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Alberta taking slow approach to reopening as COVID-19 numbers remain high, variants appearing

Last Updated Feb 3, 2021 at 9:10 pm MDT

A sign on the doors of Calgary City Hall reminds people to wear a mask. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — Even though Alberta’s COVID-19 numbers have seen a relatively large dip since stricter public health measures were introduced in December, the province’s top doctor is urging caution as a number of people remain in hospital.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw put the province’s situation in perspective saying the number of patients currently in hospital is ten times higher than when it initiated its spring relaunch plan on May 14.

“To be clear, our province has made remarkable progress over these last two months. We have bent the curve and every Albertan can be proud of that, ” she said.

“It is important that Albertans understand that we are in a very different place than we were at in May. Our caseloads are higher, our hospitalizations are higher, and the emergence of new variants poses a threat that could cause cases to spike again if we are not careful.”

This is why the province is not relaxing measures for a large number of sectors all at once as it did in the spring, Hinshaw said.

The province released its four-stage “path forward” plan last week, using hospitalizations as a benchmark in deciding to ease restrictions.

Starting Monday, restaurants and gyms will be allowed to partially reopen while other businesses will need to wait.

“It’s important that we take a slow phased approach to ensure we aren’t doing too much too fast, especially as we learn more about the new variants of COVID-19 and work to prevent their spread in Alberta,” Hinshaw said.

There are currently 57 variant cases in the province, with four of those detected in a daycare outbreak. Health officials continue to contact parents and staff of this facility and the location of the daycare is expected to be revealed in the coming days.

At the moment, there is no specific number of variants that would make the province reverse its plan to ease restrictions Monday, but Hinshaw says a framework is being created.

“What I will say is that we are watching our case counts carefully and we are making sure that we’re paying close attention to those leading indicators of the trend of new cases, of positivity rates, and of growth rate,” she said.

If these things begin to change it will determine whether the province can proceed with easing public health measures.