COVID-19: Active cases higher in Alberta as experts say counts no longer predict hospitalizations


As COVID-19 case numbers continue to trend upwards in Alberta, experts say Albertans should pay more attention to hospitalizations and serious outcomes.

The province reported 134 new cases Tuesday and a total of 1,173 active cases — up 90 cases from 1,083 the previous day.

Three more deaths were reported, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 2,325. There were 82 people hospitalized, down one from the previous day, including 21 in intensive care, a number unchanged from Monday’s update.

University of Alberta infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephanie Smith said Tuesday case numbers don’t translate into a predictable increase in hospitalizations anymore.

“I think the metric that really we’re going to have to look at is hospitalizations,” said Smith, who added it’s possible fewer Albertans will get tested.

“Depending on how much of an increase we see in the community, we may get a slight increase in hospitalizations, but I don’t think that we are going to get into a situation like we were in our third wave,” said Smith.

Now, more than 5.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Alberta, with 75.5 per cent of those eligible having received a first dose and 63.9 per cent fully immunized with two — both fractional increases since Monday’s update.

Smith and Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, said because so many vulnerable people have been vaccinated, a continued rise in case numbers doesn’t necessarily mean we will see a predictable impact on COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“We might be in a position now where we have to kind of start looking more at the serious consequence numbers rather than just case numbers, because what we used to think was going to happen at a certain number of cases is no longer as predictable,” said Saxinger, who added the surge capacity of the health-care system is under a staffing strain and young people can still get sick and infect other people.