Local COVID-19 cases remain high at 400-plus

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Strathcona County continues to hover above the 400-mark for active COVID-19 cases.

As of Thursday, April 29, Alberta Health reported 407 active cases of the virus in Strathcona County — 330 in Sherwood Park and 77 in the rural portion of the county.

Since Monday, there have been 78 new active cases in Strathcona County — 63 in Sherwood Park and 15 rural county, and there have been 103 new local recoveries reported since April 26 — 84 in the Park and 19 in the rural area.

According to Alberta Health, the rate of infection in Sherwood Park is 449.1 active case rate per 100,000 population, which is down from previous rates of 458.7 on Wednesday and 477.7 on Monday. The rural county is reporting a 298.6 active case rate per 100K, which is up slightly from the previous 290.9 reported on Wednesday.

In comparison to Edmonton, the Park’s rate of infection is higher for the region as the capital city is reporting 403.2 per 100,000 people. Edmonton reported 4,185 cases on Wednesday.

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The virus has claimed 31 lives in Sherwood Park and five in the rural area; the most recent death was reported in the rural area during the Easter break.

Overall, 2,631 county residents have recovered from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic (2009 in the Park and 622 in the rural area).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,074 residents in Strathcona County have contracted the virus — 2,307 cases in Sherwood Park and 704 in the rural portion of the county.

Targeted public health measures effective Friday for COVID-19 hot spots: Kenney

Alberta unveiled targeted public health measures for COVID-19 hot spots Thursday as the province broke daily new and active case records.

The measures will be effective Friday and apply to municipalities or regions where there are at least 350 cases per 100,000 people and 250 active cases, Premier Jason Kenney announced. This currently includes Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Airdrie, Fort McMurray and Strathcona County.

Grades 7-12 in these communities that have not already done so will be moved to online learning as of Monday, while K-6 students will continue in-classroom learning unless otherwise approved by Alberta Education.

“The restrictions currently in place will not bend the curve fast enough to get this third wave under control before the summer,” Kenney said.

The province will also implement a curfew in places where cases rates are more than 1,000 per 100,000 people, and if a municipality requests it. Details will be announced before any curfew is implemented.

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All indoor fitness activities are prohibited as of Friday, including team sports, fitness classes and training. All indoor recreation facilities must also close.

Outdoor sport, recreation and fitness activities may continue as long as current restrictions are followed.

Restaurants will also be asked to further ensure only members from the same household or two identified close contacts for those who live alone are attending. Kenney said they will work with restaurants on a “plan of action” to ensure people are following the rules.

“We don’t want to turn servers into bylaw officers, but we think there are protocols they can follow,” Kenney said.

Kenney also said the province is taking further measures to ensure Albertans take fines for not following public health orders seriously. For example, someone who does not pay their fine may not be able to renew their driver’s licence.

The restrictions will remain in effect for a minimum of two weeks for any community that meets the trigger threshold, or if numbers drop below 350 active cases per 100,000 people, whichever is longer.

The changes come as Alberta reported 2,048 new cases of COVID-19 and 21,385 active cases on Thursday, the highest either number has been since the beginning of the pandemic.

There are 632 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a decrease of 11 from Thursday. Of those, 151 are in intensive care units, an increase of six.

Over the last 24 hours, 20,582 tests were completed for a positivity rate of about 10.1 per cent.

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Another 1,329 cases of COVID-19 variants were identified. Of the total active cases in the province, 13,460 are variants of concerns, or 62.9 per cent.

Three more deaths raised the provincial death toll to 2,075.

In response to the new measures, NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney has continuously undermined public health measures during the pandemic and is now overselling the new restrictions.

“What we have here is a game being played by this premier,” Shepherd said.

“What we have from him today is he suddenly on a dime, 24 hours after undermining public health measures, wants us to give him applause for once again acting last and acting least. That’s not the kind of leadership Albertans want to see. That’s not the kind of leadership that’s going to pull Albertans together in a way that we need them to to get us through this third wave.”

As of end-of-day Wednesday, 1,528,569 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, or 34,191 doses per 100,000 people.

There are 292,765 Albertans fully immunized with two doses.

Starting Friday at 8 a.m., Albertans in Phase 2C who were previously not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as those in Phase 2D will be able to book online through Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) online booking tool, calling Health Link 811 or through participating pharmacies.

Those eligible include frontline disability workers, frontline police and provincial sheriffs who interact with residents at shelters, correctional facilities and remand centres, as well as Canadian Border Security Agency staff and firefighters.

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All Albertans between the ages of 50 and 64, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals between the ages of 35 and 49 are also eligible. A full list is available at alberta.ca/covid-19-vaccine.

Meanwhile, Postmedia has learned that AHS staff will be briefed on a critical care triage framework this week.

During Thursday’s update, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed the triage framework. She said since the pandemic began, AHS has been working on updates to the protocol based on work from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

“This protocol, if needed, would be used to help decide how to allocate intensive care resources should the health-care system be unable to meet the demand of the current COVID-19 pandemic, or any other disasters,” Hinshaw said.

“These protocols are a last resort and can seem scary but it is important that this work be undertaken as a precaution, and that the necessary health-care professionals have an understanding of what these protocols mean.”

She said the province is not at the point where the protocol is needed, adding AHS has capacity for current needs, and can still increase it if demand rises.

lmorey@postmedia.com | ajunker@postmedia.com

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