COVID-19: Dr. Hinshaw slated for 3:30 p.m. update Thursday, Alberta contact tracing overwhelmed

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Alberta’s top doctor Dr. Deena Hinshaw is slated to give an update on COVID-19 Thursday at 3:30 p.m., her second public update this week.

The province’s hospitalizations and ICU admissions have nearly doubled over the last month, and both active cases and the rate of positive COVID-19 tests remain high. Another 1,799 cases were reported on Wednesday, and 737 were in hospital including 169 in ICU. Four more people have died.

At her last update, Hinshaw said there were “positive signs” that the speed the disease is spreading may be slowing, referring to a declining rate of transmission (R-value) for most of the province, apart from the Calgary Zone.

But she noted the active cases and percentage of COVID-19 tests returning a positive result are still high.

Contact tracing overwhelmed: NDP

Meanwhile, the Alberta NDP released an internal memo Thursday from Alberta Health Services that appears to show contact tracing efforts are being pulled back, including for variant cases and some workplaces.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she’s “extremely troubled” to see contact tracing overwhelmed again after the system became heavily taxed amid rising cases in November, at which point the government hired more staff.

“Alberta has the highest infection rate of anywhere in Canada and the United States, and more than four times as many active cases as British Columbia. Jason Kenney has failed to learn from his mistakes,” she said in a news release.

The memo says people who have a confirmed case of the P.1. or B.1.351 variants will receive a text message or phone call informing them of the positive test, and schools and daycares are notified if there are variants.

Contact tracing for “non-high risk” workplaces will fall to employers, but AHS will still investigate workplaces that are at higher risk.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said contact tracing shouldn’t be up to small business owners.

Watch the update on YouTube

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