Alberta premier and health officials to deliver COVID-19 update

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will deliver an update on COVID-19 as the province grapples with a surging wave of Omicron cases.

Kenney, Health Minister Jason Copping and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health will speak to Albertans at 3:30 p.m. MT.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, will also speak at today’s COVID-19 briefing.

Watch the news conference live here.

As of Wednesday’s update, 1,101 people were in Alberta hospitals with COVID-19, including 108 patients in intensive care.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is nearing the peak of 1,128 reported on Sept. 27, 2021. 

Provincial ICUs, with the use of additional surge beds, were operating at 86 per cent capacity as of Wednesday. Without the additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 120 per cent.

‘Pushed us over the edge’

Patient care is suffering amid the fifth wave, said Dr. Aisha Mirza, who works in the emergency department at Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton.

“It has just sort of pushed us over the edge,” Mirza said in an interview Thursday. “We’re all trying to do more with less.” 

The emergency department is packed every day and burnout on the front lines is triggering an exodus of veteran health-care workers, just as rising Omicron infections leave more staff sidelined, she said.

Patients are often being shuffled from room to room, being assessed in hallways, being sent home from hospital too early or being left to wait too long for much-needed surgery, she said.

Patients with a broken bone may now have to wait two to three days for emergency surgery, instead of a few hours, she said. 

“It’s really sad to see a patient suffering like that.”

After more than two years on the front lines of pandemic health care, Mirza said her work now feels daunting and relentless. The slipping standard of care has caused “moral distress” across the front lines, she said. 

“We can almost predict that there’s going to be bad outcomes if we continue on this path,” she said. 

“And that kind of stress, it’s the stress that comes with the knowledge of knowing the something bad is happening and no one’s willing to listen to you.” 

The province had 67,534 known active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday’s update, but the true number is believed to be as much as 10 times higher. 

Alberta’s positivity rate now stands at around 38 per cent, far higher than in previous waves.

Almost 86 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and older have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while 42 per cent of children aged five to 11 have received their first doses.

About 38.2 per cent of adults have had a booster dose.

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