In a provincial briefing Dec. 15, Premier Jason Kenney announced that starting Dec. 17, Albertans can visit any of 740 select Alberta Health Services locations to receive free COVID-19 rapid testing kits, which include five tests each. According to Kenney, the tests are intended for people who do not exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms.
“Albertans will be able to pick up a box for themselves and one box for those who cannot pick up themselves who might be in their households provided they have each individual’s health care number,” he said.
Kenney also said starting Dec. 15, any Albertan aged 50 or older, and all health-care workers, can book appointments for a third-dose booster vaccine, as long as six months have passed since their second jab. The premier added this means approximately 2 million people in Alberta are now eligible for boosters.
Locally, Airdrie’s rate of COVID-19 infections has remained relatively stagnant in recent weeks, with the city reporting 69 active cases as of Dec. 13.
According to the Alberta government’s geospatial map of active COVID-19 data, Airdrie has seen 5,584 total cases since March 2020, and 22 Airdronians have died of the virus.
Province-wide, Alberta confirmed 250 new cases on Dec. 13, meaning the province was reporting 4,016 active cases as of that date. Of those active cases, 366 patients were in hospital, including 70 in intensive care units.
Alberta had identified 50 cases of the new Omicron variant of concern as of press time, according to government data, including 20 additional Omicron cases on Dec. 13 – the highest daily climb since the variant was first identified in Alberta. Thirty-six of the 50 cases involved international travellers, while 12 were among close contacts of previously confirmed cases. Two Omicron cases are suspected to be from community transmission.
“We are closely monitoring developments around the Omicron variant and are taking immediate action to protect Albertans and slow the spread in our province,” Kenney said, adding the government strongly encourages Albertans to "do their part to address the threat of Omicron" by booking a booster shot, using rapid tests when appropriate, and following the province's guidelines.
In terms of vaccine distribution, the Alberta government’s website indicates 7,170,647 doses of vaccine had been administered as of Dec. 13. That means 89.3 per cent of Albertans 12 and older have received one dose of a vaccine, and 84.9 per cent of Albertans 12 and older have received two doses.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said early indication is that Omicron is more transmissible than other variants or strains of COVID-19, but has resulted in less severe illnesses. That being said, she cautioned Albertans to remain vigilant.
“Even if the risk of each individual case needing ICU care is lower, if the total number of cases is much larger, the total acute-care impact would be expected to be significant,” she said.
As of press time, Alberta’s death toll involving COVID-19 was at 3,283. Eight new deaths were reported Dec. 13.
According to the Province, 78.1 per cent of all Albertans have received one dose of vaccine so far, while 72.2 per cent of residents have received two doses.