Canada

Alberta tries rapid COVID testing for travellers as number of cases spike to record levels

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Updated numbers from the federal government indicate that Alberta has had the third-most cases of COVID-19 in the country. Ontario and Quebec are substantially ahead, with 66,686 and 96,288 cases respectively, compared with 23,400 cases in total in Alberta.

But it’s the daily case counts in Alberta that are now shattering records: Wednesday was the first day the province recorded more than 400 new cases in a day.

The highest number of confirmed new cases are among those aged 20 to 39; the average age is 36, and the average age of those hospitalized is 62. The average age of death  from COVID-19 in Alberta is 82.

No one has yet found an approach that seems to work really well

Hinshaw said the province has been working with its communications team to come up with strategies to reach younger Albertans.

“We’re wanting to make sure that we think about how best to communicate that goes beyond simply saying ‘don’t get together with friends,’” she said. “No one has yet found an approach that seems to work really well.”

More than 1,300 of the active COVID-19 cases in the province come from a close contact; the other big cohort of cases, also around 1,300, are of “unknown” provenance. The next biggest chunk, more than 600 cases, are linked to outbreaks.

There have been several large, event-related outbreaks recently, such as a wedding where 49 people caught COVID-19. There were only 63 people at the wedding, HInshaw said.

Tim Caulfield, the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, said adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing recommendations is becoming harder due to general complacency, COVID fatigue, and general misinformation.

“People have to understand that these very straightforward strategies — physical distancing, being responsible when you have symptoms, wearing a mask — are what is needed if we are going to defeat it,” he said. “Getting that message across consistently in a way that gets traction is becoming increasingly difficult as the pandemic rolls on.”

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