The province confirmed its first case of the B.1.617 COVID-19 variant Thursday. Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the variant was first identified in Denmark and is behind the rapid rise of cases happening in India.
It comes as overall cases continue to surge in the province.
Hinshaw said the province is treating this as a “variant of interest” at this time. The province’s chief medical officer of health said it was confirmed after an Albertan returned from interprovincial travel. No additional cases of this variant have been detected to date in Alberta.
As of Thursday, variants made up 60 per cent of active cases in Alberta.
Hinshaw also announced Thursday the province is changing the timeline for some Albertans to receive their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Effective Friday, anyone receiving cancer treatments or are on other kinds of medication that result in a “profound level of immune compromise” will be eligible to book their second dose 21 to 28 days after the first.
“This aligns with Ontario’s approach and is specifically limited to Albertans who have received solid organ or stem cell transplants, or who are currently undergoing specific immune-compromising treatments, such as chemotherapy,” Hinshaw said Thursday afternoon.
Anyone receiving solely hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or surgical intervention for cancer or other therapies that are not as profoundly immune compromising will receive their second dose at an extended interval no later than four months after the first.
Second-dose appointments for those who qualify under these new guidelines can only be made by calling 811.
The change comes as the province confirmed an additional 1,857 new cases of COVID-19 had been reported over the past 24 hours.
During the same time period, the province identified 1,326 additional cases of variants.
The province completed about 17,500 tests over the last 24 hours and the positivity rate sat at about 10.7 per cent.
“These are concerning numbers that underline the fact that we have work to do together,” Hinshaw said.
There were 518 people in hospital as of Thursday afternoon, with 116 of those people receiving treatment in the ICU.
Hinshaw said it is crucial for Albertans to do everything they can to bend the curve back down to protect the health-care system.
“It’s important to remember that hospitalizations are a lagging indicator and these individuals in hospital were likely first infected around two to three weeks ago,” she said.
“Given how high our leading indicators – growth rate, new cases and positivity rate have been – we can expect to see this number grow in coming days.”
Over the previous 24 hours, Alberta administered more than 42,300 doses of vaccine.
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