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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, March 16

The province reported 355 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, 62 of those related to variant strains, with 260 people in hospital with the disease and 44 of those in intensive care. Meanwhile, Phase 2A of Alberta's COVID-19 immunization program with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines began Monday.

11 per cent of active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta are variants of concern

A server cleans a table at Trolley 5 in southwest Calgary. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, says the rising number of variant cases in Alberta continues to be a concern for health officials in the province. (Colleen De Neve for CBC News)

The latest on vaccinations:

  • Phase 2A of Alberta's COVID-19 immunization program with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines began March 15.
  • Who's eligible in Group A:
    • Albertans born 1947 to 1956 (turning 65 to 74), no matter where they live.
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1971 or earlier (turning 50+), no matter where they live.
    • Staff and residents of licensed seniors supportive living facilities not included in Phase 1.
  • How to book if you're eligible:
    • Participating pharmacies: Now booking all eligible ages, no matter the birth year.
    • Alberta Health Services (online or 811): Bookings open by birth year, with more years added each day:
      • March 16: Born 1947-48 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1962-63.
      • March 17 at 8 a.m.: Born 1949-51 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1964-66.
    • Living on-reserve or on-settlement: Book through your local clinic.
    • Licensed seniors supportive living: Do not book, AHS will contact facilities directly.
  • More than 18,000 Albertans had booked appointments through AHS since Phase 2A launched Monday morning, the province said Tuesday afternoon.
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are still available at those pharmacies as well as at immunization sites operated by AHS across the province. 
  • AHS announced Monday it would open a large-scale vaccination centre at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre on April 5. The site will have 100 vaccination stations and, at full capacity, it could deliver 5,000 shots per day, officials say. There will be no drop-in appointments. Free parking will be provided.
  • If shipments arrive as scheduled, the province says all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.

Hinshaw asks for patience from frustrated Albertans waiting for vaccines

7 months ago
1:05
Asked about Albertans who were able to pre-book COVID-19 vaccinations at pharmacies ahead of official provincial timelines, Dr. Deena Hinshaw responded by asking for patience. 1:05
  • The Alberta government laid out its plan Monday for Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout, which will be for people born 2005 to 1957 (ages 16 to 64) with certain high-risk underlying health conditions. It's expected that the timeline will be between April and June, but depends on supply. See below for eligibility:
    • Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen (a missing spleen or a spleen that is no longer working).
    • Cancer.
    • Chronic heart disease and vascular disease.
    • Chronic kidney diseases requiring regular medical monitoring or treatment.
    • Chronic liver disease due to any cause.
    • Chronic neurological disease (e.g. epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, MS, muscular dystrophy and dementia).
    • Chronic respiratory (lung) diseases:
      • Including: COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, or severe asthma that required an asthma-related emergency department visit or hospital admission in the past year.
      • Not including: mild or well-controlled asthma.
    • Diabetes requiring insulin or other anti-diabetic medication to control.
    • A weakened immune response due to disease or treatment, including:
      • Anyone undergoing chemotherapy or treatment for HIV, genetic disorders of the immune system.
      • People receiving long-term medical treatment to control severe inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus.
    • Pregnancy.
    • Severe mental illness or substance use disorder requiring a hospital stay during the past year.
    • Severe obesity.
    • Severe or profound learning disabilities or severe developmental delay.
    • Solid organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant recipients.
  • A note from a doctor or pharmacist is not required to get the vaccine.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, also announced that Phase 2C of the rollout in April to June will include health-care professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and support staff. As well, designated support people for those living in continuing care will become eligible.

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • The province reported 355 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and three new deaths.
  • There were 4,776 active cases across the province, a decrease of 35 from the day before.
  • The province reported 260 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 44 people in intensive care beds. 
  • 6,018 coronavirus tests were completed on Monday with a positivity rate of about 5.9 per cent.
  • An additional 62 variant cases were recorded, bringing the active number to 509. There have been 1,047 variant cases since first reported and of those almost all — 1,028 — are the strain first identified in the U.K., and 16 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • On Sunday, Alberta also reported the first two cases of the variant strain first identified in Brazil, known as P.1. There have not been additional cases since first reported.
  • Hinshaw made a point of noting that the provincewide R-value — essentially the number of people infected by each infected person — was at 1.07 over the last week, and said Albertans need to stay focused on being mindful of precautionary health measures."We must all redouble our efforts to follow public health measures so we can drive Alberta's R-value back below 1," she said.

The latest on AstraZeneca/Covishield:

  • Hinshaw says more than 92 per cent of the province's current supply of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses had been booked as of Sunday afternoon.
  • Given the dwindling supply, the province shut down online bookings, with limited appointments available only through Health Link 811.
  • There were two new groups eligible to book as of Monday:
    • All Albertans born between 1957 and 1961.
    • All First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1972 and 1976.
  • The government says m​​​ore appointments and birth years will be added as supply becomes available.

The latest on expanded rapid testing:

  • The Alberta government is shipping 924,000 rapid tests to sites across the province to speed up screening for COVID-19, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. 
  • Rapid tests are intended to support screening programs to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Shandro said, and will help prevent outbreaks at a range of businesses and sectors:
    • 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL.
    • 267,000 to long-term care, designated-supportive living and hospice facilities.
    • 100,000 for a new pilot program offering rapid tests in two Calgary schools — the Calgary Board of Education's Rundle School and St. John XXIII School in the Calgary Catholic School District. 
    • 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres and other health-care sites.
    • 76,000 to WestJet.
    • 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province.
A Tropical Medicine University virology lab researcher works in Brazil in early March to develop a test that will detect the P.1 variant of the new coronavirus. The variant, which was first found in Manaus, Brazil, appears to be more contagious than other COVID-19 strains. (Andre Penner/The Associated Press)
  • The tests will be used at Cargill's High River meatpacking plant — which had the largest outbreak in Canada tied to a single site — over the next several months and the government said discussions are underway to provide tests to other meat-processing plants.
  • Mobile testing will also be used to help with the outbreak at the Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer.

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • Retail stores and malls are now allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, and youth sports teams and activities are allowed to resume with up to 10 participants. Masks and physical distancing are still required.
  • Restrictions have been eased for child, youth and adult performances, including singing, theatre and playing wind instruments, though participants must follow the same restrictions as for youth sports.
  • Banquet halls, community hall and hotels can now host permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 people, and funeral services with up to 20.
  • Rules for indoor fitness still require that gym visits must be scheduled or by appointment – no drop-ins allowed.
  • Low-intensity individual and group exercises are allowed without a trainer. Masks must be worn.
  • High-intensity activities — without a mask — are allowed only for one-on-one workouts with a trainer. Trainers must still be masked.
  • No sports games, competitions, team practice or league play is allowed.
  • The province says any decisions on moving to Step 3 of the reopening will be made on March 22 at the earliest.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported Tuesday by the province:

  • Calgary zone: 1,824, up from 1,779 (50,782 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,114, down from 1,160 (52,964 recovered).
  • North zone: 773, down from 818 (11,953 recovered).
  • South zone: 610, up from 588 (6,476 recovered).
  • Central zone: 448, down from 460 (10,134 recovered).
  • Unknown: 7, up from 6 (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


You can see active cases by local health area on the following interactive map. Scroll, zoom and click on the map for more information.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

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

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said First Nations, Inuit and Métis people born in 1966 or earlier must call Health Link at 811. In fact, they're also able to use the online booking tool.
    Mar 17, 2021 8:06 AM MT

With files from The Canadian Press

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