“The updated COVID-19 data posted June 15 is more good news, especially for the people working in our hospitals, family physicians and other health-care providers. The Omicron wave continues to recede. Wastewater levels are trending down and are near the levels before Omicron in many centres, including Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. The levels are higher in Edmonton and Calgary but trending down. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital continues to drop. The latest total of 719 is less than half the Omicron peak, the lowest since early January, and we expect the numbers to continue to trend down.

“Our hospitals, EMS and other services remain under strain, especially in Edmonton and Calgary, for the same reasons as in other provinces: a wave of patients in recent months due to deferred care over the past two years, large numbers of patients with COVID-19 due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, plus a late season for flu and other respiratory viruses. The pandemic is adding to the strain in other ways, including depleting the workforce and forcing hospitals to ‘block’ beds for infection control. The result is that emergency departments are struggling to keep up even with staff being added across the system, including 800 more staff in emergency departments than before the pandemic.

“All these factors will ease as the Omicron BA.2 wave recedes. Patient volumes are moderating in the five regional centres, where total occupancy ranges from 85 per cent to 91 per cent, the same as or lower than June for the five years before COVID-19 (2015 to 2019). Fort McMurray is the one exception with 85 per cent occupancy, slightly higher than the months of June from 2015 to 2019. Hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary remain under significant pressure, with a couple of sites over 100 per cent, but the strain should ease as the Omicron wave recedes.

“It’s been a tough spring for our health system in Alberta and across Canada. We’ll keep adding capacity to help the system recover from the latest wave of COVID-19, and to give Albertans better access to care.”