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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, Dec. 4

Premier Jason Kenney said the province will have to move forward with further restrictions if numbers don't fall, during a live Q&A on Facebook Thursday night.

Alberta reported 1,828 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 15 additional deaths

The province set a record high again on Dec. 3, with 1,854 new cases and a positive-test rate of 9.5 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases each day for nearly two weeks.  (Alberta Health Services)

The latest:

  • Alberta's positivity rate climbed climbed to 10.5 per cent Friday, a number Dr. Deena Hinshaw called a "grim milestone."
  • Alberta reported 1,828 new cases, one day after shattering records with 1,854 cases. Alberta once again surpassed the number of new cases in Ontario, which had 1,780 more cases on Friday despite having more than three times the population of the western province.
  • Alberta also continues to lead the country in total active COVID cases, with 18,243 active cases on Friday afternoon, compared with 14,997 in Ontario and 13,197 in Quebec, which has twice Alberta's population. It also leads the country by far in active cases per capita.
  • There are more than 6,600 active cases in Calgary and more than 8,570 active cases in Edmonton
  • Fifteen more people have died for a total of 590 — with the Alberta government saying this week that 64 per cent of the deaths were among residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites.
  • There are 99 people in ICU, out of 533 in hospital, both record high numbers.
  • The province has 173 intensive care beds but is working to add another 250. 
  • Premier Jason Kenney, during a Q&A on Facebook Thursday night, once again warned the province would have to move forward with further restrictions if case numbers don't fall.
  • An internal Alberta government document, obtained by CBC News, shows the province has been planning for more than a week to set up indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients.
  • Medicine Hat's temporary mandatory mask bylaw goes into effect Friday.
  • Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld reaffirmed that law enforcement will be cracking down on on people who "blatantly disregard" public health rules designed to keep people safe.
  • Distress Centre Calgary says suicide-related calls, texts and chats were up 66 per cent in October compared with the same month in 2019.
  • Several Alberta school divisions say principals and support staff are spending hours making contact tracing phone calls to students and employees, instructing them to isolate, after families report a positive test result for COVID-19.
  • As Alberta rolls out COVID-19 vaccines in three phases next year, most members of the public will likely have to wait until summer for their shots, Kenney warned at the provincial briefing Wednesday.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta reported 1,828 new cases on Friday, one day after setting a record with 1,854 new cases.

Speaking during a press conference held Friday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said the province had reached a "grim milestone" as Alberta's positivity rate reached 10.5 per cent.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, added that AHS is working to bolster its troubled contact tracing system.

"As case numbers have increased exponentially in the past six weeks, it has become more and more difficult for our teams to keep up with demand," Yiu said.

Premier Jason Kenney hosted a live Q&A on Facebook Thursday night that lasted about 90 minutes. When asked about the potential for further restrictions, the premier said the province is currently waiting to see what effect the most recent measures have before announcing any new measures.

However, Kenney did hint that any possible new restrictions would be linked to the "hot zones" of the province — Edmonton and Calgary. 

This map shows the number of active COVID-19 cases in different areas in and around Calgary on Dec. 3. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"If we don't start to see a stabilization or a reduction in the growth, then as I announced last week, we'll have to move forward with additional restrictions," he said. "I suspect that if we do that, those restrictions will be likely geographically focused. In a worst case scenario, we may have to suspend more businesses again."

Last week, Kenney announced new restrictions on gatherings and businesses. He also revealed that the R-value would be the key metric in determining whether those restrictions would be lifted on Dec. 18.

Kenney said then he would evaluate the restrictions on Dec. 15, and the province would need to have an R-value below 1.0 in order to lift the restrictions. Ideally, he said, the province would have a R-value of 0.8. 

"That's the minimum metric goal that we must achieve by December the 15th," he said. "We must see the rate of transmission move below one. If we start to move it below one, then we know we have begun effectively to bend the curve."

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:

An R-value of 1.0 means each person with the illness only infects one other person, on average. That would mean the number of infected people would be fairly consistent. Any number above 1.0 means case numbers will grow.

An internal Alberta government document shows the province has been planning for more than a week to set up indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, CBC News reported Thursday.

The Alberta Health Services (AHS) document details a draft implementation plan for two or more facilities, with 375 beds each, in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals.

Intensive care doctor decries prospect of field hospitals in Alberta

11 months ago
6:03
'This is damage control,' said Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician in Edmonton, speaking about an internal government draft plan to treat 750 COVID-19 patients in field hospitals. 6:03

The Alberta Health Services (AHS) document shows officials narrowed the possible field hospital sites down to three potential locations:

  • The University of Calgary Olympic Oval (Calgary) — potential capacity of 375 patients.
  • The University of Alberta Butterdome (Edmonton) — potential capacity of 288 patients.
  • The Saville Community Sports Centre (Edmonton) — potential capacity of 375 patients.

The field hospitals draft plan underscores the severity of the public-health crisis Alberta faces — and provides a sobering sign of where officials believe the trajectory of virus infections could be headed.

The Nov. 28 draft plan states the provincial government is exploring asking for military support to help staff the field hospitals.

"I think it's a sign of responsible planning on our part for [a] potential extreme scenario," Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference Wednesday.

As Alberta rolls out COVID-19 vaccines in three phases next year, most members of the public will likely have to wait until summer for their shots, Kenney said Wednesday.

Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout will happen in the first three months of 2021, he said, when it's anticipated that vaccines will been given to about 435,000 people, a little more than 10 per cent of the population.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses to be fully effective, with three to six weeks between doses, which means vaccinating 435,000 people would require 870,000 doses.

Phase 1 will focus entirely on the province most at-risk populations, he said, which includes residents of long-term care homes and designated supported-living facilities, staff who work in those facilities, on-reserve First Nations people, and other health-care workers.

Phase 2 of the rollout will run from April to June, with the goal by the end of the period to have 30 per cent of the population immunized, Kenney said.

"By the summer, we plan to begin Phase 3, where vaccine will be offered to all Albertans. And that means it will be months before vaccine is available to the general population. This is the unfortunate reality that Canadians across the country face, and people around the world."

Meanwhile, Alberta schools are no longer waiting for public health confirmations to try and stop COVID-19 from spreading. Several school divisions say principals and support staff are spending hours making phone calls to students and employees, instructing them to isolate, after families report a positive test result for COVID-19.

As cases have skyrocketed in Alberta throughout the fall, Alberta's contact tracers became overwhelmed. Although Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it is prioritizing the investigations of K-12 student cases, a growing backlog means tracers are unable to track and record every case linked to a school.

Starting today in Medicine Hat, people over the age of two will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces as well as public vehicles, unless they are exempted due to medical conditions.

Mayor Ted Clugston told CBC News that the mask bylaw was one of the most divisive issues he has seen among residents and members of council. However, Clugston said with the rise in the city's cases, council decided to follow the rest of the country with the mask bylaw. Medicine Hat's population is 68,057 and the city currently has 105 active cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Calgary police confirmed on Thursday that they had mailed fines to three people who are also facing charges after an anti-mask rally last weekend. A first-time breach of the Public Health Act is a $1,200 fine, police say. Mask bylaw violations are $50 fines.Calgary police and bylaw officers are cracking down on people who "blatantly disregard" public health rules designed to keep people safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, city and enforcement officials reaffirmed Thursday.

Distress Centre Calgary says suicide-related calls, texts and chats were up 66 per cent in October compared with the same month in 2019. Of the more than 4,800 interactions last month, nearly one-quarter dealt with suicide. That could mean someone contemplating ending his or her life or an attempt in progress.

"We're seeing it more back-to-back rather than the odd one here and there that is more intense," said Hannah Storrs, the centre's crisis team lead.

"People are dealing with a lot right now. They're dealing with isolation. They're dealing with mental health issues. They're dealing with financial issues on top of being just scared of what can happen in the world."

Here is the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Friday:

  • Calgary zone: 6,666, up from 6,445, reported on Thursday. 
  • Edmonton zone: 8,578, up from 8,331.
  • North zone: 1,012, up from 991.
  • South zone: 630, down from 633.
  • Central zone: 1,251, unchanged.
  • Unknown: 106, up from 92.

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 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 401,859, with 70,008 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,485.

Federal officials explained how they plan to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks on Thursday. The initial supply of the doses will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get shots in the first three months of 2021. Millions more doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.

A senior official, speaking to CBC News on a not-for-attribution basis, said Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec will get two such delivery sites each, with one in each of the other provinces. A plan for the territories is still being finalized, the official said.

The shots likely will be distributed on a per capita basis, the official said, much like how federally procured personal protective equipment has been issued to those jurisdictions throughout this pandemic. Some observers have said provinces dealing with higher caseloads should get priority access to vaccine shots at first.

Manitoba reported 12 more COVID-19 fatalities and 368 new cases Thursday, which is lower than the province's average for the previous seven days. Authorities say there are 357 people in hospital with the virus, a record high.

In British Columbia, chief provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 12 more deaths from COVID-19 Thursday and 694 new cases of the disease. The number of active cases across the province has risen to 9,103, but the number of patients in hospital has dipped slightly to 325, with 80 in critical condition.

Saskatchewan reported 259 new cases on Thursday, which is below the province's seven-day average of 276. Saskatchewan health authorities are also reporting one additional death.

Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days' worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.

Quebec reported more than 1,500 daily cases for the first time ever on Wednesday, and more than 1,400 again Thursday. The province has reported more than 100 deaths from COVID-19 in the past three days.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases on Thursday and one recovery, bringing its number of active cases down to 29. 

New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 111.

Prince Edward Island, which announced one new case of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing its total number of active cases to five. Premier Dennis King also said P.E.I. will not rejoin the Atlantic bubble until at least Dec. 21. 

In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported five new cases in Arivat on Thursday, bringing its active case count to 75.

Yukon confirmed one new case of COVID-19 on Thursday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.

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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