A “small but significant increase” in people not answering the phone or returning calls to COVID-19 contact tracers has Alberta’s chief medical officer of health pleading with everyone to co-operate.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said until December, less than one per cent of all those contacted did not return attempts to contact them. But in January, that number rose to 1.9 per cent and so far in February, it’s at 1.3 per cent.
“In addition to this, there has also been an increase in those who were initially willing to speak to contact tracers but then later were unwilling to provide the necessary information needed for us to follow up with contacts,” Hinshaw said.
When this happens, she said, public health officials follow up multiple times and will send a written notice of information required under the Public Health Act for those who still do not provide the necessary information.
“It may be tempting to think that not providing information will make COVID go away. Unfortunately, the opposite is true,” Hinshaw said.
“Trying to ignore COVID and not participating with contact tracing only pushes back the day we can ease restrictions further by giving the virus the opportunity to spread farther and faster without being stopped.”
Alberta reported 277 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday after about 7,500 tests were completed with a positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. The province has 4,857 active cases.
The Edmonton zone, which includes the city of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities, has 1,270 active cases of COVID-19. The city of Edmonton has 1,024 active cases, or 98.6 per 100,000 people.
There are 370 people in hospital with COViD-19 and of those, 60 are in intensive care.
Seven more deaths were reported Wednesday, raising the death toll to 1,798.
The province identified four more cases of COVID-19 variants, all of which were of the B.1.1.7. variant first reported in the United Kingdom.
In total, 225 variant cases of concern have been identified in Alberta — 218 cases of the U.K. variant and seven cases of the South African variant, B.1.351.
As of Tuesday, 152,056 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered and 56,594 Albertans have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
At an unrelated press conference earlier on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said the province would have more to say about the next stages of the vaccine rollout as early as Friday.
Meanwhile, in a news release, the city of Edmonton said between Feb. 8 and Feb. 14, five tickets and 58 warnings for the mandatory face covering bylaw were issued. Between Aug. 1, when the bylaw was implemented, and Feb. 14, a total of 339 tickets and 5,505 warnings have been issued.
No tickets were handed out by bylaw officials under the Public Health Act from Feb. 8-14, but 14 warnings were issued. The Edmonton Police Service (EPS), however, handed out one ticket during the same time period.
In total, between Nov. 25 and Feb. 14, bylaw officials have issued 24 tickets and 364 warnings while EPS has issued 19 tickets.