LETHBRIDGE, AB – Health officials in southern Alberta are pleading with people to follow COVID-19 restrictions especially when to comes to social gatherings.

Cases have been on the rise here in the past few weeks with many of them linked to family gatherings, visits between households, and faith based activities where masks and distancing measures haven’t been used.

Dr. Vivien Suttorp is the Lead Medical Officer of Health for the Zone South.

She says variant strains are also on the rise (112 as of March 23), adding they showed up out of the blue just three weeks ago.

Suttorp says “they were not linked to travel, they were not linked to travel outside of southern Alberta, they just came. So we know that they came from somewhere, somebody else. When there is no epidemialogical linkage to a gathering or a wedding, or some other confirmed case, then we know there are others out there.”

She’s urging anyone with symptoms, or who is a known close contact, to get tested for COVID-19, saying “if people are not being tested, the numbers that we have are a mere tip of the iceberg and that is what I fear is actually occurring.”

Of the 39 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the South Zone, 32 of them are at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge and 7 are in the ICU.

As of March 24 data, there were 47 new cases and 510 active cases in Lethbridge.

Lethbridge County is experiencing a rapid rise in cases as well. On March 17 there were just 19 active cases in that municipality while one week later, on March 24, that number had grown to 91.

South Zone outbreaks according to Alberta Health Services:

Acute care facilities
Chinook Regional Hospital

Long term care facilities
The Valleyview, Medicine Hat

Supportive living/home living sites
Edith Cavell Care Centre, Lethbridge
Grandview Village, Lethbridge
Martha’s House, Lethbridge
St. Therese Villa, Lethbridge
The View at Lethbridge

Other facilities and settings
Blackfoot Family Lodge Society, Lethbridge
Haul All Equipment, Lethbridge
Lethbridge Alpha House
Safe Haven Women’s Shelter, Taber
Sunrise Poultry Processors, Lethbridge
Trinity Reformed Church, Lethbridge