The highly-contagious Delta COVID-19 variant is likely to become dominant in Alberta, says one of the province’s top doctors.
Cases of this variant, which originated in India, are currently low in the province at 357 although they’re around twice as high now as they were a week ago. But Dr. André Corriveau, deputy chief medical officer of health, said because this variant is up to twice as transmissible it is possible it will replace the Alpha variant, originating in the U.K, as Alberta’s dominant strain.
“I can’t tell you for sure, but … I want to repeat the fact that, because this variant is a lot more transmissible than the ones that we have experience with at this point, as our numbers decrease it’s likely that it will become dominant,” he said.
“But if the numbers are really low, then it’s not as big of an issue. Even though if it becomes dominant, we’re only seeing your 10-25 cases a day. That’s quite different than when we’re seeing 2,500 cases a day. So, we have to take that into context as well.”
Corriveau said he is concerned about the variant but numbers are currently low enough that public health officials feel they can manage them with public health measures and hope to contain the outbreak to Calgary.
Right now, he says health officials are focusing on getting people vaccinated with their first and second doses, and that new research out of the U. K. shows promising results.
An announcement on the timeline for second doses is expected later this week.
Alberta nears 70 per cent first doses
Nearly 70 per cent of Albertans 12 and up have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a metric that would trigger Step 3 of Alberta’s reopening plan. The province expects this could happen by Friday.
In this phase, nearly all public health measures would be removed, including masking and physical distancing.
By Tuesday, 69.4 per cent in this group had a single dose of a vaccine. Twenty-two per cent had two. In total, more than 3.4 million doses have been administered.
Asked if there would be any restrictions for businesses in Stage 3, Corriveau said he didn’t have details but the key message would be about personal responsibility. He said Albertans should remember some of the good habits they’ve learned over the pandemic.
For now, he said Albertans should minimize unnecessary travel, but if they feel it is important they go somewhere, to follow public health guidance.
Asked about what the province knows about COVID-19 being airborne, Corriveau said there is some evidence but it doesn’t seem to be a major form of transmission.
127 new COVID-19 cases
Alberta reported 127 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 85 more variant cases were added to the total.
There were 2,804 active cases across the province including 660 in the Edmonton Zone. There were 271 in hospital with the disease including 68 in intensive care.
Four more people have died from the disease in Alberta — a man in his 80s in the Edmonton Zone, a woman in her 80s in the Calgary Zone, and a man and woman both in their 50s in the North Zone, according to Alberta Health.
Corriveau spoke in place of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Tuesday, saying Hinshaw was spending some much-needed time with her family this week. Hinshaw has said she will return on June 22.