Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Feb. 3

Officials say they're now aware of two instances of Calgary students who attended schools while infectious with variant strains of the coronavirus.

Quarantine extended up to 24 days for contacts of coronavirus variant cases

A pedestrian wearing a mask crosses a street in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Alberta now has 57 cases of coronavirus variants first identified in the U.K. and South Africa (50 of them being from the U.K.) and eight of those cases have no known link to travel.
  • Two family members of people who travelled outside of Alberta attended school in Calgary while infectious with a coronavirus variant, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday.
  • Hinshaw said there is no evidence that anyone else was infected, and that three classes at the two schools at risk of being exposed are in quarantine as close contacts.
  • However, one of the new strains has spread within a daycare in the province — with four cases linked to that outbreak.
  • Alberta has changed self-isolation rules for those infected with variants of COVID-19, and in some cases people may end up in quarantine for up to 24 days, Hinshaw said. 
  • Because it can be difficult for people with variants to remain effectively isolated from other household members, health officials are ensuring all new variant cases, and people linked to those cases, are aware of Alberta's hotel isolation and quarantine options.
  • Hinshaw said Monday the provincial lab has reached its goal of being able to screen 300 samples each day for the two variants.
  • The variants seem to have an infection rate that's 30 to 50 per cent higher than the strain that's been in Alberta so far. England and Ireland have seen the variant spread rapidly throughout their populations and the U.K.'s daily mortality rate is the highest it's been since the start of the pandemic.
  • The province reported 259 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday with around a 3.5 per cent positivity rate.
  • Another 11 people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,671.
  • Since reaching a peak on Dec. 7 of 1,767 new cases per day, the seven-day average of daily new cases has been declining in Alberta.
  • As of Feb. 3, the seven-day average was 398.14, which is roughly the level it was at in late October when the numbers had just started rising sharply.
  • There are 6,599 active cases in the province.
  • Alberta has announced the lifting of some restrictions, including allowing restaurants to reopen in-person dining and gyms to reopen with limited capacity on Feb. 8.
  • In Alberta, there are 539 people in hospital, including 94 in intensive care.
  • The provincewide R-value, which refers to the average number of people infected by each person with COVID-19, was 0.83. 
  • As of Wednesday, 109,341 Albertans had received their first doses of the vaccine. Of those, 18,970 had been fully immunized with a second booster dose.
  • The Alberta government has expanded a program that offers hotel rooms and culturally appropriate meals for people who need to self-isolate. On Monday, the government announced the program, which was only available in Calgary and Edmonton, would be expanded to include the entire province.
  • Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have agreed to suspend service to some sun destinations from Jan. 31 to April 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.
  • All international passenger flights, including from the United States, will land at the Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal airports starting next week.
  • The government will be introducing mandatory PCR testing as soon as possible at the airport for people returning to Canada, on top of the pre-boarding test already required, Trudeau said.
  • Travellers will then have to wait up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense.
  • It is currently unclear how this will impact travellers taking part in a rapid-testing pilot project in Calgary, which is expanding to Edmonton in February.

See the detailed regional breakdown:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as of Wednesday.

  • Calgary zone: 2,717, down from 2,805 reported on Tuesday (44,832 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 2,147, down from 2,280 (48,689 recovered).
  • North zone: 795, down from 852 (9,370 recovered).
  • South zone: 290, down from 300 (5,543 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 631, down from 655 (8,278 recovered).
  • Unknown: 19, down from 20 (108 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

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

Alberta provides one-time $68.5M cash infusion for continuing care, other agencies

The Alberta government will provide a one-time infusion of $68.5 million to continuing-care operators, home-care providers and facilities that provide addiction and mental health treatment, to help them defray additional costs incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Thanks to vaccines, we're hopefully seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but our fight is far from over," Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday at a news conference.

The money will help cover costs that operators have faced for cleaning, personal protective equipment and increased staffing.

"Every part of Alberta will benefit," Kenney said.

Calgary students attended school while infectious with coronavirus variant

Two family members of people who travelled outside of Alberta attended schools in Calgary while infectious with a coronavirus variant, the province's chief medical officer of health says.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the first case in a Twitter post late Monday evening, saying there was no evidence to date that anyone else was infected, and that the child's class and staff at risk of being exposed were already in quarantine.

On Tuesday, she announced a second case of a student attending a Calgary school after contracting a strain of coronavirus from a family member who had travelled. 

Scientists have said the new strains could be as much as 50 per cent more transmissible than the primary strain that has been circulating in Alberta up to this point. England and Ireland have seen the B117 variant spread rapidly throughout their populations.

For more, see: 2 Calgary students attended schools while infectious with coronavirus variant

Alberta now has 57 cases of coronavirus variants, top doctor says

Alberta now has 57 cases of coronavirus variants, including eight in five different households that don't have clear links to travel, says the province's chief medical officer of health. 

The remainder of those cases, which include a variant first identified in the United Kingdom and another first identified in South Africa, were all brought into the province by travellers, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.

Variants could change Canada’s COVID-19 situation ‘rapidly’: experts

1 year ago
Duration 2:05
Even as overall COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward across Canada, health officials are increasingly concerned about the spread of two variants: one first detected in the U.K. and another in South Africa, which experts say could ‘rapidly’ change the situation in Canada.

Given the risks of spread, the province is expanding quarantine for those close contacts of people infected with the more transmissible strains. 

"If cases choose to stay home during their isolation period, their household contacts will now need to stay at home as well in quarantine, until 14 days have passed from the end of the case's isolation period, for a total of 24 days," she said.

"Given how easily this variant is spreading in homes, this enhancement is necessary to prevent spread in the community."

For more, see: Quarantine extended up to 24 days for contacts of COVID-19 variant cases, top doc says

Alberta tech companies blossom during pandemic's economic drought

Alberta tech companies are finding ways to thrive in the middle of the economic desert caused by COVID-19. 

At a time when many other businesses are suffering, this sector has found a way to harness the pandemic to grow the industry. 

"It has been beneficial to us because a lot of companies recognize that they had either outdated systems or systems that didn't support remote working or [were] looking to streamline processes that normally take place in an office," said Vince O'Gorman, the CEO of Vog App Developers.

Calgary companies Vog and Helcim Inc. were each able to grow their workforce by about 40 per cent during the pandemic. 

"There's a big shift ... and we benefit from that digitization," Nicolas Beique, Helcim's founder, said. 

Calgary Economic Development has seen huge successes from the tech industry during the pandemic, including the $1.1 billion investment deal scored by Benevity. 

For more, see: Alberta tech companies blossom during pandemic's economic drought

Alberta Health Services clears contact tracing bottleneck

Alberta Health Services is now following up with all Albertans who test positive for COVID-19, following a recruitment drive for contact tracers this winter.

"AHS has seen significant improvement in our ability to contact trace positive cases of COVID-19," AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email statement Monday, adding that it comes due to a lower volume of new cases, the implementation of different notification systems like text and email, as well as active recruitment efforts.

(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

In December, when new daily cases regularly exceeded 1,000 or even 1,500, AHS said it was only aiming to directly notify close contacts of health-care workers, minors and individuals who live or work in communal facilities. 

But the province's COVID-19 situation has changed significantly since then. 

"Currently, AHS is able to contact and investigate all COVID-19 cases we receive each day," Williamson said.

For more, see: Alberta Health Services clears contact tracing bottleneck

Sikh youth group helping South Asian seniors balance mask wearing with religious wear

A group of young volunteers is working at Calgary's Dashmesh Culture Centre to help Sikh seniors with safety and proper mask use, which is an issue for some in the community.

Some men struggle with their beards and turbans when it comes to wearing a mask correctly, and can also find it difficult to access the protective equipment and information they need to stay safe.

Volunteer Jasleen Brar demonstrates how to wear a mask with a turban. She’s been handing out small plastic clips made to tie a mask at the back of the neck instead of behind the ears. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Volunteers with two groups, Sikhs Doing Seva and Sikh Heritage Alberta, have set up a table inside a local Sikh temple to connect seniors, who are the most vulnerable in their community, with the right information and equipment, including disposable masks.

It's part of the Alberta South Asian COVID-19 Relief Project, which also aims to provide health information in Punjabi.

"Our whole goal is to educate our community, because personal protective equipment for minority communities is not always as accessible," said volunteer Isha Kaur.

NFL shares lessons learned in COVID-19 outbreaks

Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, but for a while it was in doubt, as COVID-19 outbreaks plagued the NFL during the regular season.

And that led the league to go to great lengths to ensure player safety, even having robots sanitize the locker rooms. Now the league is sharing what it learned from those outbreaks. And the lessons could apply more broadly to public health, too.

Medical columnist Dr. Raj Bhardwaj joined CBC Calgary's Rob Brown on Tuesday to talk about that.

  • Watch the video, below:

NFL's COVID-19 lessons

1 year ago
Duration 5:50
Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, but for a while it was in doubt, as COVID-19 outbreaks plagued the NFL during the regular season. And that led the league to go to great lengths to ensure player safety, even having robots sanitize the locker rooms. Now the league is sharing what it learned from those outbreaks. And the lessons could apply to public health, too. Medical columnist Dr. Raj Bhardwaj joined CBC Calgary’s Rob Brown to talk about that.

  • For the latest on what's happening in the rest of Canada and around the world, see here.

With files from The Canadian Press.


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