movie theatres, and art galleries, along with zoos, casinos, and bingo halls.
It would also allow private indoor social gatherings, with restrictions.
“This is a significant step that would touch every part of our province,” said Minister of Health Tyler Shandro in a briefing on Monday afternoon. “It would also create new opportunities for the virus to spread in our communities.”
Shandro was clear that, since the “Path Forward” plan was announced in January, moving to Step 3 would be considered only when hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients was under 300 and declining.
“Hospitalizations must be on a clear downward trajectory,” said Shandro.
“While hospitalizations have remained below 300, they’ve risen in recent days. Today’s number of 280 hospitalizations is an increase of 16 from a week ago.”
Based on transmission rates, the province expects 300 people to be in hospital within the next week and, as such, the Alberta government has decided not to move to Step 3 at this time.
“This is the safe move, it’s the smart move to make for our province right now, and it’s absolutely necessary to help us avoid a third wave,” said Shandro.
“The reality is that, given recent case numbers, and [that] the number of people in hospital due to COVID is likely to go back over the 300 threshold in the next week, it would be irresponsible and unfair to Albertans to ease measures now only to reinstate them a few days later.”
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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 during Monday’s briefing. This raises the province’s active case count to 6,176.
There are currently 280 people in hospital due to the virus, 48 of whom are in intensive care.
The testing positivity rate was 6.1%, which is above the threshold of 5% that’s considered safe to open schools and other community activities.
Five additional deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing Alberta’s death toll to 1,968.
The province has identified 110 new cases of variants of concern, which represents 16% of Alberta’s active cases. This increases the total number of variant COVID-19 cases found in the province to 1,711.
As of March 21, 487,493 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Alberta, with 93,414 individuals having received the 2 doses required to be fully immunized.
Dr. Hinshaw will provide another update on Wednesday afternoon.