COVID-19: Alberta reports 732 new cases Friday as AHS urges people to stay away from gatherings this long weekend

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Alberta Health Services is cautioning Albertans not to gather this May long weekend, even as COVID-19 cases continue to drop.

The health authority tweeted Friday that they are aware of planned gatherings that may breach public health measures if they proceed. They urged people not to attend. Past long weekends, such as Thanksgiving and Easter, have seen large spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the following weeks.

AHS strongly condemns the intentional disobeying of COVID-19 public health restrictions. We will look to take legal action against organizers of these illegal events, in tandem with our enforcement partners,” AHS tweeted. “We strongly urge all Albertans to follow the current public health restrictions, which are designed to keep all of us safe and to bring us closer to a life beyond COVID-19.”

The warning came shortly before the province reported 732 new cases on Friday after 10,100 tests were completed, for a positivity rate of about 7.3 per cent. There are currently 16,577 active cases across Alberta, down from 17,675 on Thursday.

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While cases remain high in the province, they have dropped recently. There were more than 21,000 active cases on May 16 — the number of reported new cases that day was 1,140 after 11,858 tests were completed.

Hospitalizations dropped Friday to 638 people receiving treatment, down from 665 on Thursday. Intensive care admissions stayed the same, with 177 people in ICUs.

Two new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of fatalities in Alberta to 2,164.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during a news conference Thursday the May long weekend could be the last one with the most stringent health measures in place if Albertans continue to follow the rules and drop the rate of spread of COVID-19. She said a reopening plan is being created and is expected to be released “in the next week or so.”

“Make this the safest May long weekend ever. Get vaccinated, stay safe, and please keep following the rules,” said Hinshaw.

Hinshaw, along with Premier Jason Kenney, has previously said that a safe reopening will centre around hospitalization rates dropping and number of people who receive COVID-19 vaccines rising.

There have been 2,401,932 doses of COVID-19 administered in Alberta as of May 20. Hinshaw said Thursday that nearly 51 per cent of all eligible people in the province have received their first dose.

The increasing number of vaccinated individuals has led to several changes in public health measures this week. Quarantine rules changed for those who have received one or two doses of vaccine and vaccinated seniors have will no longer have to isolate upon being admitted to or taking day and overnight trips from continuing care facilities if they pass a health screening test.

Friday also marked the last day most students outside of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) will be learning online. Most K-12 students will be returning to the classroom on Tuesday. Edmonton public schools have a few operational days after the long weekend, meaning their students will return to in-person learning on Thursday.

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