Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

COVID cases increase by about 800 on Thursday

AHS no longer able to keep up with contact tracing: Hinshaw

The provincial government was still having trouble with its COVID-19 reporting system and was only able to present approximate numbers Thursday.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said her team has been working to fix technical bugs in the data, but that issue was not resolved Thursday.

She did say the province had about 800 cases identified in the past 24 hours, and unless the numbers drop dramatically, the government needs to enact stricter measures.

Hinshaw explained one concerning aspects of the data is how many Albertans have attended work or social gatherings while symptomatic.

“We must protect our health system by reducing community transmission. The fact we are now reporting 800 new cases is extremely concerning,” Hinshaw said.

“It is most concerning that the measures we introduced 10 days ago, which may have helped cases plateau over the last two days, are not having enough of an effect.

“It means in seven to 10 days from now, our hospital numbers will rise further, which means care for Albertans with other issues, besides COVID, will be impacted.”

Hinshaw explained that by far the No. 1 driver in new cases is spread in households and private gatherings. She said about 40 per cent of current cases in Calgary and Edmonton, as of Wednesday, were exposed in their household or private event.

“If we could reduce cases in this area alone, then we would be quickly able to bend the curve back down,” she said, adding many cases also have no known source.

With cases rising, Alberta Health Services no longer has the capacity to reach out to every known contact in a reasonable time frame. That prompted Hinshaw to issue an interim measure: AHS will be focusing contract tracing on high-priority settings only.

“Every confirmed case will still get a call from AHS to identify whether they have a link to a high-priority setting, like a continuing care facility, health setting or school,” she said.

Hinshaw added Thursday that more than 45 municipalities are on watch, with 50 active cases per 100,000 people. She added that more than 29 have over 100 cases per 100,000 people.

The Alberta government was unable to provide updated numbers for the central zone Thursday. Wednesday, the zone had 224 cases.

As of Wednesday’s update, Red Deer has 63 active COVID cases, up from 60 reported earlier in the week.

The City of Wetaskiwin was at 25 active cases, and the County of Wetaskiwin has one active.

The City of Camrose was at 19 active cases and Camrose County had two active.

Lacombe has eight active cases and Lacombe County sits at three active. Sylvan Lake is at seven active cases of the virus and Olds has three active cases.

Rocky Mountain House has four active and Mountain View County sits at seven active.

Kneehill County has 12 active cases.

Earlier Thursday, three COVID-19 cases were reported at two Red Deer schools.

Two cases were diagnosed in individuals from Normandeau School, and one case was diagnosed at Hunting Hills High School.

Red Deer Public Schools said letters were issued to families to ensure they were notified first.

The school district is working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure necessary measures are in place to protect all students.

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