Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Feb. 4
Jason Kenney takes on COVID-19 conspiracy theorists in Facebook 'rant'
- Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took aim at conspiracy theorists in a live Facebook address Tuesday night, urging Albertans who have bought into misinformation about COVID-19 being a hoax or part of a global effort to impose some kind of socialist order upon the world to "wake up and smell the coffee" and look at the facts.
- "This is not a conspiracy," the premier said during a live video stream on Facebook, while holding up a printout of a chart depicting the number of COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals. "This is not a figment of my imagination. This is not invented by Klaus Schwab."
- The province reported 582 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday with around a 3.6 per cent positivity rate.
- Another 13 people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,684.
- Though case numbers are declining, Alberta is taking a cautious approach to reopening because hospitals are still under strain dealing with 10 times the COVID-19 patients they saw during last spring's first wave of the pandemic, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday.
- 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. 4, the seven-day average was 414.57, which is roughly the level it was at in late October when the numbers had just started rising sharply.
- There are 6,588 active cases in the province.
- In Alberta, there are 517 people in hospital, including 93 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 Thursday, 112,388 Albertans had received their first doses of the vaccine. Of those, 21,794 had been fully immunized with a second booster dose.
- 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, Hinshaw 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.
- 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.
- 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 Calgary Catholic School District says online learning will continue to be an option for families next school year — and hopefully in years to come. Chief superintendent Bryan Szumlas said the district would ask parents to make their choices in the next two months.
- The Calgary Board of Education said it has yet to make a decision about the future of its Hub online learning.
- 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.
See the detailed regional breakdown:
Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as of Thursday.
- Calgary zone: 2,710, down from 2,717 reported on Wednesday (45,076 recovered).
- Edmonton zone: 2,117, down from 2,147 (48,895 recovered).
- North zone: 811, up from 795 (9,436 recovered).
- South zone: 288, down from 290 (5,572 recovered).
- Central zone: 645, up from 631 (8,313 recovered).
- Unknown: 17, down from 19 (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:
Jason Kenney takes on COVID-19 conspiracy theorists in Facebook 'rant'
Premier Jason Kenney is urging Albertans who have bought into conspiracy theories about COVID-19 being a hoax or part of a global effort to impose some kind of socialist order upon the world to "wake up and smell the coffee" and look at the actual data.
The premier's comments came during a Facebook Live question-and-answer session he hosted alongside Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, on Tuesday night. He was responding to a viewer who asked: "Are you working with Trudeau and Klaus Schwab on 'The Great Reset?'"
Kenney at first laughed at the question, but then appeared to get increasingly frustrated as he delivered a nearly nine-minute answer in a self-described "rant" against the people who promote pandemic-related conspiracy theories on social media.
"When you're sitting in my chair, you don't have the luxury of indulging in all of this denialism, of trying to blame some globalist conspiracy," the premier said.
"I'm sorry to go on a rant … but when you're implying that our [COVID-19] response is because some socialist in Switzerland told me that he wanted me to shut down businesses in Alberta, folks, give your heads a shake. And please, deal with reality."
Kenney said COVID-19 is not an imaginary illness invented by Schwab, a German engineer and economist who founded the World Economic Forum, which hosts a high-profile gathering of world leaders, economists, celebrities and businesspeople each year in Davos, Switzerland.
"The Great Reset" is an idea proposed by Schwab for a broad set of policy reforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic "to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions."
The idea has been "interpreted as sinister, first by fringe conspiracy theory groups on social media, and then by prominent conservative commentators — prompting tens of thousands of interactions across Facebook and Twitter," according to a BBC reality check on numerous COVID-19-related conspiracy theories around the world.
Alberta's phased reopening necessary given height of 2nd wave, top doctor says
Though case numbers are declining, Alberta is taking a cautious approach to reopening because hospitals are still under strain dealing with 10 times the COVID-19 patients they saw during last spring's first wave of the pandemic, says the province's top public health doctor.
There are currently 539 patients being treated for the illness in hospitals, including 94 in ICU beds. That's a decline of almost 400 since the peak of 938 on Dec. 30.
"This a very encouraging trend, and pressure is easing on the health system that we all rely on," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference.
"At the same time, our numbers remain far higher than they were in the spring."
When Alberta's spring relaunch began on May 14, there were 57 people in hospital, one-tenth of the current total, Hinshaw said.
Coronavirus variants could alter phased reopening plan, Kenney says
Premier Jason Kenney told a telephone town hall Wednesday night that coronavirus variants could make it harder for the province to ease further restrictions in the near future.
Although the province is ready to move forward with its step 1 reopening next week, Kenney was blunt about the potential effect of variants.
He said in recent conversations with restaurant owners he made the situation clear.
"I can't guarantee you we can keep you open if we go there because of these variants," Kenney said. "If the variants take over, we might have to go back to a harder policy than early December."
Kenney said the business owners he spoke with said they would shut down again if needed, but are eager to get back to work.
Business owners and stakeholders joined the telephone town hall Wednesday night to weigh-in on the province's new phased reopening plan. On the call were members of the hospitality industry as well as owners of gyms, dance studios and others concerned about athletes and access to extracurricular activities.
Alberta gym and fitness studio owners say they can't survive ongoing restrictions
A coalition of Alberta gyms and fitness studios says government restrictions are hurting their businesses and argue the services they provide are part of the solution, rather than the problem.
The Alberta coalition of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) says it represents almost 200 gyms and studios in the province.
It says more than 50 per cent of the facilities it has surveyed say they will not survive another two months of closure. The group argues gyms and fitness studios are safe and can help alleviate some of the mental and physical strains inflicted by the pandemic.
Scott Wildeman, the president of the FIC, said his organization is in direct talks with the government and appreciates the the difficult position it's in.
He said it's a positive step that the province has set benchmarks for when facilities could reopen.
"But as it relates to fitness, we feel Stage One has missed the mark on a number of areas by simply limiting access to private training sessions," said Wildeman.
Under Alberta's phased reopening plan, gyms and fitness studios can reopen on Monday, but under strict restrictions. Only one-on-one training is allowed and trainer-client pairs must stay three metres away from any other pairs.
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.
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.
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.
- For more, see: Sikh youth group helping South Asian seniors balance mask wearing with religious wear
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:
For the latest on what's happening in the rest of Canada and around the world, see here.
With files from The Canadian Press.