COVID Weekly: Restrictions extended, two deaths nearby, & cases increase

Pearl Lorentzen

Lakeside Leader

Current COVID-19 restrictions continue until at least January 21. 

Two people died from COVID-19 in Big Lakes and the Town of Whitecourt, which border the M.D. of Lesser Slave River. Lesser Slave River COVID cases increased, but not as much as Big Lakes County, the M.D. of Opportunity, and Northern Sunrise County. 

On January 6, 2021, the High Prairie Health Complex, in Big Lakes County, was added to the list of locations with COVID-19 outbreaks in the AHS North Zone. 

There were various outbreaks in the AHS North Zone, which covers the north half of Alberta. These were six regular hospitals, four long term care (the closest to Slave Lake was in Westlock), four supportive living/home living sites (closest in Grande Prairie), and 17 other sites. 

The other sites ranged from Grande Prairie to Fort McKay and included everything from a prison to a child care society to oilfield work camps. The majority were work camps in the Fort McMurray and Fort McKay area. 

Nearby

As of January 8, data was accurate as of the end of the day on January 7. While this is normal, the weekly change covers nine days (December 30 to Jan. 7), rather than the normal seven.

As of Jan. 7, Lesser Slave River and neighbours active cases were:

  • Lesser Slave – 28 cases (24 new & five recovered)
  • Big Lakes County – 132 cases (96 new, 53 recovered, & one died)
  • Westlock County – 24 cases (16 new & 13 recovered)
  • M.D. of Opportunity – 74 cases (69 new & 27 recovered)
  • Woodlands County – zero
  • Town of Whitecourt – 36 cases (30 new, 18 recovered, & one died)
  • Athabasca County – 37 cases (28 new & 16 recovered)
  • Northern Sunrise County – 67 cases (68 new & 22 recovered)

The Lesser Slave River cases could be in the Town of Slave Lake, or in the M.D. which includes the communities from Assineau to Marten Beach to Flatbush. This is because all municipalities include towns, First Nations, and Métis Settlements with populations under 10,000.

AHS North Zone

AHS North Zone active, recovered, and deaths by date case by month that their infection with COVID was reported. The month in which a person dies is not always the same month in which they contracted the virus. For example, the seven people who died from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 reported the disease between October 5, 2020 and January 1, 2021. January is a partial month of only five days.
All graphs built by Leader staff with statistics from alberta.ca.

The AHS North Zone covers the top half of Alberta. From Dec. 30 to January 7, there were 1,187 new cases, 702 recoveries, and eight deaths. 

Total North Zone COVID cases were 8,036 – 1,508 active, 6,454 recovered, and 74 deaths. Of the active cases, 65 people were in hospital in the AHS North Zone. Of these hospitalizations, seven were in intensive care units (ICU). This is an increase of eight hospitalizations and three ICU. 

AHS North Zone COVID cases by region, divided by active, recovered, and died. As the chart above shows, all of the active cases were reported in the last three months.

Deaths

From Dec. 30 to January 7, eight people died from COVID-19 in the AHS North Zone. Six were men – two in their 50s, three in their 70s, and one 80 or older. The two women who died were in their 60s. 

Two of these deaths were in municipalities which border Lesser Slave River – Big Lakes County and Whitecourt. The Big Lakes death was a man in his 50s. His case of COVID-19 was reported on January 1, 2021. His death on January 6. 

As the Whitecourt death was announced on the same date as two others, this person may have been a man in his 50s, a woman in her 60s, or a man 80 or older. The other two people lived in Jasper and the M.D. of Bonnyville. 

The other woman in her 60s who died lived in Lac La Biche. Three men in their 70s died, from MacKenzie County, the City of Grande Prairie, and Grande Prairie County. 

AHS North Zone deaths by age and gender. One further woman in her 60s died as of the end of the day January 7.
Total AHS North Zone deaths by region were:
  • Big Lakes County – six (one new)
  • M.D. of Smoky River – 10
  • Westlock County – one
  • Town of Whitecourt – one (new)
  • Clear Hills County – one
  • M.D. of Fairview – one
  • MacKenzie County – 15 (one new)
  • M.D. of Greenview – one
  • City of Grande Prairie – nine (one new)
  • Grande Prairie County – two (one new)
  • County of Barrhead – two
  • County of St. Paul – one
  • M.D. of Bonnyville – one (new)
  • Jasper – five (one new)
  • Fort McMurray – three
  • Yellowhead County – five
  • Lac Ste. Anne County – eight
  • Smoky Lake County – three
  • Lac La Biche – three (one new)

The total number of deaths in the municipalities is four more than 73. This is likely a data error, which has carried forward for several weeks now. 

Restrictions & schools

On January 7, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that in-class learning would resume on Monday, January 11, as scheduled. However, all other restrictions would continue for at least an additional two weeks until January 21. 

The government decided to “prioritize reopening the schools” because of various factors, he said. These include that most transmission among school age children happened in the community, not at school.

Before people returned to school, Lesser Slave River and neighbours were at three school outbreaks (two to four cases). These were one in Slave Lake, one in High Prairie, and one in Whitecourt. None of these outbreaks were new and two had been on the books for over three weeks.

“There are no risk-free options,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health. High hospitalizations and rates of positive tests, and having not yet seen the impact of the holidays on COVID-19 spread, were some of the reasons that the current restrictions are continuing for a minimum of two weeks.

The current restrictions are available on alberta.ca. 

Current restrictions include masks being mandatory in all public spaces, no social gatherings, and that people are to work from home if at all possible. 

The AHS North Zone COVID curve of infections over the last 10 months.

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