COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to drop; Alberta spends $8 million on isolation hotel program

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The number of Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 continued to creep lower Sunday with the province reporting 446 people in hospital.

That’s down from Saturday when 478 people were in hospital. Intensive care admissions dropped to 138 Sunday from 140 saturday.

The province reported 391 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday bringing the province-wide active case total to just over 8,000. Five more deaths were recorded bringing Alberta’s total to 2,219. This means Alberta remains on track for Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan on June 10.

Meanwhile, new figures are showing how much Alberta paid during the last year to support Albertans isolating. It cost more than $8 million for hotels, transportation, meals and isolation payments to support people who couldn’t self-isolate at home.

According to recently-released data from the department of municipal affairs, since the program launched in May 2020, more than 5,400 Albertans have stayed in more than 4,800 self-isolation hotel rooms. Approximately 36 per cent of these rooms are in Calgary, 45 per cent in Edmonton, and 19 per cent across the rest of the province.

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“Edmonton’s figure is larger since a number of northern Albertans travel to Edmonton to access the hotels due to limited capacity in more remote areas,” Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, said in an email.

The program was originally launched in May 2020 and expanded twice, eventually covering all Albertans who Alberta Health Services agree need to self-isolate due to public health orders and cannot do so at home.

People are given $625 per week if they finish their quarantine. Tallion said 3,100 people have received the $625 COVID self-isolation payment since it was implemented in targeted neighbourhoods on Dec. 15, 2020, for a total of approximately $2 million. It was expanded to all Albertans on Feb. 1, 2021.

Premier Jason Kenney has pointed to the program multiple times recently when being pressured by the NDP Opposition to implement province-wide paid sick leave during the pandemic.

“It’s a two-week package that has a monetary and non-monetary value of about $2,000 in addition to the thousand dollars that workers can get from the federal government critical worker sickness benefit,” Kenney said during question period last Tuesday.

The NDP has been calling for 10 days of paid sick leave covered by the federal and provincial governments. It said the two concepts are not that same and that staying in a hotel does not stop other bills, such as a mortgage, from coming due.

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Alberta is scheduled to enter Stage 1 of the reopening plan next Tuesday, when patios can open and personal service providers, such as hairdressers, can begin working by appointment only.

Stage 2 would include expanding the size of outdoor gatherings and allowing places like casinos and movie theatres to open at one-third capacity. That requires 60 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and older to be immunized with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, plus hospitalization numbers to be below 500 and declining.

As of Sunday, 2,371,529 Albertans had received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. That works out to 62.3 per cent of Albertans age 12 and over.

ajoannou@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ashleyjoannou

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