Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

How bad is the COVID-19 situation in Alberta?

The province’s top doctor says “we’re in a danger zone.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said the coming weeks will be critical for Albertans.

“The coming weeks will tell that story about whether we’re able collectively to bend that curve downwards by following the guidance that’s already out there or if we tip the wrong way and we see our hospitals fill up and impair our abilities to do elective surgeries and offer services that our healthcare services need to be able to offer that are not COVID related.

“We’re not yet at that point where our system is not able to cope but we’re getting closer.”

The government confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday (2.51 per cent positivity rate) and one additional death. The cases are as of end of day Monday.

The recent death is in the Edmonton zone. To date, 293 deaths have been linked to COVID in Alberta.

There are 116 people in hospitals across the province with the virus including 16 in intensive care.

Hinshaw said the province is watching hospitalization numbers.

“We’re currently at a compounded daily COVID hospitalization rise of 3.1 per cent across the province in the past two weeks which is getting close to the five per cent trigger threshold,” said Hinshaw.

“I’m concerned by the rise, which appears to be driven by the number of factors mainly the increase in community case counts and several hospital outbreaks.”

Central zone active cases went down slightly Tuesday to 145 from previous day’s 148. Three people remain in hospital in the zone. To date, the zone has seen 704 recoveries and 857 confirmed cases.

Over the weekend, a man in his 20s died in the Maskwacis area – central zone’s eighth virus death. The man became the second person in their 20s in Alberta to die with the virus.

The City of Red Deer’s active cases stayed the same Tuesday at 39. The cases are split between Red Deer East (19), Red Deer south west (seven) and 13 in Red Deer north, according to the province’s geospatial local geographic area map.

According to the same map, there are 45 active cases in Wetaskiwin County (Maskwacis), 12 in Lacombe and nearby Lacombe County, 12 in central and north Red Deer County and parts of Lacombe County, one in Rimbey (west Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County), two in Innisfail (south Red Deer County) and four in Olds and north north Mountain View County.

There are seven active cases in Stettler County area and four in Camrose County area.

There are no active cases in Sylvan Lake, Three Hills area, Sundre (west Mountain View County) area, east Ponoka County and Rocky Mountain House (Clearwater County) area.

About eight per cent of schools are on outbreak or alert, with 512 confirmed cases in these schools. Outbreaks are declared in 96 schools, including 26 that are on watch including Hunting Hills High School in Red Deer.

Alberta government is pressing pause on all asymptomatic testing to reduce wait times and speed up results.

Hinshaw said the asymptomatic individuals without known exposures are not significantly driving the spread in Alberta.

“Only about one in 1,000 people with no symptoms and no exposures has tested positive on average in the past seven months,” she said, adding the province needs to focus on testing where it counts.

“In the last week alone, about 30 per cent of all COVID-19 tests that our labs conducted were for Albertans who had no exposure and no symptoms. By removing these from our system, we hope to get Albertans with the highest risk of COVID their results as quickly as possible.”

Hinshaw said the province will continue to test Albertans with symptoms and those with no symptoms but is close contact to a COVID case or is linked to an outbreak.

“These are our top priorities and the people most likely to have COVID-19.”

As of Oct. 20, AHS and pharmacies will not book new appointments for Albertans seeking asymptomatic testing. All existing appointments will be honoured up to Nov. 4.



mamta.lulla@reddeeradvocate.com

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