Omicron variant identified in Alberta; Hinshaw to provide COVID-19 update Tuesday | Globalnews.ca
One day after joining the premier, health minister and CEO of Alberta Health Services, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is scheduled to give another COVID-19 update Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw is set to speak at 2 p.m. Her address will be streamed live within this article.
A source confirms to Global News/630 CHED that a case of the Omicron variant of concern has been identified in Alberta.
In an emailed response, Alberta Health said to “stay tuned for the 2 p.m. availability.”
COVID-19: Alberta announces new steps to prepare for Omicron’s ‘likely’ arrival
On Monday, Jason Kenney outlined the province’s steps to prepare for the “likely” arrival of Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant of concern.
The Alberta government said it plans to test all COVID-19 cases not identified as Delta cases for the Omicron variant and those efforts will prioritize cases involving travellers.
Kenney added that 156 travellers have arrived in Alberta in the last two weeks from countries of concern with regard to the new variant and all have been reached out to in an effort to quickly address any potential new COVID-19 cases.
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The government said anyone returning to Alberta from an international destination who tests positive for COVID-19 will be subject to a more extensive case investigation and heightened contract tracing efforts. PCR tests will be recommended for close contacts and household contacts.
Kenney, Hinshaw and Health Minister Jason Copping all said the most effective way for Albertans to protect themselves and others against the Omicron variant is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Kenney noted vaccines have proven to be effective against different variants, even if the medical community is still learning about Omicron.
Alberta prepares for inevitable arrival of Omicron COVID-19 variant
Kenney said the Alberta government hopes to have more news on a “significant expansion” of the group eligible for COVID-19 booster shots “soon.”
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Currently, a third dose is available to select groups of Albertans who are immunocompromised, 70 years and older, First Nations, Metis and Inuit Albertans who received their second dose at least six months ago, health-care workers who received their first two doses at certain times and intervals, some travellers, and people who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Janssen.
Alberta introduces measures for Omicron coronavirus variant despite no cases
Also on Monday, AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu announced that, at the government’s direction, AHS is temporarily adding proof of negative COVID-19 test to its mandatory vaccine policy in some communities where the mandate would result in staffing shortages and health care for Albertans.
Yiu said the temporary rapid testing option would be available in a “small number of areas where lack of vaccination may impact patient care.”
It translates to about 260 AHS employees being eligible for the testing option at about 16 work locations across the province, she added.
Alberta brings in rapid testing at health sites where COVID-19 vaccine mandate caused staffing shortage
The proof of negative COVID-19 testing program begins on Dec. 13. AHS said the temporary testing directive will be reviewed by the end of March 2022.
AHS’ immunization policy deadline will also be adjusted to Dec. 13.
COVID-19: Alberta Health Services president disappointed by unvaccinated staff
“It is disappointing that about 3,000 of or staff either haven’t submitted proof of vaccination or have decided to remain unvaccinated,” Yiu said.
“We’ve done all we can do to encourage them. We’ve reached out to provide evidence-based reasons to get the vaccine and have worked hard to answer any questions or concerns that have been raised and we have stressed just how valuable the vaccine is in protecting those in our care.
“Unfortunately there are a small number of areas where lack of vaccination may impact patient care and this raises concerns for us all.”
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