COVID-19: Hospitalizations in Alberta hit another pandemic high, Paxlovid treatment announced

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The government introduced the oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid on Tuesday as the number of Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit a pandemic high for the fourth consecutive reporting day, with 13 additional deaths recorded.

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There are 1,377 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, an increase of 73 from the previous day. Of those hospitalized, 111 are in intensive care units, an increase of three.

As hospitalizations continue to rise, active cases fell for the fifth straight day, with 51,157 active cases in Alberta, down 4,528 from the previous day.

Health Minister Jason Copping said it is not uncommon for hospitalization rates to rise, while the number of cases falls.

“As in previous waves, hospital admissions will lag behind cases,” Copping said in Tuesday’s update.

“So there is no difference that cases seem to start going down, while admissions are going up at the same time. This means, I hope, that we are at a turning point in the current wave and that we can begin to see the end of it.

Alberta reported 2,722 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and a test positivity rate of 40.5%.

“Of course, we know that due to the current eligibility for PCR testing and the increased availability of rapid tests, the actual number is much higher,” Copping said.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health provided an update on COVID-19 in schools with information provided by Alberta Education.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said as of January 24, 18 of Alberta’s more than 2,500 schools have transitioned to temporary home-based learning to address “operational challenges.” She said five of those 18 schools have fewer than 40 students.

“This means that less than one per cent of schools are temporarily practicing home learning. All requests from schools to switch to home learning have been approved,” Hinshaw said.

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Outbreaks in several institutions for the elderly

A notable number of local seniors’ facilities and service groups have found themselves on the provincial list of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Since Tuesday, January 18, CapitalCare Strathcona, Sherwood Care, Summerwood Village Retirement Residence, the Robin Hood Association – Aspen Village, Silver Birch Place and Dr. Turner Lodge in Fort Saskatchewan, which is operated by the Heartland Housing Foundation, have been all on the state of the outbreak. There was also an outbreak at Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre.

To be on the provincial outbreak list, a site must report at least two active cases of COVID-19 and the location remains included for 14 days.

As of January 19, CapitalCare Strathcona has confirmed that 19 Heritage House residents, one Harvest House resident and 12 staff members have active cases of COVID-19.

“The safety and well-being of our residents and staff is our top priority,” CapitalCare wrote online. “Due to the high risk of transmissibility posed by the Omicron variant at this time, we are asking visitors to assess their need to visit in person.”

According to the Sherwood Care website, the residents were sampled on Friday, January 7, all of whom tested negative, so his cases were linked to staff.

“This is wonderful news that brings joy to all of our hearts at a time of bad news around the world! At this time, public health believes that the staff illness we are experiencing is attributed to the spread in community and as such does not indicate any internal spread within the building,” Sherwood Care wrote online.

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The facility requires KN95 masks to be worn by staff and level 3 surgical masks in addition to face shields to be worn by visitors. Restrictions remain in place for visitors accompanied by one or more designated family support persons.

“Thank you to each of you for your support and understanding in carrying out this process. The limited number of people in the building and the diligent use of our PPE go a long way to ensuring the safety of your loved ones! the local install wrote.

Government announces Paxlovid treatment

Copping said the first delivery of Pfizer’s Paxlovid oral COVID-19 treatment should be available to Albertans starting Jan. 31.

However, Copping said that initially 3,200 treatments will be available for those who meet the eligibility criteria.

“Paxlovid is a pill, taken orally, which is only available by prescription,” Copping said.

“Treatment should begin within the first five days of symptoms of COVID-19. It is intended for use by people 18 and older who have specific medical conditions, or those who are unvaccinated and 65 and older.

Hinshaw said the eligibility criteria include those who have received transplants, who were cancer patients and who received chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive treatment within the past two years or who have an inflammatory disease for which they are treated, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or inflammatory bowel disease.

She said people aged 18 and over with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, obstructive lung disease or congestive heart failure also met the current criteria.

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To be eligible, the patient must also have a PCR-confirmed case of COVID-19 and be within the first five days of symptom onset.

“People who meet these criteria will be encouraged to contact Health Link when they receive their positive result for an initial eligibility assessment,” Hinshaw said.

She said those potentially eligible for treatment will be referred to a clinician trained in early treatment options for COVID-19.

“As the drug Paxlovid can cause side effects, it will only be available by prescription after evaluation by these clinicians who can determine which of the treatment options would be recommended for the patient,” Hinshaw said, adding monoclonal antibody therapy as a another option.

Availability of vaccines and rapid tests

On Tuesday, Copping announced that the province received a new shipment of the Pfizer vaccine with approximately 500,000 doses received this month.

“While we know both mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, I know some Albertans are waiting for Pfizer because they prefer to receive the same vaccine for all three doses,” Copping said. “So if you’ve been waiting, it’s here and please make an appointment today.”

Copping said supply chain issues and the federal government distributing rapid tests by population have delayed their availability at local pharmacies. He said further tests are expected to be released towards the end of January.

-with files by Jennifer Hamilton

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kellentaniguchi

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