COVID case numbers highest they’ve ever been

Attention to Hospitals: Dr. Daniel Gregson awaits a video call on Microsoft Teams in Calgary on Jan. 14, 2022. Gregson is an infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist with the Cummings School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. He runs a diagnostic lab for infectious diseases, and sees patients with infections in the ward. He has been working for the University of Calgary since 2000. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)

Alberta is seeing their highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

According to the Alberta government, on Jan. 20, 2022, 30.5 per cent, or 1.3 million Albertans have received the third dose, with 35 per cent of the Canadian population receiving the third dose.

As of Jan. 20, Alberta has 61,615 cases of COVID-19, 1191 cases in the hospital, and 107 people in the ICU, compared to 7350 cases, 786 patients in the hospital, and 103 in the ICU on Jan. 30, 2021.

“The numbers are a lot higher than what’s being reported,” said Surya Bhatia, a case investigator with Alberta Health Services (AHS). Bhatia is also a pharmacist that has administered COVID-19 vaccines.

Bhatia’s role as a case investigator involves calling people that have tested positive for COVID-19, and then she will do a background check to ensure those they have been in contact with are informed of the potential exposure.

Because of a shortage in PCR testing in the province, all her cases have been employees with AHS or healthcare workers that work in high-risk situations that involve dealing with those with COVID-19.

“I think the level of caution to avoid [COVID-19] has gone down, and I think that is in part due to vaccination, people feeling comfortable that [Omicron] is not going to cause severe illness, so even if they do catch it, at least it’s going to be mild and not put a strain on the healthcare system,” said Bhatia over a Microsoft Teams video call.

Those AHS workers that are reported to have positive results may have a family, and they may all have a positive result, but they aren’t included in the case numbers.

Dr. Daniel (Dan) Gregson, an infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist with the Cummings School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, says that receiving the third dose is important in reducing transmission of the Omicron variant. He also says that while the variant is less severe, a vaccine and steps to reduce transmission is still important for the sake of our healthcare system.

“We’re getting overwhelmed with the numbers,” said Gregson.

“If a million people are being affected, one per cent of a million is 10,000 people. So, it’s the volume that’s the problem.”

Current hospitalizations are currently 0.02 per cent of reported cases in Alberta as of Jan. 20, 2022.

“If a million people are being affected, one per cent of a million is 10,000 people. So, it’s the volume that’s the problem.”

When asked about hospitalization and the severity of the virus, Gregson said, “I think it’s important to realize that with 1100 people in hospital and 100 people in the ICU, two years ago we had nobody in the hospital with COVID.”

“My colleagues in the ICU are doing a really amazing job, and on the wards with managing this tsunami of people,” said Gregson.

At 30.2 per cent, Alberta sits as the second lowest province to receive booster shots; however, the country hit a peak in first dose vaccinations on May 5, 2021, when Canada’s population was 65 per cent vaccinated, six months after the first offerings of the vaccine.

About Alejandro Melgar 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Alejandro Melgar is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.