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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, Feb. 11

First vaccine doses have now passed 90 per cent for Albertans aged 12, meaning nearly 3.4 million Albertans aged 12 and older are now vaccinated with at least one dose.

First vaccine doses have now passed 90% for Albertans aged 12 and older

Mary House, 80, gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Calgary on Feb. 24, 2021. (AHS)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Daily case counts have never been perfect, but at this point in the Omicron-driven wave, they're a deeply flawed metric. Throughout the pandemic, the case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing done by provincial bodies like Alberta Health Services, but those testing protocols have shifted to prioritize high-priority groups and people in higher risk settings, like health-care workers. So there are likely to be thousands of cases going untested, or tested but not reported, since there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests. 

As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case counts in our coverage, in favour of data and metrics that experts now say are more illuminating — such as COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, which help us understand Omicron's impact on the health-care system and severity of illness it causes, as well as the testing positivity rate, which if it starts to level out and come down could indicate the wave has peaked.


The latest: 

  • First vaccine doses have now passed 90 per cent for Albertans ages 12 and older, meaning nearly 3.4 million Albertans 12 and over are now vaccinated with at least one dose.
  • At a news conference on Thursday, Health Minister Jason Copping said new hospital admissions for COVID-positive patients peaked more than two weeks ago and the number of active cases in the province is dropping. "Provincially, they're down by nearly a quarter," he said.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced Thursday that fully immunized staff in continuing care can once again work at more than one facility starting Feb. 16.
  • Copping said another 2.5 million rapid tests were sent to AHS sites and pharmacies last week, with another two million tests shipped this week. A total of 1,453 pharmacies have signed up to distribute rapid tests. AHS sites will stop distributing rapid tests once the current supply runs out.
  • Alberta will be removing its public health restrictions in a phased manner, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday.
  • This will occur in three steps:   
         
    • Stage One took effect Tuesday night at 11:59 p.m. and removed the restrictions exemption program, removed restrictions on food and beverage at entertainment venues, and removed capacity limits for all venues, except those that have a large capacity. 
    •    
    • Health Minister Jason Copping said on Thursday that QR code readers will no longer be available for download. However, it will continue to work for some time for businesses that already downloaded it if they want to keep using it. 
    •    
    • Starting Feb. 14, there will be no masking requirements for children and youth 12 years old and younger, and there will be no masking requirements for children and youth in schools for any age. 
    •    
    • Stage Two will take effect March 1 at 12 a.m., and will remove indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, removal of capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings lifted and mandatory work from home lifted. This stage is contingent on hospitalizations trending downward.
    •    
    • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province is working toward a third stage, which does not have a date, where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak protocols will be lifted in continuing care facilities. 
    •    
  • Minister Copping said the stages are all conditions-based approach, based on hospitalization trends. 
  • Copping said vaccine eligibility will be expanded for those between the ages of 12 and 17 who have additional risk factors. They will be eligible for a booster dose on Feb. 15. 
  • The City of Calgary said the announcement from the province to remove COVID-19 public health restrictions — specifically the Restrictions Exemption Program — in three phases will result in the end of the city's vaccine passport bylaw. 
  • However, the city says its face-covering bylaw will not be affected by this change, and a face covering or mask will still be required for everyone over two years of age in indoor public spaces and public vehicles.

Recent numbers:

  • The province reported 23 more COVID deaths on Feb. 11. A total of 3,741 Albertans have died of COVID-19. 
  • 1,566 people are in hospital with COVID (20 fewer than Thursday's figure) and 127 people are in ICU (one more than Thursday's figure).
  • There were 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 on Feb. 11 from 4,742 tests.
  • The positivity rate for lab confirmed cases is 29.5 per cent as of Feb 11
  • Alberta has 24,154 active cases of COVID-19.
  • The true figure is likely 10 times that number given that high caseloads have overwhelmed the ability of the system to test outside high-priority groups, according to Hinshaw.

Acute care outbreaks:

  • As of Feb. 10, there are outbreaks at 38 AHS and Covenant Health acute care facilities across the province. 

School reopenings:

  • Following the province's announcement, the Calgary Catholic School District said its health measures in CCSD buildings will stay in place until further notice. CCSD will communicate any changes or updates to its COVID-19 policy directly with parents/guardians and staff. 
  • Hinshaw said that as of Feb. 10, four schools in Alberta have needed to shift to online learning to address operational challenges due to COVID-19. 
  • The University of Calgary announced on Jan. 14 that it is extending online classes until Feb. 19, with a return to in-person classes after Reading Week, beginning on Feb. 28.
  • The University of Alberta is also delaying its return to in-person activities until Feb. 28.

Wastewater monitoring:

  • Health Minister Jason Copping said on Feb. 10 that the province reached its peak of Omicron cases weeks ago based on wastewater and PCR testing data.
  • Wastewater numbers in Calgary show a declining number of new COVID-19 infections. Data for Edmonton also shows a decline. The data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Informatics show the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater has trended downwards since a peak on Jan. 11 in Calgary.
  • As the Alberta government scales back on widespread PCR testing to focus on those in high-priority settings, the province is now relying on wastewater surveillance more than ever before to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta.
  • The province's wastewater — and the amount of infection in it — has been monitored for two years by a group of 23 researchers in a joint project with the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
  • The data is updated publicly three times per week.
  • It depicts the amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA — the virus that causes COVID-19 — that's in the province's wastewater.
  • The virus is shed in peoples' feces before symptoms arise, so values in the data associate strongest with cases occurring six days after the samples are collected.

Isolation times:

  • As of Jan. 3, people with at least two doses of vaccine who test positive for COVID-19 need to isolate for only five days instead of 10.    
         
    • If symptoms continue past five days, fully vaccinated people must continue to isolate until feeling better.
    •    
    • If they're symptom free after five days, they must wear a mask around others at all times when they're outside their home.
    •    
    • The change does not apply to people who aren't fully vaccinated, who must continue to isolate for 10 days or until their symptoms end, whichever is longer.
    •    
    • Health Minister Jason Copping said the change followed evidence that suggests fully immunized people have shorter infectious periods. 
    •    
    • This change also follows the approach taken by Ontario and some other provinces, as well as the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, Copping said.
    •    
    • Exceptions will be provided for workplaces where disruption of service for 24 hours or more would be harmful to the public, and where there is no other way to continue the service except by bringing workers back before their isolation period has ended, Copping said. 
    •    
    • In these circumstances, additional public health measures will be required. For example, Copping said returning workers would not be allowed to remove their masks when in the same room as anyone else at any time.
    •    
  • Hinshaw announced on Feb. 3 that the province will shorten the recommended quarantine period for unvaccinated, asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed cases. The quarantine will decrease to 10 days from 14.

Vaccinations:

  • According to Alberta Health, 75.2 per cent of the province's total population — or 86.3 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Alberta is second last of all provinces and territories in terms of the percentage of eligible people (ages five and up) who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CBC's vaccine tracker

Which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the latest detailed regional breakdown of active cases, as reported by the province on Feb. 11:

COVID in Alberta in charts and graphs:









Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press

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