Alberta had nearly 8,250 suspected COVID-19 cases over the past five days, the government reported Tuesday.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided estimates for the last five days with full data expected to be available online Wednesday.
She said the province’s positivity rate was anywhere from 17-25 per cent over that period. Alberta now has about 15,000 active cases, up from about 8,000 active cases reported on Dec. 22.
“We have never had a positivity rate over 13 per cent in any of our previous waves. This is one more data point that reinforces Omicron is different than anything we have ever faced before,” she said.
The province didn’t report new deaths or local COVID-19 numbers Tuesday. All that data is expected to be released on Wednesday.
Hinshaw said in Calgary and Edmonton, one in every three people going for a test is positive.
“That is why anyone who feels ill at this point should stay home and away from others until they are feeling better,” she noted.
Those numbers could potentially be worse than what is being reported, Hinshaw acknowledged. She said in earlier waves, the province was catching about one in four cases with PCR tests and one in six during the fourth wave. With the province encouraging those with symptoms who have access to a rapid test, not to seek out a PCR test, the case numbers could be higher.
“With the shift to making rapid tests available, I would anticipate the PCR tests that we are currently reporting as positive, are just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
“It would be expected that the total number of people that have Omicron would be much greater than is currently captured in our numbers.”
While cases seem to be rising rapidly in the province, hospitalizations are remaining relatively stable.
“However, from previous waves, we know that hospitalizations are a lagging indicator and today’s cases will take time to reflect in any acute care numbers,” Hinshaw said, adding that we won’t know the impact on the acute care system until January.
Premier Jason Kenney said in the press conference that preliminary estimates show the province had about 1,400 new cases over the past 24 hours, with a 22 per cent test positivity rate, higher than any point in the last month.
“These preliminary numbers indicate how quickly the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading,” Kenney said.
The premier added that as New Year’s Eve approaches, Albertans should once again try and limit their contacts as much as possible over the next week.
“This is more important than ever given how extremely transmissible the Omicron variant is,” he said.
Kenney also said that as of Dec. 26, at least 20 per cent of people who got their second shot also got their booster shot. He also noted that the province has distributed 800,000 five-pack-rapid test kits.