Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Dec. 7

As Alberta's COVID-19 statistics continue to reach alarming new milestones, a pair of southern Alberta churches and three people have launched a court challenge arguing that the province's pandemic restrictions violate their constitutional rights.

Alberta crosses 20,000 active cases, as chief medical officer says current measures aren't sufficient

AHS staff work at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in south Calgary along Macleod Trail on Nov. 30, 2020. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The latest:

  • An Alberta cabinet committee is meeting Monday to discuss potential further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the current measures aren't enough.
  • Alberta hit another grim milestone on Monday with 20,067 active cases of COVID-19. The province reported 16 more deaths, including six on the same day in the same Edmonton care centre. That's soared from 19,484 active cases on Sunday and 18,806 on Saturday.
  • As of Monday, Calgary had 7,472 active cases and Edmonton had risen to 9,190.
  • Across the province a total of 609 people were being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 108 in ICU beds. The province reported 1,735 new cases, with a positivity rate of 8.5 per cent. 
  • The first president of Alberta Health Services, who wrote the report that's helped guide Australia to aim for zero COVID-19 cases, said that country's lockdown shows the economy and health don't need to be at odds
  • Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is warning of a potential disaster unless COVID-19 cases in the city are brought under control. With more than 9,000 active cases in the Edmonton zone, Iveson called a special council meeting Tuesday to discuss what the city can do to help curb the spread. 
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he expects to see new restrictions introduced soon to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since Alberta's cabinet is meeting Monday — but if not, he'll push for the city to impose more measures itself.
  • Alberta will be receiving a shipment of 3,900 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine next week. An Alberta government official told CBC News that federal officials have told their provincial counterparts to prepare for those initial doses in the coming days.
  • The news comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday morning that several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year — shots primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staffers working there.
  • Two southern Alberta churches and several residents filed a court challenge arguing that the province's COVID-19 restrictions are an infringement of their constitutional rights.
  • 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 went into effect Dec. 4.
  • Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld reaffirmed last Thursday that law enforcement would crack down on people who "blatantly disregard" public health rules designed to keep people safe.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta's measures have been aimed at striking a balance between the harms of COVID-19 and the harms of additional restrictions, but that right now, the balance is tipping heavily in favour of COVID-19.

"I think that the current measures that we have in place are not likely to be sufficient to bring down our numbers. So if the goal is to bring our numbers down, we will need additional measures to be able to do that. I think that the exact restrictions that are needed, that's where that question lies," Hinshaw said.

An Alberta cabinet committee is meeting Monday to discuss what those additional measures could entail. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said if Premier Jason Kenney's government doesn't take action to implement new restrictions, he'll call a special meeting of city council himself to discuss new measures in Calgary. 

"We are way beyond the time where we even have 24 hours to spare. Decisions have to be made today, they have to be made tomorrow, and we have to work way harder on flattening this curve," the mayor told media on Monday. 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is warning of a potential disaster unless COVID-19 cases in the city are brought under control. With more than 9,000 active cases in the Edmonton zone, Iveson called a special council meeting for Tuesday to discuss what the city can do to help curb the spread. 

"We are on a collision course with calamity," Iveson said during a news conference Monday. 

Iveson said the city will now consider what it can do on its own while city officials continue to press the province for stronger public health orders. 

"The numbers are likely more significant even than what is being reported," Iveson said. "I think stronger measures are required." 

The city will consider closing or curbing non-essential activities, including businesses, Iveson said. 

Alberta surpassed 20,000 active cases on Monday, with a positivity rate of 8.5 per cent.

There are 609 people in hospital, 108 in ICU, and 16 more people have died.

The first president of Alberta Health Services says Australia's strict lockdown shows it's possible to reach zero COVID-19 cases.

Stephen Duckett is health program director for the Australian Grattan Institute, a non-profit think tank, and one of the co-authors of the institute's Go For Zero report — a policy proposal with the goal of driving Australia's active COVID-19 cases to zero. 

The proposal, which called for a strict lockdown — "done once and done well" — was one of the road maps for the Australian state of Victoria's response, and it's worked. The state, which includes the city of Melbourne and has a 6.4 million population, hasn't seen a single new COVID case since the end of October, after seeing daily cases in the 700s over the summer. 


Level 2 peace officers now have the ability to enforce orders issued by the chief medical officer of health.  That means more than 100 peace officers, working alongside police, can now issue tickets for not wearing masks, having large outdoor gatherings, or having businesses over capacity. 

A pair of southern Alberta churches and three individuals have launched a court challenge, arguing that the province's COVID-19 restrictions are an infringement of their constitutional rights.

The application was filed in the Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary on Friday, the same day that Alberta recorded 15 additional deaths, and a record high test positivity rate of 10.5 per cent.

"The vast majority of all the restrictions in the public health orders do violate one or more constitutional rights. So, yes, our clients want to see them all removed," said James Kitchen with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, one of the lawyers representing the applicants. 

His clients are seeking to have a court declare that the various public health orders can't be enforced. He said there needs to be a strong reason for limiting people's liberties, and contends that there isn't one in this case.

One of the largest operators of Canadian seniors' residences and long-term care homes is calling for provinces to adopt widespread surveillance testing as part of an internal review set to be released on Monday.

The review for Revera was chaired by Dr. Bob Bell, former deputy health minister in Ontario and a former hospital CEO. Bell said Ontario has adopted surveillance testing and has since been able to protect long-term care residents more effectively.

It has yet to be adopted elsewhere in Canada, where thousands of COVID-19 deaths have been reported at care homes.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said 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 on Dec. 3 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 ones.

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

"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 likely be 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 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

2 years ago
Duration 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.

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.

    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 on Dec 2.

    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, said Kenney, 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.

    New numbers show that Trans Mountain's COVID-19 costs are now 10 times higher than the figure the pipeline initially reported.

    Last month, the federal government-owned pipeline said it had spent about $1.2 million on measures to keep employees safe during the pandemic. New figures show that Trans Mountain has actually dropped about $12.5 million on related COVID-19 expenses across the organization.

    Starting Friday in Medicine Hat, people over the age of two are 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.

    Here is the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Monday. 

    • Calgary zone: 7,472, up from 7,288 reported on Sunday.
    • Edmonton zone: 9,190, up from 8,963.
    • North zone: 1,147, up from 1,087.
    • South zone: 654, up from 642.
    • Central zone: 1,473, up from 1,391.
    • Unknown: 131, up from 113.

    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 Monday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 415,182, with 73,379 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,665.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year — shots that are primarily destined for long-term care home residents and the staff that work there.

    Trudeau said up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine will be on hand by years' end, the start of a mass inoculation campaign that is expected to take many months to complete.

    The first doses will arrive as some provinces, notably Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, are grappling with sharply higher caseloads and deaths.

    The announcement comes a day after Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, confirmed to CBC News that the drug companies are prepared to ship vaccine doses to Canada within 24 hours of regulatory approval.

    Ontario has reported more than 1,900 COVID-19 cases two days in a row, with a new single-day high of 1,925 cases on Monday.

    Toronto and Peel Region — which are both under the province's toughest public health restrictions — accounted for 1,113 of the 1,925 cases reported on Monday, according to information from Health Minister Christine Elliott.

    Health officials in Quebec on Monday reported 1,577 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths.

    Quebec, which has seen more COVID-19 cases and deaths than any other province, was dealing with even higher hospitalization numbers than Ontario.

    The latest figures from the province reported 818 hospitalizations, with 105 people in intensive care. 

    In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island announced four additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases are a woman in her 20s, two men in their 20s and a man in his 30s.

    None of the people who tested positive in the new cases had recently travelled outside the province and all were "close contacts" of cases announced over the weekend, Morrison said. 

    To the west, health officials in Manitoba reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths on Monday, taking the provincial death toll to 407.

    The five-day test positivity rate stands at 13.7 per cent provincewide. There are 310 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 39 of those in intensive care.

    More than 4,000 cases previously listed as active were confirmed to be recovered, after the province worked to catch up with a weeks-long data backlog that didn't track all recovered cases, said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

    Meanwhile, health officials in Saskatchewan reported 274 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and one additional death.

    There are 143 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 — a new record for Saskatchewan — with 26 in intensive care.

    In British Columbia, which doesn't publicly report COVID-19 figures on weekends, health officials are facing an outbreak at a Fraser Valley mink farm. According to the local health authority, eight people have tested positive at the site and testing of the animals is underway.

    Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, all of them in Arviat. Located along the west coast of Hudson Bay, Arviat has been the worst hit by the pandemic since the territory recorded its first case in November.

    Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided an update on Monday.

    Federal officials explained how they plan to roll out millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the coming weeks. 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.

    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.