Alberta reported three more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday and 173 new cases of the illness.
Across the province there were 1,596 active cases, an increase of 14 from the day before.
Hospitals are treating 64 patients with COVID-19, including 12 people in ICU beds.
One of recent deaths involved a patient at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. The other two were a man in his 80s from the Edmonton zone who was not a resident in continuing care and a man in his 90s from Millwoods Shepherd’s Care Centre in Edmonton.
That brings the death toll to 270 since the start of the pandemic.
Alberta Health reported outbreaks of at least two cases at 52 schools, including seven schools now on the watch list with five or more cases.
In 11 schools, public health officials found evidence of in-school transmission; with nine of those schools limited to a single case.
“We continue to monitor the spread of the virus in school cases and watch the developments in other provinces,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday at a news conference.
“It is particularly challenging right now, as we are starting to see the impacts of the usual increase in rhinovirus and enterovirus infections that typically happen at this time of year.
Steady rise seen in cold viruses
Those two viruses are key players in the common cold, she said, and since the middle of August the province has seen steady rise in number of people with such infections.
“These infections are almost always mild, but the symptoms are identical to what a mild COVID infection looks like, so it is not possible to tell them apart without testing,” Hinshaw said.
“That is part of the reason why, despite refocusing our testing on symptomatic Albertans and those in priority asymptomatic groups, we have not seen our test numbers go down.
“We are entering cold and flu season and we must all be prepared. To prepare our health system, we shifted our testing approach two weeks ago to help support the increase in people with COVID-like symptoms who needed testing.”
Alberta has ordered 1.96 million doses of influenza vaccine this year, a record for the province and more than 20 per cent more than last year, she said.
The province’s immunization program of the general public begins on Oct. 19. The week before, health practitioners will begin outreach to continuing care centres to help ensure their residents are immunized as quickly as possible.
High-dose influenza vaccine
For the first time, Alberta will offer a high-dose influenza vaccine for residents of provincially-funded long-term care beds who are 65 and older, Hinshaw said.
“I am strongly urging all Albertans, especially seniors and those who are high risk, to get immunized when this program starts later this month. Do it for yourself and do it for those around you.
“When you get immunized you protect not just your own health but the health of your loved ones, as well as more vulnerable seniors, young children and those with chronic health conditions. By keeping the number of influenza cases low, you will also help our health system focus on the COVID response.”
The regional breakdown of active cases on Thursday was:
- Edmonton zone: 851 cases.
- Calgary zone: 587 cases.
- North zone: 102 cases.
- South zone: 32 cases.
- Central zone: 19 cases.
- Unknown: five cases.
A line graph charting active cases of the COVID-19 in Alberta reveals some key dates and trends.
The graph peaked on April 30, when there were 2,994 active cases across the province. From that day, the numbers declined steadily and finally dropped below 1,000 on May 14.
Then came what might be called the summer lull, when case numbers remained below the thousand mark until July 18, when they reached 1,019.
Since then, over the past 10 weeks, active cases have never again dropped below 1,000. There were 1,582 reported across the province on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Alberta Health Services said it is contacting about 5,000 people whose negative test results were not successfully delivered by the automated text message or autodialer systems between Sept. 10 and Sept. 29.
The error that caused the problem was identified and corrected on Sept. 29, AHS said in a news release.
People whose results were affected will receive phone calls or text messages from AHS.
“Only those with negative results will have been impacted, as all positive results are followed up by a direct phone call from AHS,” the news release said.
During that time period, more than 224,000 COVID-19 test results were delivered by text and autodialer.
The error affected less than three per cent of all results, AHS said.