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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, Dec. 29

Active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta have continued to follow a downward trend over the past five days, but the number of people being treated in hospitals for the illness has not declined.

Alberta will miss its goal of vaccinating 29,000 people by the end of the year

A couple wearing masks walk past a mural of a mother and child in Calgary on Dec. 28, 2020. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Health officials on Monday said Alberta's COVID-19 death toll had surpassed a grim benchmark of 1,000 as the province reported 112 additional deaths over a five-day period. The province has now logged a total of 1,028 fatalities, after reporting an additional 26 deaths on Tuesday.
  • Alberta will miss its goal of vaccinating 29,000 people by the end of the year, as it's on track to vaccinate 7,000 by end of day Tuesday.
  • Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that Alberta Health Services had been holding back some vaccines for a second dose but will now move forward to vaccinate as many people as possible to catch up. However, in mid-December, Health Minister Tyler Shandro had said no doses would be withheld.
  • Retired nurses and students will also be brought in to help speed up the rate of vaccinations.
  • 16,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine have arrived in Alberta. Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna shots do not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, so they can more easily be delivered to long-term care facilities. 
  • Another 872 new cases were reported on Tuesday, for a total of 14,785 active cases and a positivity rate of 7.7 per cent over 11,006 tests.
  • There are 890 people in hospital, 153 of whom are in intensive care.
  • Case numbers have been decreasing, in part due to fewer tests completed over the holidays, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday, but the positivity rate and hospitalizations have remained high. 
  • Katalin Lang is one of the countless Albertans who are trying to keep their loved ones' memories alive by reminding people to think about the deceased victims of COVID-19 and those they left behind. She and her mother, dressed in full personal protective equipment, had to say their final words to her father, Jozsef Lang, 88, through protective masks before he died at the end of November, days after contracting COVID-19 while living at Clifton Manor nursing home in Calgary. "I think that it just struck me that everybody was fixated on numbers and they still are," Lang said from her home in Medicine Hat. "And I understand it in a way, because it allows you to be emotionally detached. I just wanted it to be clear, that for every number there is emotion attached, there are memories attached. There are families attached. There is grief attached. They lived full lives and their loss is deeply, deeply felt." 
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, will next speak on Jan. 5, and online case numbers will be updated Tuesday, Wednesday and next Monday.
  • The first case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. has arrived in Alberta. Hinshaw said the case is linked to a person who recently arrived from the U.K., and that the person is currently in isolation. 
  • The 2020 tax season will look different for many Albertans, financial experts say.  For many, the pandemic changed their job situation, the source of their income and introduced unexpected expenses like medical or childcare. 
  • 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 on Dec. 21. 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.
  • Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails and hills to plan ahead, as COVID restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta will not meet its goal to vaccinate 29,000 people by the end of 2020.

The province is on track to vaccinate 7,000 people by end-of-day Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney said, with about 4,000 more vaccinations expected to take place over the next few days. 

Kenney said that Alberta Health Services had been holding back some vaccines for a second dose but will now move forward to vaccinate as many people as possible to catch up, including scheduling vaccinations on New Year's Day. Retired nurses and students will also be brought in to help speed up the rate of vaccinations.

However, in mid-December, Health Minister Tyler Shandro had said no doses would be withheld.

Alberta has now received 16,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage. That means it can be offered more easily to residents at continuing care facilities. It will be delivered to sites in Calgary, St. Paul, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Edmonton, as well as six on-reserve First Nation living facilities. 

After residents and staff of long-term care and supportive living facilities, immunization will focus on seniors age 75 and over, and residents age 65 and over of First Nations and Metis communities. 

Alberta crossed a tragic milestone on Monday, with more than 1,000 deaths in the province due to COVID-19. The province has now logged a total of 1,028 fatalities, after reporting an additional 26 deaths on Tuesday.

Premier Jason Kenney gives holiday exemption to Albertans who live alone

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

Another 872 new cases were reported on Tuesday, for a total of 14,785 active cases and a positivity rate of 7.7 per cent over 11,006 tests.

Case numbers have been decreasing, in part due to fewer tests completed over the holidays, Hinshaw said Monday, but the positivity rate and hospitalizations have remained high. 

There are 890 people in hospital, 153 of whom are in intensive care.

Kenney said it's important to continue to follow public health restrictions, especially with New Year's Eve on the horizon.

"I am concerned, to be blunt, about what we might see coming out of Christmas," he said. 

Alberta has now reported its first case of a COVID-19 variant, linked to a traveller from the U.K. who is in isolation.

"We are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to be able to get the flight details and the list of individuals who were on the same plane. There's a time delay between when that individual arrived and when the symptoms began, and so it's something that's a theoretical possibility of transmission, so we are going to be following up specifically with individuals who were seated in close rows," Hinshaw said on Monday.

"But again, at the moment, we have looked at the situation and believe that the risk is very low, but we will be making those phone calls to make sure that we are providing that additional information to anyone who may have been seated near this individual on the flight."

The new variant is believed to spread more easily and faster than the original version of the virus, based on modelling and some epidemiological data, but it is not believed to be more deadly.


Remembering some of the Albertans who have been identified as killed by COVID-19:

      1 of 0

      The province wasn't able to immediately provide details on enforcement of public health restrictions over the holidays, after videos circulated showing some crowded shopping malls in Calgary and Edmonton on Boxing Day. 

      Indoor retail spaces are limited to 15 per cent of capacity until at least mid-January. Not following the mandatory restrictions can result in fines of $1,000 or up to $100,000 through the courts.


      The winter holidays are usually the busiest season for air travel. But this year, about 80 per cent fewer travellers will pass through the doors of the Calgary International Airport in late December, according to the airport authority's spokesperson.

      About 50,000 travellers take off from or land at Calgary International Airport per day during the holiday season in an average year, said Reid Feist, spokesperson for the Calgary Airport Authority.

      But this year, the holidays fall amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many jurisdictions have discouraged all non-essential to prevent further spread of the illness. As a result, the airport authority predicted that only about 10,000 travellers would go through the Calgary airport "for the period before Christmas all the way through New Year's," said Feist.

      "For those who have to travel for essential travel reasons, the airport remains open. And of course, our focus is on everyone's safety as they move through the airport or arrive at the airport," he said.

      The Calgary airport is facing a $67-million deficit this year thanks to the unprecedented drop in demand for air travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

      A passenger sits at the Calgary Airport on Oct. 30 amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As of Thursday, the province said 14,382 travellers had taken tests in a pilot project for international travellers at the Calgary airport. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

      Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the goal in 2021 is to get vaccines out and put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear-view mirror, then work to fix a battered and beleaguered economy.

      But with a $21-billion deficit and Alberta's oil and gas economy still in flux, where's the money going to come from?

      "We will not cut our way out of a $21-billion deficit," Toews said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press. "We have to get the economy growing again. And economic recovery will very quickly become job No. 1 as we start to get past the pandemic."

      At the start of 2020, Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservative government was busy trying to resuscitate an already suffering economy only to see COVID-19 blow everything apart and take with it Kenney's key election promise to balance the deficit in his first term.

      That goal is now a distant memory with a projected budget deficit this year tripling an original forecast of $6.8 billion. COVID-19 has slashed demand for energy, shuttered businesses and necessitated relief aid and job supports to keep people going.

      Finance Minister Travis Toews said economic recovery will be a top priority for the province in 2021 after pandemic recovery. (Trevor Wilson/CBC )

      Over the course of its 101 years, Fairplay Pet Supply has become well-versed in weathering tough times. 

      Since opening in 1919 it has withstood the Spanish Flu, two world wars, a polio outbreak, the Great Depression, provincial recessions and the flood of 2013.

      In 2020, it faces another curve ball: the COVID-19 pandemic that has dealt an economic blow to local businesses.

      According to owner Christine Nurse, it's nothing the store can't handle.

      "My family and I were talking about it, [and] saying, 'You know, think about what Fairplay has gone through and seen,'" she said. "We personally weren't here, but the store is a survivor."

      Originally located on Memorial Drive and 10th Street S.W. when it opened in 1919, Fairplay Pet Supply is currently found on Kensington Road. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

      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."

      On the In Search of Christmas Spirit trail

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      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

      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. 


      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 Tuesday. 

      • Calgary zone: 5,244, down from 5,429 reported on Monday (32,644 recovered).
      • Edmonton zone: 6,701, down from 7,127 (35,439 recovered).
      • North zone: 1,034, down from 1,049 (5,657 recovered).
      • South zone: 302, up from 301 (4,595 recovered). 
      • Central zone: 1,466, down from 1,484 (4,854 recovered).
      • Unknown: 38, down from 51 (139 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 Monday evening, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 555,207, with 74,112 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 15,122.

      Ontario reported a single-day high of 2,553 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as public health officials faced criticism for scaling down the province's vaccination program over the holidays.

      Tuesday's update also included another 1,939 cases from Sunday, as no new numbers were published on the stat holiday yesterday, for a two-day total of 4,492 additional infections.

      The record 2,553 cases include 895 in Toronto, 496 in Peel Region, 147 in Windsor-Essex, 144 in Hamilton and 142 in York Region.

      They bring the province's seven-day average to 2,236. 

      Quebec on Monday reported 2,265 new cases of COVID-19 and 37 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 8,060 — and the national total to more than 15,000. Hospitalizations in the hard-hit province stood at 1,124 with 150 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard

      In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported two new cases, along with four recoveriesNew Brunswick reported one new case on Monday. Nova Scotia, meanwhile, announced 13 new cases from the past four days.

      Manitoba health officials announced 107 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths on Monday. The case count marks the lowest single-day total since Nov. 3, although the 1,076 tests completed on Sunday was the lowest since Sept. 14.

      In British Columbia, Fraser Health declared two new COVID-19 outbreaks at senior care facilities in the Lower Mainland on Monday, while an outbreak at Agassiz Seniors Community has been declared over.

      Five residents and two staff members have tested positive for the virus at Rideau Retirement Residence in Burnaby, B.C., while two staff members have also tested positive at Brookside Lodge, located in Surrey, B.C., according to a statement.

      Self-assessment and supports:

      With winter cold and influenza season upon us, 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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