Calgary·Updated

Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Jan. 11

The RCMP confirms it has opened an investigation into the death of a High River man who was one of hundreds of workers at Cargill's High River meat-processing facility to contract COVID-19.

RCMP launch criminal probe into COVID-19 death tied to massive Alberta meat plant outbreak

Huan Zhang, a respiratory therapist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Grande Prairie, Alta., receives the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 23, 2020. (Chris Beauchamp for Alberta Health Services)

The latest:

  • Alberta school children returned to in-class learning on Monday. In November, junior and senior high students shifted to learning at home while elementary-age students remained at school for in-person learning.
  • The province announced Monday it will immediately expand its vaccination program to include all paramedics and emergency medical responders.
  • A High River woman has filed a formal complaint asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father, marking the first known instance in Canada of police investigating a workplace-related COVID-19 death. Benito Quesada worked at the Cargill meat processing plant in the Alberta town, where at least 950 staff — nearly half the workforce — tested positive for COVID-19 by early May in what remains the largest workplace outbreak in Canada.
  • Alberta reported 639 new cases of COVID-19 out of 9,800 tests on Monday (a positivity rate of 6.1 per cent).
  • Another 23 people have died, bringing the total deaths in the province to 1,307.
  • There are 811 people in hospital, including 130 in intensive care.
  • There are a total of 13,917 active cases, decreasing from 14,116 reported Sunday.
  • The province has now administered a total of 46,791 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta over the past month, and is expected to receive 41,475 doses this week. 
  • United Conservative Party MLAs, including the Speaker of the legislature and the Deputy Speaker, are denouncing the premier's delayed action and the choices of their caucus colleagues after several took vacations abroad over the holidays. 
(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)
  • Alberta is reporting its first case of the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa. Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, tweeted Friday that the case involved a recent traveller.
  • Albertans are more likely than people in any other province to say they won't ever take the COVID-19 vaccine, and less likely to say they'll get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it's available, a new Angus Reid poll suggests.
  • Dedicated COVID-19 wards have been added to the vaccine priority list, meaning that, starting immediately, vaccine appointments will be offered to those health-care workers.
  • Premier Jason Kenney announced last Thursday that the current COVID-19 restrictions would remain in effect for at least another two weeks.
  • WestJet is cutting jobs and slashing its flight capacity by a third because of what the airline calls "instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions."
  • Police and Alberta Health Services responded to a southeast Calgary church on Sunday, after the pastor continued to encourage congregants to break public health rules following a fine and health inspection order. 

More detail on what you need to know today in Alberta:

Alberta reported 639 new cases of COVID-19 out of 9,800 tests on Monday (a positivity rate of 6.1 per cent). Another 23 people have died, bringing the total deaths in the province to 1,307. There are 811 people in hospital, including 130 in intensive care.

There are a total of 13,917 active cases, decreasing from 14,116 reported Sunday.

The province has now administered a total of 46,791 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta over the past month, and is expected to receive 41,475 doses this week. 

The province announced Monday it will immediately expand its vaccination program to include all paramedics and emergency medical responders.

Premier Jason Kenney says the province believes it can reach the goal of vaccinating 50,000 Albertans per week by the end of the month.


Ariana Quesada, 16, holds up a photo of her father Benito Quesada in front of the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta. Her father died after becoming one of hundreds of workers at Cargill's High River meat-processing facility to contract COVID-19. The company is now the subject of a police investigation. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Ariana Quesada, 16, walked into the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta., on Friday and filed a formal complaint asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father.

Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old immigrant from Mexico supporting a wife and four children, was hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-April, one of hundreds of workers at the town's Cargill meat plant infected with the coronavirus.

He had been in a coma and on a ventilator when he died on May 7. His family had been barred from visiting — except to say goodbye.

At least 950 staff at the Cargill plant — nearly half its workforce — tested positive for COVID-19 by early May in what remains the largest workplace outbreak in Canada.  

The Quesadas are demanding accountability from Cargill, alleging the company didn't do enough to protect Benito from the coronavirus.

Daughter lays police complaint in COVID-19 work death

2 months agoVideo
0:59
Family prompts COVID-19 police probe into Alberta meat plant — Canada's largest workplace outbreak. 0:59

Police and Alberta Health Services responded to a southeast Calgary church on Sunday, after the pastor continued to encourage congregants to break public health rules following a fine and health inspection order. 

Pastor Tim Stephens wrote in an emailed newsletter to Fairview Baptist Church congregants on Wednesday that he had received a $1,200 fine from Calgary bylaw officers for violating public health orders. 

"I addressed the regulations theologically, scientifically, legally, and politically. I knew that receiving a fine would be a real possibility. Having received one now, the course is unchanged," he wrote, adding that he would not be following the restrictions and reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing or enforcing mask use within the church.

There are currently more than 5,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Calgary, more than 37,000 people in the city have recovered and 407 have died.

The city's R-value is 1.02, meaning that each person who contracts COVID-19 will infect more than one other person. 

Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in southeast Calgary was issued a public health order, after an inspection found almost no attendees or church staff wearing masks or distancing. (Fairview Baptist Church/YouTube)

Transport Canada has quietly raised the mandatory age for children wearing face masks on planes from two to six years old. The move follows at least two public incidents where toddlers were kicked off domestic flights for not wearing a face covering. 

Last April, Transport Canada mandated that air passengers aged two and up wear a mask while travelling, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Under Transport Canada's new revised regulations, children from ages two to five don't have to mask-up if they're unable to tolerate wearing one. 

However, parents must still bring a mask onboard for their child — even if the child is likely to reject it.

Transport Canada said that it revised its rules on Nov. 10 in response to "updated guidance" from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which followed new World Health Organization recommendations. 


Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, an orthopedic surgeon, says some scheduled, non-cancer surgeries are now being cancelled because there simply aren't enough beds at the Red Deer Hospital. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Doctors in Red Deer say their hospital is under tremendous strain as it faces a wave of very sick COVID-19 patients.

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre serves close to half a million people in central Alberta and it is the only hospital in the region equipped to treat COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care.

According to Alberta Health Services, 38 people with COVID-19 had been admitted to the facility as of Thursday morning, including 17 in the ICU.

"We really have never seen patient volumes like this," said Dr. Kym Jim, internal medicine specialist at Red Deer Regional Hospital. "Our intensive care has now overflowed into coronary care, which means patients in coronary care are now being managed in other areas of the hospital."

The hospital's ICU is equipped with 12 beds. With the expansion into the cardiac care unit, six surge beds have been added for a total of 18 beds —17 of which are filled by COVID-19 patients.

In addition, there are a number of other patients requiring intensive care for other reasons.

"This puts tremendous strain on the system — tremendous strain on staff. We just have never seen this number of ventilated patients at our hospital," said Jim.


The Calgary-based airline said in a release Friday that up to 1,000 of its employees will be impacted by 'furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours.' (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

WestJet is cutting jobs and slashing its flight capacity by a third because of what the airline calls "instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions."

The Calgary-based airline said in a release Friday that up to 1,000 of its employees will be impacted by "furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours."

Ottawa recently changed the rules to require anyone coming into Canada to have a negative COVID-19 test in order to be allowed into the country. As soon as that happened, WestJet CEO Ed Sims said the airline saw "significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations."

"The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy," he said.

"We have advocated over the past 10 months for a co-ordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travellers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come."

In addition to the job cuts, the airline is also slashing about 30 per cent of its flights. That includes cutting its number of international flights from 100 this time last year to just five now.


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:

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

  • Calgary zone: 4,958, down from 5,019 reported on Sunday (37,512 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 5,441, down from 5,543 (41,411 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,668, down from 1,678 (6,642 recovered).
  • South zone: 307, up from 297 (4,910 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,472, down from 1,498 (6,269 recovered).
  • Unknown: 71, down from 81 (123 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


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

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