LETHBRIDGE, AB – Alberta’s top doctor is asking Lethbridge residents to buckle down a little bit longer and follow all public health restrictions in place.

Alberta Health Services says family gatherings and visits between households is the driving force behind the spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province is just a few months away from being able to offer vaccine to everyone who is at significant risk of hospitalization or death.

Until then, she says “these kinds of social gatherings are the highest risk type of activity to spread COVID-19 and the ripple effects can reach far beyond those who attend that gathering – they reach into work places, they reach into hospitals, they reach into schools.”

Hinshaw also says additional measures may need to be considered if there is a rapid rise in cases which leads to a rapid rise in hospitalizations, but adds “the last thing any of us wants is to have to go backwards.”

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Lethbridge had risen to 447 as of March 14 – far surpassing the previous record high of 259 set back on Dec. 7 during the peak of the second wave.