Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Jan. 20

Alberta is being forced to change its vaccination rollout plan and concentrate on giving second doses to those who have already been vaccinated because of the supply problems with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Family doctors call on province to let them give COVID-19 vaccinations

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 reported another 669 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday — up from 456 new cases on Tuesday — with around a 4.5 per cent positivity rate. 
  • There are 744 people in hospital, with 124 in intensive care, up slightly from 740 in hospital the previous day. Another 21 people have died for a total of 1,484 dead. 
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said the declining case numbers show that Alberta's restrictions are working.
  • While some health restrictions eased Monday, Hinshaw said the province isn't out of the woods yet. She said it's important to continue to follow precautions and be mindful of community transmission in an effort to reduce case numbers and hospitalizations.
  • A total of 95,243 vaccine doses had been administered as of Wednesday.
  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said earlier this week that Alberta currently has the capacity to deliver 50,000 doses per week and by March it's expected the province would be able to administer about 200,000 doses per week. "But we do not have the supply to match," he said.
  • The planned vaccination of First Nations and Métis individuals and seniors over age 75 has been put on hold.
  • 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. 19, the seven-day average was 686.71, which is roughly the level it was at in early November when the numbers were rising sharply. 
  • 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. 

See the detailed regional breakdown:

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

  • Calgary zone: 4,096, down from 4,249 reported on Tuesday (40,767 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 3,679, down from 3,875 (45,213 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,411, down from 1,499 (7,879 recovered).
  • South zone: 411, up from 407 (5,109 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 949, down from 1,050 (7,305 recovered).
  • Unknown: 16, unchanged (114 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

(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories from yesterday and today:


Alberta to change vaccination rollout plan:

An announcement that Canada will not get any Pfizer-BioNTech next week means Alberta will have to change its vaccination rollout plan and concentrate on giving second doses to those who have already been vaccinated, the province's health minister says.

Tyler Shandro said Tuesday he was "extremely concerned" by the news that Pfizer would decrease the amount of COVID-19 vaccine coming to Canada from its factory in Belgium, with no doses expected to arrive next week and further anticipated reductions in the following two weeks.

"With fewer vaccines arriving, we have no choice but to focus on delivering second doses for those who have already been vaccinated," Shandro said in a statement.

  • WATCH | Dr. Deena Hinshaw discusses Pfizer shortage

Alberta prioritizing second dose vaccinations due to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortage

CBC News Edmonton

3 months ago
With uncertainty in the supply of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Alberta Health Services is adjusting planning of the rollout and doing everything they can to get second doses to those who have received their first dose, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday. 1:27

"All new first-dose appointments for eligible health-care workers are being postponed. Some second-dose appointments will also need to be rescheduled in the coming weeks."

Vaccine has been reserved to ensure the province can provide second doses to all long-term care and designated supportive living residents, Shandro said.

"At this time, we believe Alberta Health Services will also be able to provide second doses to health-care workers within the established window," he said. "However, some uncertainty exists because it is unknown how much vaccine will be received by Canada in the first two weeks of February."

New clinic to treat long-haul respiratory problems: 

A new COVID-19 followup clinic — designed to help people struggling with long-term respiratory problems after a diagnosis — is set to open at Calgary's Peter Lougheed Hospital next month.

This is the second clinic of its kind in Calgary and one of just three in Alberta. A similar centre opened in Rockyview General Hospital in September. There is another at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

"I know there's going to be a need for these patients," said Dr. Jason Weatherald, a pulmonologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary who works at the Peter Lougheed Centre in northeast Calgary.

"When I was working on the COVID units in the hospital, I really realized that northeast of Calgary was disproportionately being affected by COVID — in the community but also in terms of the number of hospitalized cases."

For more, see: Calgary gets 2nd COVID clinic to treat long-haul respiratory problems

International border COVID-19 testing pilot at Edmonton airport to begin:

Edmonton International Airport officials are guardedly optimistic about the expansion on Feb. 1 of the COVID-19 international border testing pilot program.

Currently the pilot is only available to eligible international travellers arriving at Calgary International Airport and the Coutts land border crossing. 

Those participating in the program entering Canada will have to show proof of a negative test — taken within 72 hours before the flight — before being allowed to board the plane destined for the province.

Once they arrive in Alberta, they will be tested again and must quarantine for 48 hours. If the second test result comes back negative, they can leave quarantine as long as they remain in Alberta for the first 14 days and get a follow-up test a week later.

Currently, both the federal and provincial governments are discouraging unnecessary travel.

The pilot will run until 52,000 people have been tested. 

Based on 2020 travel numbers, it may take awhile to get to that 52,000 mark. 

International ski and snowboard bubble planned for Calgary cancelled:

A proposed Calgary snow bubble is no longer going forward. 

On Wednesday morning, the international governing body for skiing and snowboarding (FIS), in consultation with Freestyle Canada and Canada Snowboard, decided not to continue with plans to host the 2021 world championships proposed for Calgary.

Countless hours had been spent planning and putting forward proposals to host the 2021 freestyle ski, snowboard and freeski world championships, as well as a number of World Cup events, that were going to be held starting Feb. 24 and running until the middle of March.

The events were going to include dozens of athletes from across Canada and around the world — one of the sticking points was having a large number of international athletes coming into the country. 

"While we are gutted, the safety and health of our athletes, coaches, volunteers and staff is, and always will be, our top priority. COVID-19 continues to evolve globally, and we believe this decision is in the best interest of our broader sport community at this time," said Peter Judge, chief executive officer of Freestyle Canada.

The announcement comes just a day after two members of Canada's snowboard delegation preparing to compete at an international event in Switzerland tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the entire Canadian men's slopestyle team to miss the event. 

Calgary airport limits terminal access:

The Calgary International Airport is restricting entry to its terminal building to passengers and people who work there, as part of its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As of Jan. 18, only passengers with a valid boarding pass and on-duty airport employees will be allowed inside, said Reid Fiest, the airport's manager of media relations.

There are some exceptions, including people who need to travel with a support person, adults accompanying a minor who is travelling alone, hotel guests at the Calgary Airport Marriott and approved accredited media. 

Alberta nurses get sick pay reinstated:

Nurses who have to self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19 will receive special sick leave retroactive to July 6 under an agreement reached with Alberta Health Services this week. 

The sick pay applies to symptomatic employees with or without a confirmed workplace exposure, and asymptomatic employees who were forced to quarantine due to exposure. The sick pay provisions do not apply to anyone forced to quarantine due to international travel.

UNA and AUPE members protested possible health care cuts and privatization at rallies across Alberta Thursday including this rally outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The measure is retroactive to July 6, 2020, the day Alberta Health Services ended the special code nurses could use for COVID-related sick leave. The code allowed them to take time without using up their regular sick days. Under the agreement, nurses forced into quarantine since July 6 can qualify for payments or reinstatement of their regular sick days. 

In addition to paid sick leave, AHS is offering one day of paid leave and leave without pay to nurses who need to care for sick family members or children who are at home due to a school or daycare closure. 

Family doctors want to give vaccinations:

Family doctors in Alberta want to help give COVID-19 vaccinations but say the province has yet to tap them for help.

"Family doctors have largely been left out of the conversation about the distribution and administration of vaccines in the province," said Dr. James Makokis, a family physician with practices in Edmonton and Kehewin Cree Nation in northern Alberta who also works with an addictions and mental health practice in Toronto.

Makokis said family doctors are in a good position to help because they know which patients meet the criteria for vaccinations and could help identify them. He said family doctors have their patients' trust and can answer questions they might have about the vaccine.

Dr. James Makokis says family doctors should be included in Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. (Terry Reith/CBC)

While there are challenges that would make it difficult to store the vaccines in most family clinics, he said, many of the other roughly 5,200 family doctors in the province would be willing to attend AHS vaccination sites to help with injections. 

"If there was opportunity for, you know, late night shifts or weekend shifts when people can be vaccinated, many physicians would make themselves available to meet the needs of that," he said


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


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