Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, March 17

The rising number of variant cases of COVID-19 in Alberta continues to be a concern for health officials in the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says spring break travel is 'strongly discouraged' this year

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. (AHS)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Alberta reported 479 new cases of COVID-19, 50 involving new variants of the virus, and four more deaths on Wednesday. 
  • The province expanded the age group of those eligible to receive the vaccine. Starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, people born in 1954 or earlier can book appointments, as can First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born before or during 1969.
  • About 365,670 doses of vaccines have been administered as of Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference, and 91,846 Albertans have been vaccinated.
  • The rising number of variant cases in Alberta continues to be a concern for health officials in the province, with Dr. Hinshaw suggesting that Albertans put any spring break travel or party plans on hold.
  • "The B117 variant is spreading in many different contexts and many different settings. And we're seeing higher attack rates than we typically do in settings where people are exposed," Hinshaw said Wednesday.
  • The province reported 479 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and four new deaths.
  • There were 4,918 active cases across the province, an increase of 142 from the day before.
  • 11 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in the province are linked to three variants of the virus.
  • There have been 1,199 variant cases since January 11, and of those almost all are the strain first identified in the U.K. (B117), and 17 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.
  • The province reported 262 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 44 people in intensive care beds. 
  • 9,497 coronavirus tests were completed on Tuesday with a positivity rate of about 5.39 per cent.
  • Hinshaw is expected to give the next update on the provincial COVID-19 numbers on Thursday afternoon. CBC Edmonton and Calgary will carry it live on the website and Facebook.

The latest on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

  • 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 1954 or earlier, no matter where they live.
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1969 or earlier, 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:
  • More than 18,000 Albertans eligible under Phase 2A had booked appointments through AHS since it 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. 

Albertans warned to be on guard against COVID-19 variants

CBC News Edmonton

5 months ago
Dr. Deena Hinshaw calls the international toll of COVID-19 variants “a cautionary tale” but says Albertans can fight by following health precautions and getting vaccinated. 2:00
  • 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 issues like chronic conditions affecting certain organs and those suffering from cancer. For the full list of health conditions see here. It's expected that the timeline will be between April and June, but it will depend on supply.
  • Hinshaw also announced that Phase 2C of the rollout will include health-care professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and support staff. As well, designated support persons for those living in continuing care will also become eligible in this stage.
  • 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.

The latest on AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine:

  • As of a week ago, on March 10, Alberta began offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine as an option for adults who do not have a severe chronic illness in a staggered rollout to:
    • All Albertans born 1957 to 1976.
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) persons born 1972 to 1976.
    • However, not everyone in those age ranges were immediately eligible: the province staggered the rollout starting with the oldest and expanding it a birth year or two at a time depending on vaccine supply.
  • The province received 58,500 doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield in its first shipment of the vaccine. However, as of Sunday afternoon, Hinshaw said more than 92 per cent of the province's current supply of AstraZeneca-Oxford and Covishield vaccine doses had been booked.
  • Given the dwindling supply, the province shut down online bookings, with limited appointments available only by calling Health Link at 811.
  • The government says m​​​ore appointments and birth years will be added as more AstraZeneca supply becomes available.
  • Healthy Albertans in those age ranges can also choose to wait until Phase 2D begins in May to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if they don't want the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, AHS stressed that AstraZeneca has been proven to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and death in adults 18 to 64.

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • Social gatherings are the top source of transmission of COVID-19 so all indoor social gatherings — public and private — remain prohibited throughout the province as they have been since Dec. 8. Outdoor social gatherings can have up to 10 people. The rules are enforceable with $1,000 fines.
  • All indoor social gatherings are limited to household members only. 
  • People who live alone can have up to two close contacts:
    • These must be the same two contacts throughout the duration of the restriction.
    • If the close contacts do not live alone, visits cannot be held at their home.
    • Single parents who only live with their children under 18 are permitted to have up to two close contacts.
  • Alberta moved to Stage 2 of its reopening plan starting with a scaled-back approach to easing restrictions on March 1 and again on March 8.
  • Retail stores and malls were allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, and youth sports teams and activities were allowed to resume with up to 10 participants. Masks and physical distancing are still required.
  • Restrictions also 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 host permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 people, and funeral services with up to 20.
Under Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan, announced on March 8, gyms and fitness centres were allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities. (CBC)
  • 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.
  • An Alberta pastor jailed after being charged with violating COVID-19 public-health orders could be released in the coming days, says a group representing him. Crown prosecutors have dropped all but one charge against James Coates and have agreed to his release without bail conditions, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in a news release Wednesday.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,887, up from 1,824, (50,915 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,163, up from 1,114 (53,029 recovered).
  • North zone: 774, up from 773 (12,022 recovered).
  • South zone: 635, up from 610 (6,501 recovered).
  • Central zone: 455, up from 448 (10,177 recovered).
  • Unknown: 4, down from 7 (104 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.

With files from The Canadian Press


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