Alberta’s Omicron cases are almost doubled – BoilingNews


‘I think we still need to send the message home that you need to be vaccinated, you want to be vaccinated’

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An intensive care physician in Alberta says the provincial government should expand eligibility for booster shots as soon as possible, as the reported number of cases of Omicron COVID-19 variants in the province nearly doubled on Thursday.

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Provincial data show there have been 119 cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant found in Alberta, up from 60 cases identified on Wednesday. Medical Director Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter that the 59 new cases were from three-day trials: December 12, 13 and 14.

“Our laboratory has switched to a faster testing process for the Omicron variant, which means that today we report a large number of Omicron cases coming from several days at once,” Hinshaw tweeted. “I would like to assure Albertans that we are closely monitoring developments around this variant and that further measures are in place to help curb the spread.”

The Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, has been shown to be more virulent and contagious than other strains of COVID-19, including the Delta variant, which fueled the fourth wave that put Alberta’s health system under extreme pressure. At a news conference Wednesday, Hinshaw said Omicron could bring a fifth wave to the province and again put more pressure on hospitals.

It is not yet known what that wave will look like, as there is a chance that Omicron may cause milder disease; However, World Health Organization officials have warned against characterizing the disease caused by the virus as mild.

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Raiyan Chowdhury, an ICU physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, said the government should look into expanding who is eligible to receive a third-dose COVID-19 vaccine. He said current data show that the two standard doses may not be enough to prevent Omicron from spreading.

“The one thing that seems to make a difference is the booster,” Chowdhury said. “This is probably where the government can make a big difference, pushing that booster to the people as quickly as possible.”

Prime Minister Jason Kenney announced on Wednesday that anyone 50 years or older who received their second shot at least six months ago can book an appointment to receive a third dose. First Nations, Metis and Inuit Albertans over the age of 18 can also receive a third shot. Kenney said demand for third shots is expected to exceed the province’s current supply, while calling for more doses from the federal government.

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Kenney also announced Wednesday that the county would remove a restriction on indoor gatherings that previously limited them to individuals from a maximum of two households. Now 10 people from any number of households can be gathered, and children under the age of 12 do not count in the maximum number of gatherings. Unvaccinated Albertans are now allowed to gather in groups of up to 10. Before Wednesday, unvaccinated persons were prohibited from attending indoor gatherings.

Chowdhury said the removal of the two-household border made sense as he suspected the rule was inconsistent with what was happening in reality. He said, however, that removing restrictions around unvaccinated people could send the wrong message.

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“I think we still need to send the message home that you need to be vaccinated, you want to be vaccinated,” Chowdhury said.

Earlier Thursday, NDP health critic David Shepherd called on Alberta’s government to release extensive modeling around what the spread of Omicron could look like in Alberta. He also called on Alberta to expand who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

“While other provinces share data and warn people of what is to come, we get nothing in Alberta. Either the prime minister and his government have models that they refuse to share, or they make these decisions without data to back them up. For the sake of our province, I have to believe in the former, ”Shepherd said.

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Shepherd also called for restrictions to be re-implemented after Wednesday’s changes.

NDP health critic David Shepherd during a press conference in Edmonton on Tuesday, September 28, 2021.
NDP health critic David Shepherd during a press conference in Edmonton on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. Photo by David Bloom / Postmedia

Harrison Fleming, the prime minister’s press secretary, said on Thursday that Quebec was following Alberta’s trail towards Omicron, bringing indoor gatherings to a limit of 10 people.

“We are pleased to see that other provinces are following in our footsteps in this area. For further action, we are taking advice from our Chief of Health,” Fleming said in an email.

Faced with a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, Quebec on Thursday implemented a number of other restrictions on indoor capacity rules, such as a 50 percent capacity limit at places of worship as well as a 50 percent limit for public activities. The Montreal Canadiens announced they would play their game against the Philadelphia Flyers in front of no fans after public health officials recommended they do so.

Ontario, where there is currently an increase in cases due to Omicron, set a limit for assemblies over 1,000 people, limiting such events to 50 percent capacity. Public health experts in this province urged the government to introduce power outages prior to the holiday.

Alberta on Thursday reported 473 new cases of COVID-19, bringing active infections to 4,212. There are currently 352 people with COVID-19 in the hospital, of which 70 are in intensive care.

– With files from The Canadian Press and Jason Herring

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