COVID-19: Alberta deploys contact tracers dedicated to investigating variant cases


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Alberta now has a team of 50 contact tracers dedicated solely to investigating variant COVID-19 cases, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday.

In total, there have been 239 variant cases identified in the province, an increase of 14 from Wednesday. Of those, 232 are of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and seven are of the B.1.351 variant found in South Africa.

“This team is well prepared and has the ability to quickly expand if it’s needed,” Shandro said. “Between the expanded contact tracing team, and technological innovation animations, specialized training and putting lessons learned straight to work, we have a strong and effective contact tracing system.”

Shandro said Alberta now has more than 2,300 contact tracers, compared to one year ago when there were just 50. All positive cases are being reached by tracers within 24 hours of their test results.

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There are 41 contact tracers per 100,000 Albertans.

Alberta reported 415 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday after about 10,200 tests were completed for a positivity rate of 4.2 per cent.

There are 362 people in hospital with COVID-19 and of those, 55 are in intensive care.

Seven more deaths raised the death toll to 1,805.

As of Wednesday, 155,532 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and 58,674 Albertans have been fully vaccinated with two doses.

When asked about the next stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Shandro said an announcement would be made “fairly soon.”

“The principles of how these decisions are to be made are based on vulnerability, on equity, on making sure that we are looking at the evidence,” Shandro said.

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan confirmed the province is receiving 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week.

“Capacity will not be a constraint on rollout. We’ve been ready to roll out a much larger supply of vaccines than we’ve received in the last few weeks,” McMillan said.

“As the rollout expands, Alberta will work with community physicians, pharmacists and others to distribute the vaccine as safely and effectively as possible. We are exploring a wide range of options, including large immunization sites, for when more vaccines are available in future phases of the rollout.”

Meanwhile, Alberta Health Services ordered a St. Albert boutique to comply with COVID-19 public health measures.

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According to the order issued on Feb. 12, there was no employee screening for COVID-19 symptoms at Revolution Boutique and employees were observed not wearing masks. No barrier was in place at the cash register to protect staff or customers, and no signage was posted regarding COVID-19 precautions.

Health inspectors also noted there was no disinfectant on site for enhanced cleaning of high-touch surfaces and while hand sanitizer was observed in the source, the type of sanitizer or the active ingredient could not be confirmed.

The store was ordered to comply with the public health regulations immediately.

—  With files from Ashley Joannou

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