COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
Checked against delivery.
Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon, everyone.
Before I get to our COVID numbers, I would like to provide an update on two other public health matters.
First, I’d like to provide an update on severe acute hepatitis in children, particularly as this week, a number of possible cases were announced in Ontario.
Alberta has been working closely with federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor emerging information.
We have also been working to align our reporting criteria with other provinces and territories – in this case, the current World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada definitions.
This will allow us to consistently report case information to the federal government, and help contribute to the global body of work to understand more about this condition.
Late last week, Alberta shared information with clinicians in this province on what to look for, and how to report acute severe hepatitis of unknown cause in children.
We are currently in the early days of working to gather information, and there have been two possible cases reported to us in Alberta youth under the age of 16.
Due to patient confidentiality, we will not be providing identifying details, however, I can report that:
- one individual has been treated, discharged from hospital and is doing well, and
- one remains in hospital undergoing treatment.
It is important to remember that the definition for possible cases is very broad, which means that any child with severe liver inflammation for whom a cause is not found is being counted.
There are many causes of hepatitis, and it can take time to investigate to determine if there is a known cause.
This means that a case may initially present in one of these possible unknown cause categories, but after further investigation or testing, a diagnosis may be determined.
If that happens, the case would be removed from the possible case count.
I’d like to make it clear to parents that this reporting does not necessarily mean there is an elevated risk in the community, or that you should take different steps if your children are sick.
If you have concerns about your child for any reason, as you typically would, please seek care for them.
If there is an infectious cause of these hepatitis cases, precautions like regular hand-washing and staying away from anyone who is ill will be helpful.
These precautions are also important to take for other reasons, like the late-season rise in influenza cases.
Unfortunately, I am sad to report that there have been three deaths due to influenza this year.
My sympathies are with those who have lost a loved one.
Severe outcomes from influenza and other infections are always possible, especially for those with risk factors like older age or other health issues.
The timing of the influenza season is later than normal, likely because the protective measures that were in place for COVID throughout the winter were extremely effective at stopping the spread of influenza.
As influenza infections are now rising, simple actions such as keeping our hands clean and staying home when feeling unwell continue to be important in protecting ourselves and others from many contagious illnesses.
Turning to today’s update…
Between Tuesday, May 3rd and Monday, May 9th, our PCR test positivity rate ranged from 16.8 to 26.1 per cent with an average of 20.7 per cent for the week.
And as the Minister mentioned, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 decreased from the previous week.
Currently, there are 1,225 people with COVID in hospital, including 37 in the ICU.
Sadly, between May 3rd and May 9th, 70 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health, an average of 10 per day.
My condolences go to the loved ones of these Albertans and to anyone who has lost someone they cared about, no matter the cause.
These severe outcomes show us that this virus continues to pose a significant risk to many in our province – especially those who have not yet been vaccinated or have not received all doses they are eligible for.
More than one vaccine dose is required for many diseases to build and maintain strong immunity as protection can wear off over time. Other viruses may change or mutate over time, making the original vaccine against them less effective.
That’s why booster shots or additional doses are strongly recommended for various vaccines.
This is true for the COVID-19 vaccine and others such as influenza, tetanus and pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
The evidence is clear for those diseases and COVID-19 that more than one dose is required to maintain a high level of protection over time.
This is especially true for older Albertans. The data shows us that in the last four months, Albertans between the ages of 60 and 79 with no vaccine are more than 17 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID than those with three doses of vaccine.
And those in this age group with no vaccine were around 25 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU with Covid in the last four months, compared to those with three doses.
These numbers make a compelling case for getting every dose you’re eligible for to avoid the worst outcomes this disease can bring.
As long as it’s been five months since your second dose of vaccine and you are 12 years old or older, you can receive your third dose today.
And as Minister Copping mentioned, we strongly recommend those who are eligible to receive a fourth dose, or make arrangements to get one as soon as five months have passed since your third.
No matter what dose you’re receiving, vaccines continue to be available across the province by appointment or on a walk in basis.
This not only helps you to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill, but also reduces the impact on our health care system when as many people as possible enhance their protection.
Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.