Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Dec. 16
Alberta to send COVID-19 teams to hard-hit areas in Edmonton, Calgary
- Another 16 people have died of COVID-19 in Alberta, for a total during the pandemic of 760 deaths — more than have died during the last 10 flu seasons combined.
- On Wednesday, 1,270 new cases were reported. The province has 20,169 active cases and a testing positivity rate of 7.3 per cent.
- There are 749 people in hospital, including 139 in intensive care.
- 19 per cent of schools in the province (452 schools) are on alert or have outbreaks, with 1,964 cases.
- There are 982 active and 3,682 recovered cases at long-term care facilities.
- The province will send COVID-19 care teams to the 11 worst-hit communities — nine in Edmonton and two in Calgary (all of Northeast Calgary east of Deerfoot Trail). They'll deliver care packages, provide information in multiple languages and arrange on-the-ground support and safe transportation to COVID-19 assessment facilities.
- The province has set up 16 self-isolation hotels that will provide a free stay and food for 14 days — six in Calgary, nine in Edmonton and one in Peace River. The Calgary hotel has capacity for 791 people, and the Edmonton hotel can accomodate more than 1,300, Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday. Those who self-isolate at the hotels will also be eligible for temporary financial aid in the amount of $625 at the end of their stay.
- Sahra Kaahiye, a respiratory therapist at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, and Tanya Harvey, an intensive care RN at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, on Tuesday became the first in the province to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
- The province received 3,900 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine on Dec. 14 and expects to get another 25,350 doses at the start of next week, officials say.
- Alberta plans to administer first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 29,000 health-care workers by the end of December, the province's health minister says.
- Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, says Alberta Health will publicly report the number of people who have been immunized. People will receive a paper document and their immunization history will also be part of their electronic health file.
- Details on the vaccine and Alberta's plans to date can be found here.
- The R-value, or reproduction number, over the past seven days averaged 0.98. An R-value of 1 means an infected person has infected, on average, one other person. If the value is above 1, the spread will continue to grow.
- Sweeping new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 came into effect in Alberta on Dec. 13 and are expected to be in place for at least four weeks:
- Retail services and malls must now reduce customer capacity to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy.
- Restaurants, pubs and bars will be closed to in-person service. Takeout, delivery and curbside pickup are still allowed.
- Hair salons, nail salons, casinos, bowling alleys, gyms, movie theatres, libraries and museums will be closed starting on Sunday.
- Places of worship are limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy.
- All employees are now required to work from home unless their employer determines they need to be at work in person.
- Indoor and outdoor social gatherings remain prohibited. People who live alone are limited to up to two close contacts for in-person visits.
- Masks are mandatory across the province in all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or a barrier is in place, when in rental accommodations used solely as a private residence or in farm operations. Alberta had been the only province without a mask mandate until late November.
- A full list of the new restrictions is available on the province's website.
- Alberta will triple its small and medium enterprise grants to $20,000, while lowering the eligibility criteria to 30 per cent of revenues lost retroactive to March.
- At least a dozen new employee-related cases have been reported by three companies that run grocery store and pharmacy chains in Alberta — Loblaw Companies Ltd., Sobeys Inc. and Co-op — since Dec. 9. The stores are reporting cases on their websites.
What you need to know today in Alberta
Alberta reported another 16 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total deaths during the pandemic to 760.
"It is a sobering statistic that in less than 10 months, more Albertans have now died from COVID-19 than have died from influenza in the last 10 years combined," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said during her Wednesday update.
She reiterated the safety and benefits of the vaccine, as health-care workers begin to receive the first doses. Canada has one of the most robust regulatory systems in the world, Hinshaw said, and no steps were skipped in the approval process.
On Tuesday, Sahra Kaahiye, a respiratory therapist at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, and Tanya Harvey, an intensive care RN at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, became the first in the province to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following the arrival of the first 3,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Alberta Monday night.
"I am grateful to be one of the first health-care workers in Alberta to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I am from the Somali community and I want to set an example for my community. In Alberta, we have been battling vaccine misinformation for years and uptake is especially challenging in marginalized communities," Kaahiye said in an emailed release.
"The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine is great news for us. It will help us and it will protect us."
Harvey stressed the risk health-care workers present to their families.
"I am the biggest risk to my family and I cannot put my parents, or my husband's parents, at risk. It isn't easy for everyone to understand what it is like on the front lines — it's a blessing that most people aren't in a position to see what front-line workers see on a daily basis," said Harvey.
On Wednesday, 1,270 new cases were reported. The province has 20,169 active cases and a testing positivity rate of 7.3 per cent. There are 749 people in hospital, including 139 in intensive care.
The province will send COVID care teams to the 11 worst-hit communities — nine in Edmonton and two in Calgary. They'll deliver care packages and provide information in multiple languages, on-the-ground support and safe transportation to COVID-19 assessment facilities.
The province has also arranged for 16 self-isolation hotels that will provide a free stay and food for 14 days — six in Calgary, nine in Edmonton and one in Peace River. The Calgary hotel has capacity for 791 people, and the Edmonton hotel can accommodate more than 1,300, the premier said on Tuesday.
Those who self-isolate at the hotels will also be eligible for temporary financial aid in the amount of $625 at the end of their stay.
Alberta plans to administer first doses of the vaccine to 29,000 health-care workers by the end of December, the province's health minister says.
The province expects to get another 25,350 doses next week, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Monday.
"I said last week that there was a first glimmer of good news with the expected arrival of the first small shipment of vaccines this week," Shandro said. "Today, I am here to confirm that the news is a lot bigger and it's a lot better."
The R-value, or reproduction number, over the past seven days averaged 0.98. An R-value of 1 means an infected person has infected, on average, one other person. If the value is above 1, the spread will continue to grow.
Sweeping new restrictions intended to curb the surge of COVID-19 in the province took affect at on Dec. 13. They will remain in place at least for four weeks — through Christmas and New Year's:
- Retail services and malls must reduce customer capacity to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy.
- Restaurants, pubs and bars are closed to in-person service. Takeout, delivery and curbside pickup are allowed.
- Hair salons, nail salons, casinos, bowling alleys, gyms, movie theatres, libraries and museums will be closed.
- Places of worship are limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy.
- All employees are required to work from home unless their employer determines they need to be at work in person.
- A full list of new measures is available on the province's website.
In addition to the restrictions that came into affect on Sunday, indoor and outdoor social gatherings are also prohibited. People who live alone are limited to up to two close contacts for in-person visits. Masks are mandatory across the province in all indoor workplaces and facilities outside the home. Until November, Alberta had been the only province without a mask mandate.
Hinshaw said the target of the new restrictions is not to reach zero COVID-19 cases, something other jurisdictions have aimed for, but to no longer have the health-care system be at risk.
"These are decisions that we have arrived at not as a first resort but as a last resort, to protect lives and to preserve our health-care system," Premier Jason Kenney said.
In Alberta, the number of the so-called vaccine-hesitant is among the highest in the country according to a survey done earlier this month by Ipsos/Radio-Canada.
Albertans and Quebecers are the least likely to get vaccinated at 62 per cent, according to the survey. However, the national average was only slightly higher at 64 per cent.
Albertans and British Columbians were the most likely to say they are concerned about the side effects or risks associated with vaccine.
Albertans led the country at 34 per cent who believe COVID-19 can be beaten without a vaccine.
One-in-five Albertans said they are generally opposed to vaccination, whether against COVID-19 or other illnesses.
The Angus Reid Institute, another polling firm, has said the reason behind some vaccine hesitancy is related to concerns over safety— short and long-term side effects from a biological agent that was developed in less than a year.
Alberta released a new ad campaign on Friday featuring a man intended to represent the COVID-19 virus at a party and at a holiday gathering.
It was the slogan of another COVID-19 ad that inspired Kurt Beaudoin to create the funny yet villainous character who has already become a household name in Alberta.
"Covid loves to mingle," the 45-year-old recalled reading on a government billboard. The creative storyteller at Edmonton's ZGM Modern Marketing Partners and his colleagues later came up with a series of public service ads for a campaign launched by the province.
Mr. Covid, or "Creepy Uncle Covid," and his grey, oversized head with protruding red spikes and a wide twisted smile, is the main character in the $2-million campaign called "Covid Loves."
Beaudoin says the anti-hero, like the novel coronavirus, can blend seamlessly into any environment and spread an infection that has killed thousands of Canadians.
In one ad, Mr. Covid is an uncle who breathes on the faces of his relatives as he reaches for mashed potatoes at the dinner table. In the second ad, the social-distance violator is a frat boy doing the chicken dance at a crowded house party.
More than 400,000 people have watched the ads, Beaudoin says.
Click on the map below to zoom in or out on specific local geographic areas in Alberta and find out more about COVID-19 there:
After losing a significant amount of inventory to COVID-19 restrictions, a Calgary restaurant found a way to circumvent food waste this time around.
The staff at Eggs Oasis spent their Sunday giving away 500 free pick-up breakfasts that were prepared with the excess inventory they would have lost when dine-in service came to a halt on Sunday.
And according to owner Noor Sadid, it was a means of preventing history from repeating itself — for a third time.
"The first time this COVID thing happened, it was very sad. We lost quite a significant amount of inventory," Noor said.
This time around, Noor had an idea.
"I said, 'No way are we going to lose our inventory. We're going to give back to our community who supported us for all these years.'"
Alberta is expanding its small and medium business relaunch grant, to make up to 15,000 more businesses eligible for funding. Businesses can now receive 15 per cent of pre-pandemic monthly revenues up to a maximum of $15,000.
The program is also lowering its threshold from businesses who experienced 40 per cent revenue loss to 30 per cent revenue loss, retroactive to March.
Additional business supports are available through the federal government.
Here is the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Wednesday
- Calgary zone: 7,122, down from 7,331 reported on Tuesday (25,754 recovered).
- Edmonton zone: 9,715, down from 9,946 (26,071 recovered).
- North zone: 1,245, down from 1,250 (4,337 recovered).
- South zone: 553, same as the previous day (4,035 recovered).
- Central zone: 1,458, down from 1,496 (3,328 recovered).
- Unknown: 76, up from 73 (143 recovered).
Find out which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases, how hard people of different ages have been hit, the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares to other provinces and more in: Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean
What you need to know today in Canada:
As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 475,214, with 73,511 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 13,659.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Massachusetts-based Moderna will be available in Canada by the end of the month if the shot secures the necessary regulatory approvals.
Health Canada regulators are in the final stages of the review process for this vaccine. A final decision on authorization could come as early as this week.
If it's approved, Trudeau said, Canada will receive up to 168,000 doses of the two-dose Moderna vaccine before the end of December. Trudeau said deliveries are slated to begin within 48 hours of Health Canada's authorization.
"As with the early shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, this moves us even further forward on getting Canadians protected as quickly as possible," Trudeau said.
In Ontario, hospitals are being told to get ready for a surge in COVID patients. The CEO of Ontario Health, Matthew Anderson, said in a memo to hospitals that the province has entered "a more critical phase of the pandemic where we are seeing widespread community transmission."
Ontario reported 2,275 new cases and 20 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,992. Hospitalizations increased to 921, with 249 COVID patients in the province's intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.
Health officials in Quebec on Tuesday reported 1,741 new cases and 39 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the hard-hit province to 7,571. Hospitalizations increased to 959, with 125 people in intensive care units.
Premier François Legault announced he was tightening lockdown measures. Starting Thursday, working from home will be mandatory for most office employees, at least until Jan. 11. For the two weeks after Christmas, all non-essential stores will be closed.
Elementary school students will have a week of online learning tacked on to the end of their holiday break. The province also closed bars and restaurants in the few remaining far-flung spots where they were still allowed to operate.
In Atlantic Canada, COVID-19 vaccination efforts are slated to begin Wednesday in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
"In that plane represents hope for 2021," Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said as the first doses arrived in the province on Tuesday.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said Tuesday that if all goes well, the province will have more people vaccinated Wednesday than have tested positive for COVID-19 on the island, which has seen just 89 positive cases since the pandemic began.
The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have arrived in New Brunswick but that province's vaccination effort is not set to begin until the weekend.
In British Columbia, the Interior Health Authority said Tuesday that a cluster of cases has been linked to the Big White resort near Kelowna.
B.C. reported 522 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional deaths on Tuesday, bringing the provincial death toll to 668. Hospitalizations stood at 361, health officials said, with 93 in intensive care.
Saskatchewan has administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers in Regina. Nurses at the Regina General Hospital gave the province's first shots to a critical care doctor and an emergency room nurse on Tuesday.
Health officials in Saskatchewan reported 194 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and seven additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 98.
The COVID-19 death toll in Manitoba passed the 500 mark on Tuesday as the province announced 272 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths.
Across the North, Nunavut reported two new cases of COVID-19 and there was one new case reported in the Northwest Territories. There were no reports of new cases in Yukon.
Self-assessment and supports:
With winter cold and influenza season approaching, Alberta Health Services will prioritize Albertans for testing who have symptoms, and those groups which are at higher risk of getting or spreading the virus.
General asymptomatic testing is currently unavailable for people with no known exposure to COVID-19.
Those who test positive will be asked to use the online COVID-19 contact tracing tool, so that their close contacts can be notified by text message.
The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.
If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared.
You can find Alberta Health Services' latest coronavirus updates here.
A clinical allergist answers key questions about the vaccine:
The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day.
Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.
There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta's One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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