Alberta has the highest number of active COVID-19 cases in all of Canada. 

According to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Alberta’s updated provincial positivity rate is seven per cent, with 14,052 active cases. It comes as Alberta conducted 15,900 tests and confirmed 1,077 more cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

In an update Thursday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 10 more Albertans have died from the disease: six in Edmonton, two in Calgary, and two in the central and southern areas of the province. Only three had known comorbidities.

There are 383 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 84 of whom are receiving critical care.

The number of schools in the province managing active alerts or outbreaks has risen to 359 – or roughly 15 per cent of all primary schools in the province.

But while COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Alberta’s labs have not confirmed one case of influenza.

Hinshaw said it’s sometimes unreliable to compare influenza data – because the illness hits at different times depending on the season – but that as of the same time in 2019, Alberta had counted 464 cases.

About 1.3 million Albertans have gotten the influenza vaccine, about 228,000 more than as of the end of November 2019.

RAPID TEST PILOT TO BEGIN EARLY DECEMBER

Health Minister Tyler Shandro joined the conference to announce the province would be soon be distributing 577,000 Abbott IDNow and PanBio COVID-19 testing kits.

The first 100,000 will be distributed at assessment centres in Edmonton, Calgary, Slave Lake and St. Paul, as well as the hospital in Bonnyville.

The Health Canada-approved tests need to be done by a health professional and are to be used on people who have been showing symptoms for seven or less days – not close contacts or exposed asymptomatic people.

“This will allow us to quickly identify and notify positive cases within hours, reducing the need for patient samples to be transported to centralized public laboratories for processing,” Shandro said.

He added Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories are working to expand the pilot to continuing care facilities.

To ensure the validity of the test, each person will undergo two swabs, and negative PanBio tests will be double checked by the lab system.

‘BETRAYAL OF THE TRUST’: HINSHAW

Alberta’s top doctor also addressed a reported leak of her meetings with other health and government officials.

 “This is a personal betrayal and a betrayal of the trust our hardworking team has placed in each other,” she told media, adding that she is grateful for the team that has “given their all” alongside her for months.

I spoke to @jkenney and @shandro this morning to convey my disappointment with the irresponsible actions of one person. We must work together in our efforts to respond to #COVID19AB. I will have more to say at 3:30pm. (2/2)

— Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) November 26, 2020

The recordings, dating back months, were published by CBC News Thursday and revealed parts of detailed conversations between Alberta’s top doctor and cabinet members about the province’s pandemic strategy.

She said it’s unknown who leaked the recordings. About six people report to her directly, and there are another approximately 40 people who she considers part of her team in the Emergency Operations Centre.

During the Thursday provincial update, Hinshaw said the recordings were taken out of context and separated from the discussions she had about conversations which could possibly occur with Premier Jason Kenney and other government members.

However, she reiterated her role, as legislated, is to provide the best advice she can and for her team to carry out the plans decided upon by elected officials.

“I take that responsibility seriously. I care deeply about the health of Albertans. It remains my hope that Albertans understand that and respect that every conversation I have puts their health and a holistic consideration of all aspects of their health first,” she said.

“I do not dictate every detail of each policy decision and I should not. I was not elected by Albertans… This is how democracy works.”

Shandro called criticism that Alberta’s latest restrictions do too little disingenuous.

“It’s assuming that there is one recommendation that comes to us when we say yes or no.”

He said he would not be breaching cabinet confidence by revealing what recommendations Hinshaw presented to government.

The matter also made its way into the Alberta legislature on Thursday, with the NDP calling the leak evidence the United Conservative government has been prioritizing political ideology over public safety.

“For months this premier hid behind Dr. Hinshaw’s skirts, claiming that he was following her advice – advice he refused to share with Albertans. Now we know why,” Opposition and NDP Leader Rachel Notley said.

Kenney responded that his government was, in fact, taking on board public health expert advice.

“Of course we have to balance that with the broader social economic, mental, emotional and physical health concerns,” he said. “Because ultimately, Mr. Speaker, it’s the elected representatives of the people of Alberta who must make these very difficult decisions.”