Adapting COVID-19 measures to support Albertans
With strong vaccine uptake, Alberta will gradually bring COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses to ensure health system capacity for the fall.
Nearly 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent are fully immunized. Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection. While COVID-19 cases may rise in the coming months, a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely thanks to vaccines.
In the coming weeks, Alberta’s health system will take steps to make sure that it is ready to support all patients, including those with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, like influenza, which health officials expect to increase this year.
As a part of this, Alberta will bring COVID-19 quarantine, isolation, and other measures in line with those used for influenza and other viruses.
Testing for severe cases, provincial monitoring, outbreak management in high-risk settings, and other key measures will remain in place. Health officials will be able to adapt as needed if hospitalizations due to COVID-19 spike in the future.
“Our health system will keep protecting Albertans who are exposed to COVID-19 while also ensuring that we are able to handle all other viruses and illnesses. As the majority of us are vaccinated against COVID-19, we are adapting to make sure that the health system is ready to care for all Albertans, whatever their illness. Please get vaccinated to help protect your health and the health of those around you.”
“Our top priority is supporting the health of Albertans. COVID-19 is still with us but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses. We expect to see increased influenza and other viruses this year, and these changes will make sure the health system is ready and able to support all Albertans in the months ahead.”
A two-phase transition will be used to safely monitor the impact of the initial changes, adapt as needed over the next few weeks, and give more time to vaccinate Albertans.
The following changes will be effective July 29:
- Quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.
- Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
- Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
- All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
- Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
- Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
- Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
- Mandatory masking remains in acute and continuing care facilities, publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-share.
The following changes will take effect on Aug. 16:
- Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.
- Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but strongly recommended.
- Individuals with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
- Staying home when sick remains an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection.
- Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
- Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when it is needed to help direct patient care decisions.
- This testing will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.
- COVID-19 testing will also be offered as needed in high-risk outbreaks such as in continuing care facilities.
- Public health will focus on investigating severe cases that require hospitalization and any deaths due to COVID-19.
- Outbreak management and preventative measures will continue focusing on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
- Community outbreaks will continue to be addressed as needed.
- Daycares and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if outbreaks are identified.
Health officials will continue to closely monitor hospitalizations and other severe outcomes due to COVID-19 in the province. Additional measures will be taken, as needed, in specific facilities or areas where an outbreak is occurring leading to severe outcomes.
Universal masking will not be required in schools once students return. However, it is recommended as a temporary outbreak intervention in response to respiratory outbreaks. A guidance document to support return to schools is being finalized and will be released in mid-August.
A wastewater baseline testing program will also be launched to provide area trend information and monitor variants of concern. More details will be released in the coming weeks.
Oilers goaltender Stalock likely to miss season due to possible heart condition
EDMONTON — Goaltender Alex Stalock will likely miss the season due to a possible heart condition said Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland on Wednesday.
Speaking on the opening day of Oilers training camp, Holland said the possible condition was detected when he returned home for more tests after the team’s physical exam at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Holland said Stalock contracted COVID-19 before the start of the 56-game shortened season, but was later cleared to play and spent time on the Oilers’ taxi squad after the team claimed him off waivers from the Minnesota Wild in March.
He did not appear in a game with either Minnesota or Edmonton last season.
Holland said Stalock has seen “a couple” of cardiologists and is looking to get additional opinions.
Stalock, a 34-year-old from St. Paul, Minn., has a 61-49-18 record with a 2.61 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 151 career NHL games with San Jose and Minnesota.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Regulatory group warns several Alberta doctors about sharing COVID-19 misinformation
EDMONTON — A group that oversees the practice of medicine in Alberta says it has told at least seven doctors who were spreading misinformation about COVID-19 that their behaviour was unprofessional.
Scott McLeod, registrar with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, says the regulator has also spoken to doctors who gave into pressure from patients wanting an exemption letter– not grounded in clinical evidence — to avoid having to wear masks or vaccinations.
McLeod says the college is to publish a letter this week addressed to physicians and the public to reiterate its support for vaccines and public health restrictions put in place to try to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The college says the doctors who were warned had been spreading misinformation on social media platforms or elsewhere.
McLeod says it’s disappointing to see that type of behaviour and noted it has a significant effect because doctors have a powerful voice in society.
He adds the number of doctors painting a false narrative in the province is unprecedented.
McLeod says if doctors don’t stick to basic science that outlines how to protect people during a pandemic, the public and other physicians can file an official complaint with the college.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.
The Canadian Press
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