Dr. Deena Hinshaw

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Alberta’s COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards – an encouraging sign further loosening of restrictions could be on the way.

“We have now administered more than 149,000 doses of the vaccine, and more than 54,000 Albertans are fully immunized with two doses,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

But she did express concerns over a higher positivity rate at five per cent, an increase from previous weeks.

She said Alberta Health Services and the government of Alberta would continue to watch caseloads closely over the days to come to see if this is an isolated finding or concerning trend.

And 15 new variant cases were confirmed on Friday and 28 additional over the weekend, bringing concerns over increased caseloads not linked to travel.

“Though many of these cases are the result of close contact we identified through robust contract tracing … we are actively monitoring emerging research on these variants and looking to see if any of our current guideline approaches need to change,” she said.

Nine fatalities were also reported over the past 24 hours.

With 365 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 56 in intensive care, Alberta is well on its way to surpassing Step One benchmarks well in advance of a decision on Step Two on February 28.

If hospitalization numbers remain low, AHS and the government will consider easing restrictions on the lowest-risk activities in each sector, including retail, banquet and community halls, conference centres, hotels, and additional easing on indoor fitness and children’s sport and performance.

However, given the virus’s two-week incubation period, the results of earlier easing restrictions on reducing the spread of COVID-19 have yet to be determined, though Hinshaw indicated they were trending in a positive direction since their peak in late-December.

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton based correspondent

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