COVID-19: Alberta ‘past the peak’ of BA.2, but identifies first case of new subvariant BA.4

Health Minister Jason Copping provides Albertans with the province’s latest COVID-19 data for the period of May 17, 2022 to May 23, 2022.

Wastewater and PCR testing data shows Alberta is coming down from the latest wave of COVID-19, officials announced on Wednesday.

“The peak of BA.2 cases has passed and the current wave is receding,” Health Minister Jason Copping told reporters.

Between May 17 and May 23, the province’s PCR positivity rate ranged from 13.7 per cent to 20.4 per cent, with an average of 17.5 per cent for the week.

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That’s compared to an average of 20 per cent for the last reporting period, Copping said.

Wastewater levels are coming down as well, he announced.

“We are turning the corner,” he said.

But as it appears Alberta is coming out of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant wave, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced the province confirmed its first case of a new subvariant over the past week.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed a case of BA.4 has been detected in Alberta. This subvariant, along with BA.5, has been identified in countries around the world. Early evidence shows it is more easily transmitted than previous subvariants, but shows no sign that it causes any higher risk of serious outcomes.

“The appearance of new variants and subvariants is not surprising. This is what viruses do,” Hinshaw said. “As we continue to live with COVID, we can expect to see variants and subvariants emerge.”

Hinshaw said as subvariants emerge around the world, the province will continue to test samples for them here in Alberta.

On Wednesday, Copping and Hinshaw both talked about the number of Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19 dropping.

As of last week’s update, there were 1,165 Albertans in hospital with the virus, with 42 of those people in the ICU. On Wednesday, there were 1,040 in hospital with 31 of those people receiving care in the ICU.

Between May 17 and May 23, the province confirmed 2,737 new cases of COVID-19 from 16,053 PCR tests. Officials have said the number of positive cases in the province is likely much higher due to the limited access to PCR testing.

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During the same time period, an additional 55 COVID-19 deaths were reported to Alberta Health.

“It is always incredibly difficult to lose someone, no matter the cause,” Hinshaw said. “My condolences go out to all those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.”

Hinshaw said the number of deaths over the last few weeks shows COVID-19 has not left the province and still presents a great risk to people.

She urged those who haven’t received the full number of vaccines they’re eligible for to book an appointment as soon as possible.

The province also announced a change to its COVID-19 reporting. While weekly online reporting will continue, the in-person updates will now be held every other week. The next one will be the week of June 6. The exact date will depend on Hinshaw’s schedule and will be announced that week.

A new drug has been approved for use in Alberta that is designed to prevent COVID-19 in those who may not be able to build full immunity from vaccines alone.

Evusheld can be used by immunocompromised people who have gone through solid organ or blood transplants, blood cancer or are being treated with specific immunocompromising drugs.

Because the number of people who will be eligible for this drug is very small, Copping said specialists who treat these people will administer Evusheld.

Those who are eligible can find out more on Alberta Health Service’s website.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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