Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, March 29

Alberta has temporarily paused the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for those under the age of 55. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced the change at a press conference Monday, saying the move was done out of caution.

More than 945,000 Albertans with underlying health conditions now eligible to book vaccinations in Phase 2B

Sheila Catalan, a pharmacy assistant at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, has been part of the AHS team for the past six years. 'Hand in hand, we overcome the pandemic and will be able to see our loved ones again,' Catalan told Alberta Health Services. (Alberta Health Services)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • On Sunday, Alberta reported 644 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths. That brings the number of active cases in the province to 7,698, nearly double a low of just over 4,000 in February.
  • More than 945,000 Albertans with underlying health conditions are now eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination as the province's vaccine rollout expands to Phase 2B.
  • In total, Alberta has seen 146,340 cases with 136,659 recovered and 1,983 deaths.
  • There are 288 people in hospital with the disease, 64 of them in intensive care.
  • Another 11,953 coronavirus tests were reported Sunday, with a positivity rate of about 5.3 per cent.
  • Alberta health officials have been pleading with the public not to let its guard down, as the province races to roll out vaccinations amid rising case numbers and the spread of more dangerous variants.
  • Hinshaw warned last Thursday that four in 10 recent new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta were acquired through household transmission.
  • She urged household members not to treat the spread as inevitable. Instead, anyone with symptoms should stay away from other people in the household and get tested as soon as possible, said Hinshaw, noting that free hotel rooms are available so people who need to can isolate outside the family home.
  • She also warned the coronavirus had been spreading because some people are becoming careless and not following public health rules at restaurants, fitness centres, work or social gatherings — which are currently "against the rules," she reminded people.
  • Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is scheduled to give the next COVID-19 update on Thursday. CBC News will carry it live on the website and Facebook.

(Note the latest daily count of new cases in the above chart will usually vary slightly from the net new cases Alberta Health announces each day. For more on why, click here.)

  • Lethbridge is now considered a "hotspot" for COVID-19, with health officials urging people to get tested after numbers spiked recently in the city, largely due to non-compliance with health measures.

The latest on more dangerous variants:

  • Alberta has been contending with rising hospitalization numbers and a surge in cases linked to variants of concern — trends that have delayed plans for further easing public health restrictions.
  • 235 more cases were determined to be variants of concern in Sunday's data update.
  • That brings the total number of variant cases to 3,068, of which 1,972 are active. That accounts for 25.6 per cent of active cases in the province.
  • A briefing being prepared for the Ontario government suggests the variants substantially increase the risk of serious illness and death when compared to earlier dominant strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Hinshaw says COVID-19 is spreading in households

2 years ago
Duration 1:36
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the riskiest activity for spreading COVID-19 is living with someone who has it. Nearly half of all transmission in Alberta happens within the home.
  • Of those cases of variants of concern, 1,074 people are deemed to have recovered while 22 have died.
  • Hospitals in Alberta are preparing for a third wave of the pandemic, driven by these more aggressive variants of the coronavirus. 
  • Almost all variant-of-concern cases in Alberta are the strain first identified in the U.K. (B117).

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • Rising hospitalization numbers and a surge in cases caused by variants of concern have delayed any plans to further ease restrictions in the province.
  • The province warned last Wednesday that additional public health restrictions could be necessary in Alberta if there's a continued increase in variant cases — which along with increasing overall case numbers were the main factors cited by the government on March 22, when it postponed moving to Stage 3 of reopening.
  • According to the provincial plan, to move to Step 3 there must be fewer than 300 people in hospital, and that total must be declining. As of late, hospitalizations have been rising.
  • Under the current restrictions, 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.
  • Outdoor social gatherings can have up to 10 people, but must follow all public health rules about masks and physical distancing. The rules are enforceable with $1,000 fines.
  • Retail stores and malls can have 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 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.
  • 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. Public health rules must be followed, including wearing masks and physical distancing.
    • 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.
  • Registration will begin in April for swim and skate lessons with the City of Calgary, which will host a maximum of 10 people in each class to maintain physical distancing.

The latest on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

  • As of Sunday's update, 594,723 doses of vaccine have been administered and 96,447 Albertans have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
  • Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada is seeing a surge in COVID-19 vaccine supply, and said six million more doses are expected to flow into Canada over the next three weeks.
  • Alberta Health confirmed last Thursday that about 74 per cent of Albertans aged 75 and older — the demographic group most vulnerable to the disease — have received COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Alberta will open up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone eligible in Phase 2B on Tuesday. Phase 2B includes 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 said Phase 2B will involve the largest group yet, and urged people to make appointments as soon as they are eligible. She added the province may still be able to hit the original targets for vaccination even without using AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, but that this will depend on vaccine delivery.

  • Staff and residents of licensed seniors supportive living facilities not included in Phase 1 will receive a direct email from AHS with a unique link to go online and book their immunization appointments.
  • The government says 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 the stage.
  • 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. 
  • How to book if you're eligible:   

The latest on AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine:

  • Alberta has temporarily paused the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for those under 55 in order to gather more data, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced at a press conference Monday.
  • Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommend pausing the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine earlier Monday.
  • Canada is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of this product from the United States on Tuesday. Hinshaw said 900 people have received the AstraZeneca shot in Alberta.
  • Anyone under 55 who has received the vaccine is not considered to be at an increased risk for blood clots. Hinshaw said there have been no incidents in Alberta or in Canada, but she recommended that anyone who has received it to monitor their health — and to call their health-care provider if they experience seizures, an arm or leg that goes pale, cold or turns colour.
  • As of 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 Albertans born 1957 to 1971 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) persons born 1972 to 1976.
  • 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. 

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 3,565, up from 3,407 (52,346 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,734, up from 1,624 (53,892 recovered).
  • North zone: 855, up from 830 (12,711 recovered).
  • South zone: 815, up from 805 (7,023 recovered).
  • Central zone: 700, up from 670 (10,574 recovered).
  • Unknown: 29, down from 30 (113 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.