A continued surge in COVID-19 cases come as Alberta’s top doctor suggests the province may lift restrictions on audiences at events in July

Jason Herring
A woman takes photos of the Famous Five Statue which has been dressed up with masks on Friday, April 16, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
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Alberta tallied its second-highest number of new COVID-19 infections of the third wave to date Friday, with 1,616 new cases logged.
The continued surge comes as a letter from Albertas top doctor to industry groups provides suggests the province may lift restrictions on audiences at events in July.
The 1,616 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported Friday came from just under 17,000 tests, representing a positivity rate of 9.6 per cent.
More-contagious variants represented more than half of that case count, with 898 more cases in Alberta detected as such strains.
One of those new cases is the B.1.351 strain, first found in South Africa, which is only the 30th such case in Alberta. The remaining new variant cases are all the B.1.1.7 strain, which originated in the United Kingdom and became the dominant strain in Alberta last week.
In total, Alberta has 8,967 active variant cases in Alberta, making up 53.5 per cent of the provinces total 16,759 active infections. Its the highest number of active cases in Alberta since Christmas Eve.
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Admissions to Alberta hospitals and intensive-care units have also increased as of Friday. There are 423 people reported to be Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, with 93 of them in ICUs, up from 416 hospitalizations and 86 ICU admissions the day before.
Alberta reported zero new deaths from COVID-19 Friday. Its only the second time in 2021 the province has reported no new fatalities from the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began last March, 2,034 Albertans have died from the virus.
Alberta has hit another immunization milestone Friday, as more than one-quarter of adults in the province have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Through end-of-day Thursday, Alberta has administered 1,082,391 doses of vaccine, a 38,821-jab jump from the previous day.
That represents 25.3 per cent of Alberta adults, and 19.7 per cent of the provinces total population.
Additionally, more than 210,000 Albertans have received both necessary doses of vaccine, representing 4.8 per cent of Albertas population.
Hinshaw letter suggests timeline for summer events
A letter from Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw illustrates a possible timeline for when public-health restrictions on gatherings may be lifted.
In the letter, dated April 9 and sent to various event industry stakeholders, Hinshaw says the province could remove all capacity limits for indoor and outdoor music, theatre and other performance events in late July.
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According to the outlined schedule, no in-person fans will be allowed at any events through April and early May. Late May could see 15 per cent of fixed capacity to a maximum of 100 people in outdoor events. Late June could increase that to 50 per cent of fixed capacity for outdoor events and up to 500 attendees, or 15 per cent of fixed capacity for indoor events and up to 100 people.
In the letter, Hinshaw said she recognized the economic need for some groups to have audiences return as soon as possible.
If there are opportunities to move these timelines up because of better than anticipated case trends and/or more aggressive progress on vaccines, that will be of utmost priority for us, Hinshaw said.
Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said no final decisions have been made and any future changes to the provinces restrictions would be based on the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
We will publicly announce any future changes when they are made, McMillan said.
Earlier this week, Premier Jason Kenney maintained the Calgary Stampede would be possible this year, albeit with some masking and distancing requirements in place.
But some summer mainstays, including the Country Thunder Alberta and Edmonton Folk music festivals, have already cancelled their planned events this summer.
Moderna supply falters, but millions more Pfizer shots coming
Albertas COVID-19 immunization campaign is currently moving at a record pace, with an average of more than 37,500 shots administered each day over the past week.
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New vaccine shipment details announced by the federal government Friday mean Alberta will get fewer doses than previously anticipated this month, but more than originally planned in May.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said supply from Moderna would be slashed in half through the rest of April, with Canada receiving 650,000 doses by the end of the month instead of the expected 1.2 million.
However, a significant new contract with Pfizer means an additional eight million doses of that vaccine will arrive in Canada in the coming months, more than offsetting the Moderna shortfall. Four million of those doses will arrive in May, and two million more monthly in June and July. Another 400,000 Pfizer doses previously slated to arrive in the third quarter will also now come in June, Anand said.
Meanwhile, the federal government said Canadas first shipment of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will arrive during the week of April 27 and will contain about 300,000 doses. Deliveries to provinces will arrive at the start of May.
Elsewhere Friday, Health Canada announced it had received a submission from Pfizer to expand use of that vaccine to those 12 years old and older. Currently, Pfizer is only authorized in those age 16 and up.
University of Manitoba virologist Dr. Jason Kindrachuk told Postmedia its important children are eventually able to get immunized against COVID-19 as well as adults to further inhibit population spread.
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Certainly in kids, it looks like they get infected to a lesser degree than adults do, according to what the data is telling us, and we certainly know in terms of severe disease, kids seem to be far more resilient than adults, Kindrachuk said.
What we cant discount though is that kids arent entirely immune to this virus. When we think about this idea of limiting spread in our communities, especially at the time when we have variants with enhanced transmission, we have to appreciate that until we protect kids and stop those transmission chains, there is potentially going to be this risk.
With files from The Canadian Press
Twitter: @jasonfherring
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