Alberta reported 273 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and another 16 deaths from the illness.
Though the deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours, 10 of them happened in December, one in January, and four in February.
There are 4,675 active cases in the province, with 324 patients being treated for the illness in hospitals, including 53 in ICU beds.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, provided her 174th update about the pandemic on Monday, and used the opportunity to highlight some of the progress the province has made in recent weeks.
The R-value or reproductive number over the past week was 1.03. That number was 0.93 in the Edmonton zone, 0.95 in the Calgary zone, and 1.13 for the rest of the province. When the reproduction number is greater than one, case numbers are rising.
“I know that many people have questions about when Alberta will move to Step 2 of easing restrictions,” Hinshaw said Monday at a news conference. “We are below the Step 2 threshold of hospitalizations but we have seen growing cases in recent days.
“With that in mind, we will be taking the full three weeks to assess the data and assess the best way forward. No decisions on moving to Step 2 will be made prior to March 1, at the earliest.
The province is being “cautious” with its approach to reopening, she said, and it’s too early to say if the recent increase in new cases is significant or whether the downward trend seen over the past several weeks will continue.
Hinshaw pointed to progress made in long-term care facilities, whose residents have been among those most at risk and account for about two of every three deaths.
“Over the last few months we have seen a sharp decline in our long-term care cases,” Hinshaw said. “We have gone from a high of 776 active cases in long-term care on Dec. 27 to 63 active cases on Feb. 20, a 92-per-cent decline in less than two months.”
The number of long-term care outbreaks with active cases has dropped from 74 on Dec. 20 to five on Feb. 16, she said.
“Every one of us should take pride in this turnaround, as it is the result of not only our immunization campaign but also of our collective efforts to bring our new case numbers down.”
The same steep decline has been seen in designated supportive-living facilities, Hinshaw said. On Christmas Day, the province reached a peak of more than 1,300 active cases in those facilities. Over the last seven weeks, cases in such facilities have declined by 88 per cent.
“These emphasize for us both that the public-health measures have worked and that vaccines can have a tremendous protective effect for those who are most at risk.”
A total of 1,843 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta since the pandemic began.
There are now 289 variant cases confirmed across the province, with 116 in the Calgary zone and 110 in the Edmonton zone.
Premier Jason Kenney announced on Friday all seniors aged 75 and older will be able to book appointments for vaccines beginning on Wednesday. Residents of lodges and other continuing-care facilities will be offered the vaccine beginning right away.
It has been two weeks since the province launched Step 1 of its phased re-opening plan, easing restrictions on businesses and outdoor social gatherings.
If the number of people in hospital remains below 450, further restrictions could be lifted next month. The earliest a decision on Step 2 would take effect would be March 1.