Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Saturday, Jan. 16
Alberta's Phase 1 vaccination rollout has been slowed over Pfizer supply issues
- Alberta reported 717 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 12,713 active cases and a 5.8 per cent positivity rate on Saturday.
- There are 765 people in hospital, 122 of whom are in intensive care, down slightly from 795 in hospital the previous day. Another 15 people have died, a total of 1,417 deaths.
- Alberta will need to delay its Phase 1 vaccination rollout after learning of a temporary reduction in Canada's supply of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.
- A total of 81,561 vaccines had been administered in the province as of Friday.
- Alberta will ease some public health restrictions starting on Monday, allowing hair salons, barbershops and other personal services businesses to reopen by appointment only.
- Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday that the province made the decision for the limited reopenings after examining everything that was closed after Premier Jason Kenney's UCP government imposed tighter restrictions in mid-December in a bid to curb skyrocketing active case, hospitalization and ICU counts.
- As of Monday, up to 10 people will be also allowed to gather outdoors, and up to 20 people will be allowed to attend a funeral. Indoor gatherings remain prohibited and funeral receptions are still not allowed.
- Since reaching a peak on Dec. 7 of 1,767 new cases per day, the seven-day average of daily new cases has been steadily declining in Alberta. As of Jan. 13, the seven-day average was 875, which is roughly the level it was at in mid-November when the numbers were exploding.
- The total of active cases in Alberta has been dropping slowly but steadily since it peaked at 21,138 on Dec. 13, a day after tougher provincial restrictions kicked in that made working from home mandatory for those who could, banned in-person service at restaurants, pubs and bars, and entirely closed entertainment and recreation facilities from movie theatres to gyms, personal and wellness services like spas and hair salons. A few days earlier, the province had also instituted a mandatory provincewide mask requirement, and banned all outdoor and indoor social gatherings with people beyond one's immediate household.
- Twelve schools, about 0.4 per cent, are on alert or have outbreaks, with 15 cases in total. Outbreaks have been declared in two of them, accounting for five cases. In-school transmission has likely occurred in three schools, and all three only led to one new case.
- The continuing decline in numbers means fears of a post-holiday COVID-19 surge appear not to have materialized in Alberta, and experts say current trends are encouraging, but the province still has some way to go before major public-health measures can be safely lifted.
- Before the holidays, Kenney said he was concerned that Albertans might misunderstand or disregard the stricter rules imposed in December restricting family gatherings. But it appears Albertans generally followed the rules and limited the spread of the virus. A post-holiday spike in cases would be expected to have shown up in the data by now, but so far there has been no major increase.
- Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn was ousted from the UCP caucus Thursday and barred from running again for the party after being chastised for travelling to Mexico over the holidays and publicly criticized for alleged absenteeism in his constituency, has been ousted from the UCP caucus. Rehn will be barred from running for the UCP ever again, Kenney announced on Facebook Thursday morning.
- Two other UCP MLAs confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday that they left Alberta during December despite their own government's warnings against non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. That brings the total to nine (including Rehn) from the UCP caucus and none for the NDP caucus. The information comes after CBC News asked the UCP and NDP caucuses where each member was and published a full list — including the names of those who didn't say.
- The Alberta Hospitality Association is demanding clear guidelines from the province regarding when and how businesses that are closed or restricted due to the pandemic can expect to be allowed to resume normal operations.
- There's some friction among the province's hockey community and anger at the province over COVID-19 rules that let students play hockey at private schools with indoor rinks while recreational and competitive sports have been shut down since the end of last year for most Albertans.
- B.C. Premier John Horgan said Thursday his government is getting legal advice to determine whether an inter-provincial travel ban would be feasible — and, presumably, whether it is constitutional — to further insulate the province as COVID-19 case numbers in other parts of Canada hit "dangerous" levels.
- As of Friday, there are now 65 active COVID-19 cases on the Blood Tribe reserve, an increase from 24 active cases reported on Jan. 9.
- On the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, there were 153 active cases of COVID-19 reported as of Thursday, up from 86 cases reported Jan. 10, when Stoney Nakoda announced a state of local emergency.
More details on what you need to know in Alberta:
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Friday that Alberta's Phase 1 vaccination rollout will be slowed after learning about a temporary reduction in Canada's supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
"It will take longer to complete immunization of the priority health-care workers who are currently part of Phase 1," Shandro said at a news conference Friday afternoon.
"It will also delay our ability to start immunizing all seniors over the age of 75, regardless of where they live and all Indigenous seniors who are 65 years and older."
Shandro said on Thursday that Alberta will ease some public health restrictions starting on Monday, allowing personal and wellness services businesses to reopen by appointment only.
The changes will impact hair salons, barber shops, esthetics, manicure and pedicure businesses, reflexology, piercing and tattoo shops, and other personal and wellness services throughout the province.
Appointments should be limited to one-on-one services and businesses, Shandro said, and clients are expected to keep following the public health guidelines.
Starting Monday, up to 10 people will also be allowed to gather outdoors, and up to 20 people will be allowed to attend a funeral, with the caveat that all who attend wear masks and maintain two metres of physical distancing.
Funeral receptions are still not allowed, and indoor gatherings remain prohibited.
"Alberta's case numbers and hospitalizations remain high and they pose a threat to our health-care system capacity and they continue to," Shandro said.
"Today we can't entirely ease up on this goal, but we can make small adjustments to provide Albertans with some limited activities."
The government also had to take into consideration the fact that two variants of the COVID-19 virus — one first identified in the United Kingdom and another first identified in South Africa — have now appeared in the province.
Alberta reported 717 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 12,713 active cases and a 5.8 per cent positivity rate on Saturday.
There are 765 people in hospital, 122 of whom are in intensive care, down slightly from 795 in hospital the previous day. Another 15 people have died, a total of 1,417 deaths.
The provincewide R-value is 0.90, meaning that each person who contracts COVID-19 will transmit coronavirus to less than one other person, on average.
- To find out more, see: Alberta to ease some COVID-19 restrictions starting Monday, health minister says
Fears of a post-holiday COVID-19 surge appear not to have materialized in Alberta, and experts say current trends are encouraging, but the province still has some way to go before major public-health measures can be safely lifted.
"We look at this big picture and what it's suggesting is that what we're doing in Alberta is working," said Dr. Craig Jenne, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.
He noted that new daily case numbers have been steadily coming down for several weeks now and, while hospitalizations remain relatively high, they appear to have peaked and have started to decline, as well, albeit somewhat slowly.
Hinshaw acknowledged the province has been doing fewer tests lately, but noted the percentage of tests coming back positive has also been steadily declining, which suggests the viral spread is indeed slowing.
On Tuesday, she said it wasn't clear why fewer people are being tested as there was capacity in the system, and reiterated that it's important to be tested and isolate if you have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms.
"We have no backlog in our lab," Hinshaw said earlier this week. "So our lab is processing all of the samples in a timely way."
- To find out more, see: With no post-holiday surge, Alberta's COVID-19 numbers appear to be on right track
An Alberta MLA, chastised for travelling over the holidays and publicly criticized for alleged absenteeism in his constituency, has been booted from Kenney's UCP caucus.
Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has been removed from caucus and will be barred from running for the UCP ever again, Kenney announced on Facebook Thursday morning.
"The most important job of an MLA is to represent his or her constituents," Kenney wrote. "It has become clear that Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has failed to do so. He has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents."
Rehn will now sit as an Independent MLA.
In a Facebook message posted late Thursday, Rehn thanked Kenney and the party for the opportunity to run and "stand up for a free enterprise Alberta."
He said he looks forward to the added political freedom of sitting as an Independent and said he plans to be more vocal about his concerns with certain COVID-19 health restrictions.
Rehn was among nine UCP MLAs confirmed to have left Alberta during December despite their own government's warnings against non-essential travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The information comes after CBC News asked the UCP and NDP caucuses where each member was and published a full list — including the names of those who didn't say.
Two UCP legislators' whereabouts — Miranda Rosin, the MLA for Banff-Kananaskis, and Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat — remained unconfirmed as of Wednesday morning, despite a dozen requests made by CBC News to the UCP caucus, the constituency offices and directly to the officials over the span of a week.
After CBC News posted the list Wednesday, a UCP spokesperson confirmed that Rosin went to visit family in Saskatchewan for Christmas. A few hours later, Barnes confirmed he spent one night in Saskatchewan for business earlier in December.
The revelation that some United Conservative Party MLAs and a cabinet minister had eschewed advisories from all levels of government against non-essential travel and hit the beaches didn't sit well with many Albertans — including other UCP MLAs — who had obeyed a ban on mingling outside their households and the many thousands of businesses that were shut down or severely curtailed.
Despite a public outcry that led to the resignations of then Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and of Kenney's chief of staff, and the demotion of five other United Conservative Party MLAs, there was still no public accounting of where the remainder spent the holiday break by two weeks after the first vacation was confirmed.
- For more, see: 2 more UCP MLAs confirm they travelled out of province in December — find out where your MLA was
The Alberta Hospitality Association is demanding clear guidelines from the province regarding when and how businesses that are closed or restricted due to the pandemic can resume normal operations.
In an open letter to the province, the industry group says the roughly 150,000 people who work in the sector have been struggling for too long and the current state of restrictions are unfair.
Association vice-president and Calgary restaurant owner Leslie Echino says hard numbers and clear targets are needed.
"What's it going to take to enable us to reopen? Is it going to be the R-factor? Is it going to be hospitalizations? We need clear ways to understand when we're going to open," she said.
- For more, see: At 'breaking point,' Alberta hospitality industry group asks province for clear path to reopening
The Calgary Hotel Association is asking its members how they'd feel about promoting the Alberta government's ABTraceTogether app in exchange for fewer restrictions on the hospitality industry — including potentially making installation of the contact-tracing app mandatory for some guests.
A survey was sent to about 60 member hotels on Monday, said association president Sol Zia, and the association plans to gather feedback until the end of the week.
Zia said no decisions have been made and the industry is in "really, really early discussions" with the provincial government, which raised the idea.
- For more, see: Calgary hotels asked if they'd promote Alberta's contact-tracing app in exchange for eased restrictions
A Calgary emergency room physician is capturing life on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic through her camera lens.
For the past six weeks, Dr. Heather Patterson has visited hospitals in the city to take photos of what unfolds in the hallways and patient rooms — and even in the ICU.
"As the pandemic began to affect our Calgary hospitals and community, I realized that I wanted to capture what was actually happening inside our hospitals," Patterson told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.
"I wanted to tell the authentic story of this team of people who have a common goal, and how we're achieving that."
- To see her moving photos, see: Calgary ER doctor captures life on front lines of pandemic through photography project
Alberta is ramping up its surveillance for two coronavirus variants — which have now been reported in the province — as a team of scientists at the provincial laboratory develop a quicker and easier test to identify cases and determine if and when the strains take root.
Five cases of the variant first identified in the U.K. have been confirmed in Alberta, along with one case of the variant first discovered in South Africa.
All of the cases are travel-related, according to Alberta Health, but there is a small amount of transmission in one case where a traveller spread COVID-19 to two household contacts. Health officials say there is no evidence there was further spread beyond that household.
CBC News has launched a vaccine tracker so you can follow the progress as vaccines are rolled out across the country. See how the vaccine rollout is going in your province or territory here.
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 Saturday:
- Calgary zone: 4,863, up from 4,657 reported on Friday (39,086 recovered).
- Edmonton zone: 4,510, up from 4,355 (43,618 recovered).
- North zone: 1,714, up from 1,624 (7,271 recovered).
- South zone: 400, up from 383 (5,014 recovered).
- Central zone: 1,209, up from 1,155 (6,856 recovered).
- Unknown: 17, up from 15 (112 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 from yesterday and today:
- Alberta's Phase 1 vaccination rollout slowed over Pfizer supply issues
- ANALYSIS | COVID denialism and the Alberta context
- Eager for vaccine, Alberta health workers frustrated by suggestion they're not booking appointments
- Alberta to ease some COVID-19 restrictions starting Monday, health minister says
- Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean
- With no post-holiday surge, Alberta's COVID-19 numbers appear to be on right track
- 1,500 flights and rising as Canadians seek sunny escapes despite surging COVID-19 crisis
- No more hockey in Alberta hamlet after pandemic forces ice plant to close for the season
- Calgary ER doctor captures life on front lines of pandemic through photography project
- Grocery chain's Alberta box a boost for local food-product companies
- Lethbridge police charge organizer of protest against COVID-19 health measures
- For the latest on what's happening in the rest of Canada and around the world on Friday, see here.