Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Dec. 24

Steps taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools are working, Alberta's top doctor says, with the case numbers suggesting students are more often getting sick outside their classrooms.

Case numbers show Alberta's school plan worked to slow COVID-19 spread, top doctor says

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks under Christmas decorations in an empty downtown Calgary on Dec. 9. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Alberta is making a one-time exemption to its social gathering rules for people who live alone, allowing them to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and 28, the province announced Tuesday. A household must host a maximum of only two people who live alone. 
  • The province is also relaxing its rules on massage therapy, which will now be allowed if someone has a prescription and if precautionary measures are in place.
  • Case numbers show Alberta's school plan worked to slow COVID-19 spread, the province's top doctor says.
  • Alberta Health Services began the rollout of an additional 25,350 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to all health-care zones on Wednesday. More than 3,000 health-care workers in Calgary and Edmonton have received their first dose.
  • Health Canada has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month's end. The federal department announced the approval on Wednesday after completing a review of the company's clinical trial data.
  • Alberta reported 1,100 new cases on Thursday, with a positivity rate of seven per cent, up slightly from 6.8 per cent on Wednesday. No new hospitalization or ICU numbers or deaths were released.
  • The province did 15,600 laboratory tests over the past 24 hours.
  • The active case total peaked at 21,138 on Dec. 13, the day after a raft of new provincial restrictions went into effect.
  • While the daily case tally has slightly declined in recent days, hospitalizations have continued to increase, with 821 people in hospital, including 136 in ICU as of Wednesday. A total of 890 people have died. 
  • Calgary Stampede officials say they're hopeful they'll be able to mount a modified version of the event in 2021 after it was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.
  • Alberta leads the country in terms of the number of passengers hit with fines or warning letters for refusing to wear a mask on board a flight, CBC reported Tuesday.
  • Anyone who has been in the United Kingdom in the past 14 days should get tested for COVID-19, whether they're symptomatic or not in view of the new, potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading in that country, the Alberta government said Monday. The province also said travellers from the UK who are participating in Alberta's border pilot rapid-test program must immediately quarantine, whether they've had a negative test or not.
  • A Calgary judge on Monday rejected an emergency application seeking a stay of Alberta's COVID-19 public health restrictions, including bans on gatherings and mandatory masks. A Calgary law firm and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms appeared in court Monday to make an application for an emergency injunction staying Alberta's public health restrictions alleging they violate constitutionally guaranteed rights. 
  • A southern Alberta hockey coach has been suspended and fined after speaking with the media about a COVID-19 outbreak on his team last month, CBC News reported Wednesday.
  • Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.
  • Single parents have always shouldered extra responsibilities, but the pandemic has exacerbated challenges for this growing segment of the Alberta population.
  • Paramedics are asking the government to expedite their access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as it's not clear when they will be immunized.  which the government plans to administer to  29,000 health-care workers by the end of December and give to long-term care residents, staff who work in long-term care and designated supportive living centres, health-care workers in the highest risk areas of hospitals and people over the age of 75 in the first quarter of 2021.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday there will be a one-time exemption to the province's gathering restrictions, allowing people who live alone to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28. 

A household must only host a maximum of two people who live alone, not including minors.

The province also relaxed another rule — massage therapy will now be allowed for those who have a prescription, with precautions in place. 

Premier Jason Kenney gives holiday exemption to Albertans who live alone

CBC News Edmonton

2 months ago
Premier Jason Kenney says new exemption allows Albertans who live alone to spend time with others over the holiday. 2:50

Alberta reported 1,100 new cases on Thursday with a positivity rate of seven per cent, up slightly from the previous day's 6.8 per cent. 

As of Wednesday, the province said the total number of active cases in the province was 17,821, down from 18,311 the previous day.

Alberta reported 19 more COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. No new deaths were reported on Thursday.

Hospitalizations have continued to increase, with 821 people in hospital, including 136 in ICU. A total of 890 people have died. 

Kenney asked those who are thinking of breaking the rules over the holidays to consider the possible impact on the lives of others. 

"This is not a theory. This is not a model. This is not a political preference. It is a simple, hard, numerical reality of the pressure on the health-care system, which without these kinds of difficult restrictions and measures would, within a matter of weeks, undoubtedly overwhelm Alberta's health-care system," he said. 

"So we ask for people's understanding at this particular time of year as they gather in smaller household groups to please do everything you can to avoid turning Christmas into a superspreader event that could have [a] devastating impact on the lives and health of thousands of your fellow Albertans."

The provincewide R-value, or number of people infected by each person with the virus, was 0.92. 

Alberta's steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools are working, and case numbers suggest that when students do catch the virus, it's usually outside their classrooms, says the province's top public health doctor.

Case numbers in schools slowly increased throughout the fall, then began to rise more steeply in November, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference.

In late November, the province brought in new health measures that paused team sports and group performances and limited social gatherings. Junior and senior high students shifted to learning at home while elementary-age students remained at school in person.

Hinshaw said that in all three age groups, new case numbers roughly tripled from the beginning of November to the end of the month, then plateaued and have fallen over the past few weeks.

"This similar trend in all three age groups supports the other evidence we have seen suggesting that the school model in place is protective against in-school transmission," she said. "Instead, it seems that it is mainly all the other in-person activities that children undertake that are exposing them to the virus and helping to spread COVID-19.

Alberta chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Health-care workers throughout the province began rolling up their sleeves Wednesday as Alberta Health Services began rollling out an additional 25,350 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

 AHS says 14 dedicated COVID-19 centres have been set up to receive the vaccine, which will be given to all eligible respiratory therapists, ICU staff and doctors, and some continuing care health-care workers.

Those getting immunized at this early stage were chosen based on how much they interacted with active COVID-19 cases, their risk of transmission and their roles on the front lines of the pandemic response, the government says.

Marcos Gloria wins the Bull Riding event during finals rodeo action at the Calgary Stampede on July 15, 2018. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers says planning is underway for next year, with fingers crossed, to stage the celebration of cowboy life, which brings in a million visitors each year and gives the local economy a $282-million boost.

The signature Calgary event was cancelled in 2020 because of the global pandemic.

"Who would have thought it would be a pandemic that would really take us to a whole new level of challenge?" Peers said in an interview.

The Stampede started on an annual basis in 1923. It had been held every year since, including in 2013, when Calgary and other communities in southern Alberta were devastated by flooding.

Young Ahmadiyya Muslims in Calgary are busier than ever, helping people deal with the second wave of COVID as part of a national campaign running throughout the pandemic.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association launched the Neighbourhood Helper campaign in response to growing numbers of COVID cases and is increasing efforts heading into the holiday season.

They are offering their services across the city, and in other parts of Canada, picking up groceries, filling prescriptions and offering moral support to people who are struggling and in isolation.

Founded in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community spans more than 200 countries with tens of millions of followers.

"The campaign started in April to help people and families who are self-isolating or dealing with COVID," said Qamar Ahmad.

A southern Alberta hockey coach has been suspended and fined after speaking with the media about a COVID-19 outbreak on his team last month, CBC News has learned.

On Friday, the league issued a 15-game suspension and a $1,000 fine against Andrew Milne, the coach of the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Canmore Eagles, according to an email to AJHL executives and its member teams.

The suspension and fine were confirmed by league commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk, who said Milne was disciplined for "bringing discredit to the league."

Meanwhile, the league is preventing teams from speaking publicly or posting on social media ordering all media requests related to the pandemic or the league's return to play plan to the AJHL Office.

AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk, right, announced the suspension and fine issued against Canmore Eagles coach Andrew Milne, left, following Milne's interviews with media regarding his team's Covid outbreak. (Facebook/Canmore Eagles,

Transport Canada has handed out dozens of tickets and warning letters to passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights. Most of those have involved Alberta. 

A review of Transport Canada data by CBC News reveals that WestJet passengers have been the hardest hit — with 50 of the 72 incidents, or nearly 70 per cent, involving passengers on the Calgary-based airline.

WestJet passengers were also issued eight of the nine fines levied, with tickets ranging from $100 to as high as $2,000.

Those who receive warning letters could be handed a bigger fine if they violate the rules a second time. Transport Canada says the fine could be as high as $5,000.

Sweeping new restrictions intended to curb the surge of COVID-19 in the province took affect on Dec. 13. They will remain in place at least for four weeks — through Christmas and New Year's. A full list of the tighter measures is available on the province's website.

Outreach volunteers providing COVID-19 care kits started going door to door this week in some of the hardest hit neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary. (Supplied by Noor Al-Henedy)

Single parents have always shouldered extra responsibilities, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges for this growing segment of the Alberta population.

According to census data from Statistics Canada, Alberta is home to more than 186,000 lone-parent families. 

Though some share custody or have the help of a live-in partner, others have navigated the pandemic almost entirely on their own, balancing work, school and child care. 

On the In Search of Christmas Spirit trail

CBC News Calgary

2 months ago
This immersive art exhibit in Banff is helping locals find the Christmas spirit. Find out what you're missing if you live outside the Bow Valley. 3:26

The pandemic has increased the weight of those responsibilities, according to Layna Haley, who runs support groups for single mothers online through the St. Albert-based Kaleo Collective. Her organization has seen a surge in single mothers seeking supports, she said.

Seven parents in the COVID-19 hotspots of Edmonton and Calgary shared their struggles — and successes — with CBC just days before the province enacted new restrictions. You can read them here.

Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID-19 restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.

Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager for the agency's Banff field unit, says one of the most important things to prepare for is the weather. 

"Winter weather conditions can change quickly. And as we can see today, you know, the weather conditions can be quite extreme sometimes. And so we want to make sure people are prepared with the right clothing, the right gear, checking the conditions before they go and making sure that they have some alternative plans in place," she said on Tuesday.

"So should weather conditions change or parking lots be full … have some backup areas to visit."

Single parents share challenges of pandemic

CBC News Edmonton

3 months ago
Single parents in Alberta talk about how they are handling work, school and child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 0:56

Some parts of the Rockies received between 20 and 70 centimetres of snow on Tuesday, causing road closures and putting many areas at high risk of avalanches.

Another concern, Rubeling said, is people who are new to winter outdoor recreation.

While there are some closures, there's still plenty to do in the mountain town and park — like winter walks, cross-country skiing and fat-biking. There is also downhill skiing, but some hills like Lake Louise have moved toward a reservation system.

People can visit the Parks Canada website for details on what's open, what's closed, what parking lots are full and how to enjoy the park safely, Rubeling said. 

When Alberta's COVID-19 outreach program began to reach front doors this week, volunteers say they were met with delight and appreciation.

"It's something you don't expect to see at your door, someone handing out at least two packages of self-protective gear and saying 'happy holidays,'" volunteer Hanan Noor said.

Volunteers have started distributing care kits this week directly to households in the neighbourhoods hit hardest by COVID-19 in Edmonton and Calgary. Noor participated in Edmonton on Tuesday and Wednesday, going door-to-door in the Mill Woods area.

Partners at the Edmonton Convention Centre (ECC) are celebrating Christmas this year despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News reported Tuesday.

The temporary shelter at the ECC opened in late October. The centre has access to showers, laundry, ceremonial support for Indigenous peoples, regular meals and sleeping spots, among other support services.

Although holiday celebrations will look a bit different this year, there will special meals and gifts to mark the occasion. 

"[We'll have] a Christmas lunch service as well as a traditional turkey meal for the evening and volunteers will be handing out gifts to each participant that is on site and so that'll be a bag of essential items. Socks, mittens and additional things they might need, some baked goods donated by local bakeries," said Scarlet Bjornson, marketing and communications coordinator at Bissell Centre.

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:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases updated as of Wednesday:

  • Calgary zone: 6,470, down from 6,555 reported on Tuesday (29,722 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 8,427, down from 8,644 (31,475 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,092, down from 1,121 (5,089 recovered).
  • South zone: 390, down from 412 (4,392 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,391, down from 1,462 (4,242 recovered).
  • Unknown: 51, down from 117 (150 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:

The first shipment carrying doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Canada.

The shipment contains a portion of the 168,000 doses expected by the end of the month.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in this country on Wednesday, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month's end.

The Moderna vaccine was found to be 94.1 per cent effective, Health Canada said in a notice authorizing use of the vaccine.

"There were no important safety issues identified and no life-threatening adverse events (AEs) or deaths related to the vaccine," the notice said.

As of 10:10 ET on Thursday, Canada's COVID case count stood at 530,801, with 75,690 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,646.

The federal government has launched an $850,000 digital-based ad campaign warning Canadians about the perils of travelling abroad during the pandemic, which could include grounded flights or lax health rules at their destination.

The ads follow a CBC News report in late September that some snowbirds were planning to fly south this winter, despite the government's advisory to avoid non-essential travel abroad. Since that time, a number of snowbirds have already left Canada.

Ontario on Thursday reported 2,447 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,278. Hospitalizations stood at 967, with 277 COVID-19 patients in Ontario's intensive care units, according to provincial data.

The update from Ontario comes a day after Health Canada approved a second COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for the shots from U.S. biotech firm Moderna to start arriving in the country.

All of Ontario will move into a lockdown on Boxing Day in a bid to curb climbing COVID-19 case numbers and spare hospitals and their intensive care units from being inundated in January, Premier Doug Ford said Monday.

The lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26 and remain in place until at least Jan. 23, 2021 in the 27 public health units that comprise southern Ontario. In the seven public health units in Ontario's north, where daily case numbers have been significantly lower, the lockdown is set to expire on Jan. 9, 2021.

Hard-hit Quebec, meanwhile, saw a record high daily case number Tuesday with 2,183 new cases of COVID-19. The province reported 28 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,794. 

Manitoba health officials are reporting 155 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths. The number of new cases continues to trend downward following restrictions that were imposed last month on public gatherings and business openings.

Health officials say intensive care units, however, are still running well above their normal capacity.

In Saskatchewan, where new restrictions took effect last Thursday, Saskatchewan reported 159 new cases and five new COVID-related deaths on Wednesday.

Under the new measures, which are in place until at least Jan. 15, residents can no longer have guests in their homes and outdoor socializing is capped at 10 people.

In British Columbia, health officials on Monday reported 41 additional deaths over a period of three days and 1,667 new cases. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that while case numbers seem to be levelling, they are still too high.

"We have to remember that people getting sick today were in contact with others days ago, and as much as two weeks ago."

In Atlantic Canada, new measures meant to prevent any possible surge of COVID-19 over the holiday period have started across Nova Scotia, which announced two new cases on Monday. Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases and announced that the province's active caseload has dipped to 28.

In Nunavut, three new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since last Friday, all in Arviat, according to a government news release.

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.

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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