COVID-19: Alberta reports 55 deaths, test positivity rates continue to decline

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Alberta reported on Tuesday a continued drop in COVID-19 test positivity rates over the past week and an average of nine deaths per day.

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Health Minister Jason Copping said it’s the third week in a row that PCR test positivity rates have declined. The province reported a weekly average test positivity rate of 19.9 per cent from May 10-16, compared to 23 per cent last week and 25.9 per cent the week before.

“There are more signs over the past week that we’re putting the BA.2 wave behind us,” Copping said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update.

Copping said wastewater data is also showing a drop in COVID-19 with levels in most centers “declining or fluctuating” at levels well below the BA.1 wave peak. He said wastewater levels in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer are showing a wide range of variation but are continuing to trend down.

He said it makes sense for larger centers to take longer to drop due to the higher population density.

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“Overall, the data shows we’re getting past the BA.2 wave and that’s good news,” he said.

While COVID-19 transmission levels are trending downward, Copping said pressure is still high with major hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary operating at more than 90 per cent occupancy and a few at more than 100 per cent.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there were 55 COVID-related deaths over the last week but she said the high number of deaths is “not unexpected.”

Hinshaw said the number of new cases and test positivity rates are typically the first indicators to see a decline, followed by hospitalizations. She added COVID-related deaths are one of the last indicators to fall.

“As we’re seeing positivity and hospitalizations begin to decline consistently, we should expect to see the same thing in the number of deaths very soon,” she said.

The average number of people in hospital with the virus has decreased from the previous week, Hinshaw said. Over the past week, about 1,190 people with COVID-19 were in hospital, compared to 1,225 the previous week. She said of those in hospital, about 39 are in ICU, an increase of two from the previous week.

Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to take care of their mental health with the May long weekend approaching, whether it be camping or watching a hockey game.

She said COVID-19 will stay in the population with cases expected to drop in the warmer months before an increase of transmission in the fall.

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