COVID deaths in Alberta surpass 5,000

Alberta has become the third Canadian province to pass 5,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the pandemic.

According to Wednesday’s COVID data release, that morbid milestone was reached on Oct. 18, 957 days after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the province. Because death reports can be delayed, the exact date may change.

All COVID-19 deaths use established notifiable disease guidelines for reporting to Alberta Health. The province says a death is counted and reported in the provincial total when a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 is determined to be a contributing cause of death, with each case assessed individually and sometimes during a professional post-mortem.

Wednesday’s numbers showed Alberta added 28 COVID-attributed deaths in the week ending Oct. 24, bringing the pandemic total to 5,011.

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While more than half of COVID deaths in the province have been in Albertans aged 80 or older, nearly one in 10 are of Albertans under 60.

Health Minister Jason Copping said he regrets every life lost during the pandemic “and our hearts go out to every bereaved family.”

“We’ve worked from the start to minimize the harm from COVID while at the same time working to minimize the harm from public health measures,” Copping said in a statement.

“We’ll keep promoting vaccination and building capacity in the health system to manage COVID and other public health challenges.”

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Oct. 25'

Health Matters: Oct. 25

The Opposition’s health critic extended “heart-felt condolences” to the families and friends of the people who died from COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on Alberta’s health-care system and has had a significant impact in nearly every aspect of our lives,” David Shepherd said.

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“All of us in the Alberta NDP mourn the loss of every Albertan who has lost their life to COVID-19 and we are committed to learning from the pandemic to improve healthcare so all Albertans can receive care when and where they need it.”

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Quebec tallied 5,000 deaths in May 2020 and Ontario in January 2021.

COVID hospitalizations in Alberta continued their multi-week climb, increasing 48 from the week before to reach 1,118. But ICU cases decreased to 28 from 33 the week before.

AHS data shows provincial ICU capacity was at 89 per cent on Wednesday.

Click to play video: '‘Tripledemic’: Flu and respiratory viruses return amid spike in COVID cases'

‘Tripledemic’: Flu and respiratory viruses return amid spike in COVID cases

The positivity rate of PCR tests was nearly flat at 18.36 per cent. Results from PCR tests added 1,461 positive cases to government records.

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Since the start of the year, PCR tests have been restricted to individuals at clinical risk of severe outcomes or who live and/or work in high-risk settings.

The association representing nearly 14,000 doctors across the province had a warning for Albertans as COVID cases climb.

“With the surge in COVID-19 infections in the province, health care professionals are urging Albertans to wear masks and get vaccinated,” the Alberta Medical Association tweeted Wednesday, ahead of the weekly COVID report. “Don’t turn your back on COVID.”

Alberta not seeing unusual RSV activity

While other places like Ontario or the United States who are warning a rise of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV could result in a triple-whammy when combined with influenza and COVID-19, Alberta health authorities say this province isn’t yet seeing concerning numbers.

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“Alberta is not seeing any unusual or abnormal activity in RSV for this time of the year,” an AHS spokesperson wrote to Global News on Tuesday. “There has not been a spike in cases. Volume is similar to previous years and in line with expectations for the season.”

Earlier this month, the University of Calgary’s Centre for Health Informatics introduced a graph of RSV in their wastewater reporting for communities across the province.

“What we have come to realize is that wastewater is a tremendous vehicle from which to understand population health,” Dr. Michael Parkins told Global News. “There is the potential to monitor for publicly-important viruses — measles and mumps — those that are highly transmissible in populations, potentially things like hepatitis B and C, maybe HIV one day.”

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