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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Feb. 8

Alberta entered a new phase of eased restrictions Monday with some personal fitness services and restaurants allowed to reopen as a Red Deer slaughterhouse and the Cargill meat-processing plant near High River continue to battle outbreaks.

Hospitalizations drop below 450 as Alberta eases restrictions

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks through an empty downtown Calgary on Dec. 9, 2020, after tighter provincial restrictions were announced amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • The province reported 269 additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday, compared with 351 new cases reported Sunday. The testing positivity rate is 4.3 per cent, the same as the previous day.
  • Since reaching a peak on Dec. 7, 2020 of 1,767 new cases per day, the seven-day average of daily new cases has been declining. As of Feb. 4, the seven-day average was 414.57, roughly the level it was at in late October when the numbers had just started rising sharply.
  • Another 5 people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,710.
  • There were 6,196 active cases, inching down from 6,242 the previous day.
  • The provincewide R-value, which refers to the average number of people infected by each person with COVID-19, was 0.87, an increase from 0.83 the previous week. 
  • There were 432 people in hospital, including 76 in intensive care.
  • While 450 was the number that hospitalizations would have to drop below to ease restrictions further, the next phase of Alberta's reopening plan would only kick in at least three weeks after the first stage, which begins Monday, Alberta Health said.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Monday that even if hospitalizations rapidly decrease, the province will take reopening one step at a time.
  • The first round of eased COVID-19 restrictions includes limited school and minor sports training, allowing restaurants, cafés and pubs to reopen for dine-in services, and permitting fitness training, but only for one-on-one workouts — individual workouts without a trainer are not permitted. 
  • The union representing workers at a pork processing plant in central Alberta contending with a COVID-19 outbreak is calling for the facility to be temporarily shut down. 
  • As of Monday, 215 cases had been linked to the outbreak at the Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer. That includes 126 actives cases and one death, Alberta Health confirmed.
  • The Cargill meat-processing plant near High River, Alta., is facing a new outbreak. The plant was the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada last year — with 950 staff and hundreds of their close contacts testing positive.
  • The new outbreak at Cargill currently has 14 cases, 10 of which are active.
  • The province has now confirmed 96 cases of people infected with the B117 coronavirus variant. Of those cases, 46 are not linked to travel
  • As of Monday, 120,357 first doses of the vaccine had been administered. There are now 28,991 Albertans who are now fully immunized after receiving both doses. 
  • Widespread assumptions that suicide rates would increase during the pandemic are not supported by the growing amount of evidence coming out of Canadian provinces and other jurisdictions around the world, say experts who study the topic.
  • Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Thursday she has heard that some seniors in Alberta are getting phone calls telling them they can book vaccination appointments if they're willing to pay fees. "This is not a legitimate claim, this is a scam," she said.
  • Currently 13 per cent of the province's schools are on alert or have outbreaks, with 844 total cases. In-school transmission is believed to have occurred in 76 schools.
(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

See the detailed regional breakdown:

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

  • Calgary zone: 2,463, down from 2,508 reported on Sunday (45,841 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,870, down from 1,889 (49,451 recovered).
  • North zone: 834, up from 814 (9,636 recovered).
  • South zone: 319, up from 318 (5,635 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 689, down from 694 (8,461 recovered).
  • Unknown: 21, up from 19 (106 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:


Union calls for temporary shut down at Alberta pork plant contending with COVID-19 outbreak

The union representing workers at a pork processing plant in central Alberta contending with a COVID-19 outbreak is calling for the facility to be temporarily shut down. 

As of Monday, 215 cases had been linked to the outbreak at the Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer. That includes 126 actives cases and one death, Alberta Health confirmed.

The CFCW is calling for the temporary closure of this Olymel pork processing plant in Red Deer. (Olymel)

The cases have grown significantly from Friday when 156 cases were linked to the outbreak including 80 active cases, and 75 recovered.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, the union representing the plant's 1,850 workers, wrote a letter Friday to the facility's manager, requesting Olymel temporarily shut down the plant for two weeks and pay workers in full during the time off.

Meanwhile, a beef processing plant in High River, Alta., that experienced a large outbreak last year is now dealing with another, smaller outbreak.

As of Sunday, Alberta Health had been notified of 14 cases linked to the outbreak at Cargill in High River. Of these 10 were active and 4 are recovered.

For more, see: Union calls for temporary shut down at Alberta pork plant contending with COVID-19 outbreak


Many assumed suicides would spike in 2020. So far, the data tells a different story

Widespread assumptions that suicide rates would increase during the pandemic are not supported by the growing amount of evidence coming out of Canadian provinces and other jurisdictions around the world, say experts who study the topic.

"It's a good example of how sometimes the story we tell ourselves, we look for reasons to support it, and we don't always use the data," said Tyler Black, a psychiatrist and suicidologist with the University of British Columbia.

"When we look back at the numbers, it just doesn't pan out the way we thought."

Numerous public figures have claimed a link between public-health restrictions and increased suicide rates, without evidence to back it up. Some merely speculated about it early on in the pandemic, while others have made stronger claims more recently.

Ontario MPP Roman Baber was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus in January after sending an open letter asserting public-health restrictions were "causing an avalanche of suicides," among other claims.

But Black pointed to recently released data out of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan that suggest suicide rates actually declined in 2020. He also noted coroners in Quebec and the chief medical examiner in Newfoundland and Labrador have recently said there were no increases in suicide in those provinces last year.

For more, see: Many assumed suicides would spike in 2020. So far, the data tells a different story


Limited minor team sport training allowed as COVID-19 restrictions ease

The province moved ahead with the first round of eased COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, including limited school and minor sports training, allowing restaurants, cafés and pubs to reopen for dine-in services, and permitting fitness training, but only for one-on-one workouts — individual workouts without a trainer are not permitted. 

The plan for a gradual reopening announced in late January is contingent on an ongoing decrease in hospitalizations.

The first stage, beginning Monday, required fewer than 600 patients in hospital with COVID-19. As of Friday, that number stood at 475, including 89 people in intensive care. 

Children and youth will be allowed to participate in lessons, practices and conditioning activities for both indoor and outdoor sports. Performance activities, such as music class, are also permitted. Games are still not allowed.

A news release Saturday laid out a number of rules for youth and minor sports and activities:

  • All participants must be 18 years old or younger, excluding coaches and trainers;
  • A maximum of 10 people, including coaches, trainers and participants, are allowed;
  • All participants must maintain social distancing at all times;
  • Participants must be masked at all times, except when engaged in physical activity;
  • Coaches and trainers must always be masked;
  • Access to change rooms should be limited to "accelerated" arrival and departure, for emergencies and washroom use only.

For more, see: Limited minor team sport training to be allowed when COVID-19 restrictions ease Monday


Alberta oilsands have seen more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 linked to oilsands outbreaks in Alberta, including 120 cases diagnosed in other provinces.

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oilsands extraction facility near Fort McMurray, Alta. Since the pandemic began, there have been more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 found in Alberta's oilsands operations. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Eleven of the outbreaks are still active, with 38 current cases.

Despite the numbers, industry officials aren't raising alarms.

"The ratios [of infection] look to be quite similar to the general population," said Perry Berkenpas, executive director of the Oil Sands Community Alliance.


More research needed on how vaccines affect variants

More research is needed to investigate the effectiveness of the vaccines on the virus variants, Hinshaw said.

The province has now confirmed a total of 68 cases of people infected with variants of the coronavirus that were first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

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

The National

3 months ago
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. 2:05

"We are actively reviewing the literature and experience around the globe to assess if additional measures are needed in school and other settings in the weeks ahead," Hinshaw said Thursday.

"It's important to remember that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are only a few months old, just like the variants. There is much we do not yet know, though researchers around the world are investigating," she said.

"However, even against the variants, these vaccines still appear to be extremely effective at preventing severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths."


Vaccine scam targets seniors

Hinshaw said she has heard that some seniors in Alberta are getting phone calls telling them they can book vaccination appointments if they're willing to pay fees.

"This is not a legitimate claim, this is a scam," she said. "Due to limited vaccine supply coming into the province, we are not yet able to offer the vaccine to all Albertans over the age of 75.

"When we do, the vaccine will be free of charge. Neither AHS nor any other community provider will ever be asking for payment for the vaccine. If you receive these calls, please hang up immediately and report to the non-emergency line of your local law enforcement."


  • 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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