Alberta will no longer allow support people with COVID-19 symptoms to assist obstetrics patients in health-care facilities.
Alberta Health spokesperson Lisa Glover confirmed Wednesday that an exemption allowing an essential support person with COVID-19 symptoms or a COVID-19 diagnosis to assist obstetrics patients has been terminated.
“The exemption outlined conditions required to permit an individual who was symptomatic for or diagnosed with COVID to provide this support. This exemption was terminated following discussions with (Alberta Health Services),” said Glover in an email. “To ensure sufficient capacity in our health system, it was determined that health-care facilities were unable to provide the additional protections required to permit these individuals.”
Glover said maternity patients are still able to have visitors and designated support people as outlined by official AHS policy.
Meanwhile, Alberta reported 484 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths on Wednesday as leading indicators continue to drop.
Despite the latest reported cases, active infections fell to 6,008, down from 6,090 on Tuesday. Hospitalizations also declined, with 582 patients currently receiving treatment, down from 608 the day prior. Of those in hospital, 123 are in intensive care.
The active case count is the lowest it has been in Alberta since Aug. 17 when there were 5,872 people with the virus. At that time, cases were growing and on Aug. 18 there were more than 6,300 cases in the province.
The picture surrounding leading indicators. active cases, new cases and positivity rates is different today. Alberta is currently trending downwards in those categories. Active cases have been routinely dropping ever since Oct. 3 when there were more than 20,000 infections throughout the province.
Speaking on Tuesday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the number of tests being completed and returning as positive has dropped significantly in recent weeks. That number was just above four per cent on Wednesday, down from a seven-day rolling average peak of approximately 11 per cent at the height of the fourth wave.
While speaking of the positive trends, Hinshaw continued to remind Albertans on Tuesday that the number of people in hospital remains much higher than at any other time in the pandemic, prior to the fourth wave.
“While we are headed in the right direction, I want to be clear that there is still a significant number of people in hospital, taxing our health-care system. We must all continue to support efforts to bring these numbers down even further,” said Hinshaw at her latest COVID-19 update.
There continues to be more people in intensive-care units than there were beds prior to the pandemic. AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said that as of Wednesday Alberta’s ICU capacity is at 81 per cent. If the province was not using 104 surge beds, capacity would be at 129 per cent. About half of all ICU patients are admitted with COVID-19.
Hinshaw tweeted Wednesday that the latest COVID-19 numbers would not be released on Remembrance Day. Thursday’s numbers will instead be posted online Friday. Alberta is moving to in-person updates from Hinshaw once a week. She is next expected to speak to media next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, earlier Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney dismissed calls from the opposition NDP to have him formally censured in the legislature over his handling of the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Kenney says he is focused on getting Alberta’s economy moving again and doesn’t have time for what he calls cynical political gamesmanship. The NDP have been pushing for answers on why his government did not act sooner as cases rose throughout the spring.
The Alberta government lifted nearly all public health measures in July and at the time said they did not envision a future where COVID-19 cases would rise and put stress on the health-care system. Kenney and other officials had said that belief was based off of trends in the United Kingdom where cases would decouple from hospitalization rates as more people became vaccinated.
Amid rising case counts and low vaccination rates in September the province reintroduced public health measures, created incentives for people to get their shots and eventually implemented a restriction exemption program to enter non-essential businesses. That program, widely viewed as a vaccine passport, requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter places such as restaurants, salons, bars and movie theatres.
— With files from The Canadian Press