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Alberta reported a net decrease of 12 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday as the province is set to reduce its data reporting to once a week.

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Starting next Wednesday, data for the previous seven days will be made available to the public, Health Minister Jason Copping said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 update.

The province reported four additional deaths Wednesday. However, Alberta’s top doctor said Alberta Health’s most recent review of deaths found there were 16 previously reported deaths between Dec. 21 and Feb. 11 that did not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause.

“Thirty-eight other deaths reported in this timeframe were also reviewed and in those cases it was confirmed that COVID was a direct, or contributing, cause of death,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said during Wednesday’s update .

“This means with the four new deaths that we had reported to us in the last 24 hours, the total number of deaths in Alberta related to COVID-19 will be updated today to 4,013 deaths — a net decrease of 12.”

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Alberta also reported a decrease in hospitalizations on Wednesday with 989 people in hospital with the virus, a decrease of 12 from the previous day. Of those in hospital, 70 are in an intensive care unit — no change from the previous day.

BA.2 cases confirmed in Alberta

Hinshaw said the BA.1 Omicron variant is still the dominant strain in Alberta, but the BA.2 subvariant isn’t far behind.

“We are monitoring BA.2 separate from BA.1 and over the last couple of months we’ve seen that the proportion of our cases that are BA.2 are slowly increasing,” said Hinshaw. “We are still at less than half of our new detected cases that are BA.2, so BA.1 is still our dominant strain in Alberta.”

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Hinshaw said based on looking at other countries, while BA.2 seems to be more transmissible, it does not seem to be a higher risk for severe outcomes.

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She said what they are seeing in other countries where BA.2 became dominant early on is that the combination of the two variants did cause an increase in cases and hospitalizations.

“What I think we should expect is to have fluctuations in transmission over the coming months,” she said.

“We should expect to see COVID remaining with us for the next several months at, I would suggest, relatively similar levels of transmission which will continue to have some people ending up in hospital.”

Hinshaw said she doesn’t anticipate seeing the same magnitude of impact based on the province’s current level of vaccine coverage and its recent experience with BA.1.

Alberta reported 593 new cases of the virus on Wednesday with a test positivity rate of 18.7 per cent.

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Active cases increased slightly with 6,449 active cases in the province, an increase of 27 from the previous day. However, the number of cases is likely higher due to some Albertans using unreported rapid test kits at home.

Copping said as of last Friday, the province has distributed more than 34.2 million tests, including 13.2 million directly to Albertans. He added test kits continue to be available at pharmacies across the province and a health care number is no longer required to pick one up.

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The province is adjusting the hours of walk-in pediatric vaccine clinics run by Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“Until March 31, AHS clinics will continue to offer flexible hours, including some evening availability, to maximize opportunities for eligible children to be immunized,” said Copping.

Currently, 47.9 per cent of children aged five to 11 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 28.7 per cent of the same age group is fully immunized.

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