Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Sunday, Jan. 3

With testing down over the holidays, Alberta records 400 new cases of COVID-19.

With testing down over the holidays, Alberta records 400 new cases of COVID-19

Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert, left, travelled twice to Palm Desert, Calif., since March, his office confirmed Saturday. UCP Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, right, travelled to Hawaii for vacation over the holidays. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press, Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)

The latest:

  • The province recorded an estimated 400 new cases of COVID-19 for Jan. 2.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, tweeted that 8,100 laboratory tests had been recorded with a five per cent positivity rate.
  • However, Hinshaw noted that fewer people were tested on Jan. 1, which means that fewer tests were processed and reported on Sunday.
  • A more complete COVID-19 update is next expected from the Alberta government on Jan. 4.
  • Hinshaw is scheduled to hold her next news conference on Jan. 5.
  • A total of five UCP MLAs have been confirmed to have left Canada for holiday vacations — Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn, Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan, Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, and Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard.
  • Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert also travelled twice to Palm Desert, Calif., since March, his office confirmed Saturday, so he could deal with "essential house maintenance issues."
  • Siksika Nation received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and began immunizing staff and residents at the Siksika Elders Lodge on Friday.
  • In spite of the pandemic's crippling effect on many local businesses, the City of Edmonton said it gave out 4,736 new business licenses between March 1 and Nov. 30 in 2020.
  • A health-care aide at an extended care facility in Red Deer, Alta., has been charged under the Federal Quarantine Act after allegedly failing to isolate after a trip to the United States.
  • Alberta's total case count topped 100,000 on Wednesday as the province reported 18 more deaths for a total of 1,046 deaths. The average number of deaths per day has been trending sharply down since Dec. 27.
  • However, it took nearly nine months for Alberta to record its first 500 deaths; the next 500 came in just 34 days. Check out how it happened in this analysis.

More detail on what you need to know today in Alberta

Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted the latest estimated COVID-19 numbers on Sunday, saying there are roughly 400 new cases of the virus in the province, based on 8,100 tests, for a positivity rate of five per cent.

However, Hinshaw noted that fewer people were tested on New Year's Day, which means that fewer tests were processed and reported on Jan. 2.

Hinshaw's next live update is scheduled for Jan. 5.

More than 100,000 Albertans have tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic. 

Hinshaw said earlier in the week that declining case numbers are in part due to fewer tests, and hospitalizations and the positivity rate have remained high. 

As of Wednesday, there were 921 people in hospital, including 152 in intensive care, and another 18 people had died for a total of 1,046 deaths.

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 per the latest update on Wednesday.

  • Calgary zone: 5,129, down from 5,244 reported on Tuesday (33,152 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 6,624, down from 6,701 (36,165 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,031, down from 1,034 (5,752 recovered).
  • South zone: 296, down from 302 (4,629 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,430 down from 1,466 (4,995 recovered).
  • Unknown: 45, up from 38 (134 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

Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir, left, said on social media Friday night that she had also recently been to the United States visiting her sister. CBC News confirmed on Friday that Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon, right, was also in Hawaii over the holidays. (UCP)

The total number of UCP MLAs confirmed to have left Canada for holiday vacations abroad increased to five on Saturday.

On Friday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney held a press conference and ordered MLAs not to leave the country unless it's for government business after news that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard had travelled to Hawaii for vacation.

Allard apologized, calling the trip a "lapse in judgment." 

CBC News then confirmed that Calgary-Klein MLA Jeremy Nixon was also in Hawaii over the holidays. It is not clear when he left or whether he has returned.

Calgary-Peigan MLA Tanya Fir said on social media Friday night that she had recently been to the United States visiting her sister. In a Facebook post, she said that she has since returned and will abide by the new travel directive.

Pat Rehn, the MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, posted a statement on Facebook Saturday confirming he is on his way back to Alberta from a trip to Mexico.

Jason Stephan, MLA for Red Deer-South, is also returning from a trip abroad, Kenney's press secretary Christine Myatt confirmed by email Saturday.

"MLA Stephan travelled to the United States and has indicated that he is returning to Alberta in line with the Premier's directive," she said.

 To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Alberta government advises against non-essential travel on its travel restrictions page.

Ron Liepert speaks after defeating Rob Anders during the Calgary Signal Hill federal Conservative nomination, in Calgary on Saturday, April 12, 2014. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert travelled twice to Palm Desert, Calif., since March, his office confirmed Saturday, so he could deal with "essential house maintenance issues."

Liepert, who was Alberta's health and wellness minister under Premier Ed Stelmach, owns a home in the city, which is located in the Coachella Valley.

A spokesperson in Liepert's office said Liepert has travelled twice since March, including during the current parliamentary recess.

"There has been no non-essential travel, and he has complied with all public health guidance, including the Alberta border testing program, each time he has travelled," the spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson did not immediately return a request from CBC News inquiring what specific maintenance Liepert had to resolve at his Palm Desert home.

Virginia Medicine Traveller, 94, left, receives Siksika Nation's first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from community health registered nurse Jacey Solway, right, on Jan. 1. (Siksika Health Services)

The first immunizations were distributed at Siksika First Nation on Friday after the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived on the reserve on Dec. 31.

The nation's first dose went to its oldest resident, Virginia Medicine Traveller, 94, Siksika Health Services said on Facebook.

Health workers on the First Nation, which is about 100 kilometres east of Calgary, announced on New Year's Eve that they would begin immunizing residents and staff at the Siksika Elders Lodge on Friday at 1 p.m.

The care facility for Siksika elders was among those prioritized by the province to receive the vaccine as it provides continuing care for seniors.

"We are pleased to see that a safe and effective vaccine has been developed so quickly and made available to our most vulnerable nation members and their care providers," Nioksskaistamik Ouray Crowfoot, chief of Siksika First Nation, was quoted as saying in a press release.

"Our health services continue to plan for a staged roll-out of additional vaccine to other priority groups in the near future."

Ran Huget and Elisa Zenari, co-owners of Dalla Zenari in the Kelly Building downtown, opened Dec. 1, two weeks before the latest shutdown which includes in-house dining. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Entrepreneurs in Edmonton have found a way to open new businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic — thousands of them — despite the toll the pandemic has had on the economy and the restrictions faced in many industries. 

A range of new businesses have opened since February, from tattoo studios to online marketing companies, as well as cafes and restaurants. 

The City of Edmonton said it gave out 4,736 new business licenses between March 1 and Nov. 30 in 2020.

It's difficult to say whether all of these were first-time applicants, as the city doesn't collect that information, a spokesperson told CBC News in an email. 

A total of 23,462 business licenses in Edmonton, including renewals, were approved in the same timeframe.

Although food establishments make up a large number of visible new businesses in Edmonton, a range of industries had new startups.

How did things go so wrong, so quickly in Alberta? It's all about exponential growth, notes CBC investigative journalist Robson Fletcher. 

Early on in 2020, Alberta was getting accustomed to looking across the country and feeling pride in its successful pandemic response, but now the province finds itself in uncharted territory. After keeping the disease relatively at bay for months, deferred decisions late in the year led to an unprecedented amount of illness and death.

In the spring, the province boasted about its low hospitalization rate, its nation-leading testing and how it had quadrupled its ranks of contact tracers.

Come winter, Alberta had the highest hospitalization rate in the country and test-positivity rates that were nearing 10 per cent. Thousands of people were told to do their own contact tracing after the provincial system was overwhelmed.

Medical experts and mathematicians tried to sound the alarm nearly two months ago about the trajectory the province was on. But the government was reluctant to impose new restrictions on Albertans' liberties and economic activity. It rebuffed repeated calls for stricter public-health measures — for a time.

Meanwhile, the exponential growth continued unabated, with the number of new daily cases doubling every two to three weeks. Whether in response to the physicians' warnings, or the fact that new case numbers were approaching the psychological barrier of 2,000 per day, the government eventually did act.

But by that time, the hospitalizations and deaths the province is now experiencing had been essentially baked in. Daily case counts have mercifully started to ebb, but the glut of disease that built up weeks ago is still filling more hospital beds and claiming more lives than Alberta has seen at any other point in the pandemic.

Remembering some of the Albertans who have been identified as killed by COVID-19:

More Canadian politicians travelling over the holidays have come under scrutiny for ignoring public health guidelines against COVID-19 that discourage non-essential travel, and one Toronto-based epidemiologist says they should be held to a higher standard.

Dr. Maria Sundaram, with the health-care research agency ICES, said while she normally doesn't endorse shaming people as a public health strategy, she believes politicians must be held to a higher standard, because their actions set an example for the public they serve.

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7 months ago
NDP MP Niki Ashton has been removed from her roles as a shadow critic after she posted on Twitter that she had travelled to Greece to see her "ailing grandmother." 3:35

"There are some leaders out there who are really practicing what they preach and that is really reassuring and really motivating," Sundaram told The Canadian Press.

"Unfortunately, there are others who haven't quite adhered to the policies that they've espoused for others and that really damages trust and it really damages our ability to keep going."

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


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