Despite having already hit outlined goals, Alberta’s next phase of reopening is no sure thing, Premier Jason Kenney said Friday.
Jason Herring
Premier Jason Kenney on Feb.17, 2021.Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta
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Despite having already hit outlined goals, Albertas next phase of reopening is no sure thing, Premier Jason Kenney said Friday.
The second stage of Albertas phased easing of restrictions could be enacted as early as March 1, if the average number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the preceding week remains below 450. It would see eased restrictions for retail, conference centres, hotels and banquet and community halls.
But a troublesome increase in metrics like hospitalizations, infections, positivity rate or reproductive value could lead to delays in reopenings, Kenney said.
And if things were to get really bad and lets say we end up with a huge spike in cases and hospitalizations driven by the more contagious variants, Ive been clear we might need to introduce additional measures that limit social interaction.
While Albertas COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have been declining in recent weeks, variant strains of the virus found to spread more easily threaten to reverse that progress.
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The Public Health Agency of Canada released modelling Friday that warned variants could fuel a devastating third wave of the virus if jurisdictions dont introduce more strict public-health measures. This could lead to the B.1.1.7 strain, first found in the United Kingdom, becoming the dominant virus in Canada.
Alberta has detected 246 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain, including 14 new infections Friday, with some of the cases coming from retesting of historical samples. The province has also identified seven cases of the B.1.351 variant that originated in South Africa.
No decisions have yet been made on the next phase of reopening, Kenney said. The governments cabinet committee on COVID-19 will meet late next week to make a decision.
The province went through with its first eased restrictions earlier this month, allowing restaurants, youth sports and indoor fitness facilities to operate with some restrictions.
Hospitalizations, active case counts see minor dips
Alberta reported another 325 cases of COVID-19 on Friday as hospitalizations and active case counts marked minor declines.
The new infections came from just under 9,400 tests, representing a 3.5 per cent positivity rate, well below the seven-day average positivity rate of 4.1 per cent.
There are now 352 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 55 of whom are in intensive-care units 10 fewer hospitalizations than the previous day.
Alberta now has 4,840 active cases of COVID-19, down from 4,887 Thursday. The Alberta Health Services Calgary zone leads the province with about a third of all active cases.
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Seven more Albertans have died of COVID-19, all residents of continuing-care centres in Edmonton and Lethbridge. To date, 1,812 Albertans have lost their lives to the virus, including 111 in February.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, did not address Albertans Friday. She will return Monday.
On Twitter, she encouraged Albertans to continue following measures in place.
By making good choices this weekend and in the days ahead, we have the ability to keep numbers trending downward and keep protecting the health system that we all rely on, Hinshaw said.
With files from The Canadian Press
jherring@postmedia.com
Twitter: @jasonfherring
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