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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, March 3

Decisions about what constitutes "safe" indoor fitness activities will be left to gym owners and their clients, Alberta's health minister says as the province moves to a modified version of Step 2 in easing restrictions.

Decisions on 'safe' fitness activities to be made by gyms, clients, health minister says

Under Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan, announced on Monday, gyms and fitness centres were allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities. (CBC)

The latest:

  • Alberta reported 402 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, an increase from 257 on Tuesday and 291 on Monday.
  • An outbreak of COVID-19 in an Alberta long-term care facility as been linked to a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. 
  • The outbreak was confirmed late on Friday at Churchill Manor in Edmonton with a single case, and since Friday, 27 staff and residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced Alberta will join other provinces in adopting the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendation to extend the period between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Decisions about what constitutes "safe" indoor fitness activities will be left to gym owners and their clients, Alberta's health minister said Tuesday, a day after the province announced that gyms and fitness centres would be allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities in the move to Step 2 of the plan to lift COVID-19 public health restrictions.
  • Health Minister Tyler Shandro clarified Tuesday that "low-intensity" individual and group fitness activities are those that don't significantly raise a person's breathing rate, such as low-intensity yoga (hatha, yin), Pilates, tai-chi, barre, stretching, light weightlifting, and indoor rock climbing as well as the low-intensity use of treadmills, ellipticals and related equipment.
  • People engaging in those low-intensity activities must still follow public health rules like maintaining the required physical distance and wearing masks, the province clarified Wednesday.
  • All indoor fitness must be pre-registered — no drop-ins allowed.
  • Libraries will now be able to open to 15 per cent of fire code capacity, under the limited easing of restrictions announced Monday by Shandro, Premier Jason Kenney and Hinshaw.
  • However, the province said it would decide on March 22 whether to ease restrictions further at that point on retail businesses, hotels, banquet halls and children's sports.
  • Hinshaw will deliver her next update on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CBC News will cover it live on the website and Facebook. 
  • There are 4,649 active cases across the province as well as 12 more deaths.
  • As of Wednesday, there were 251 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19, a decrease of 10 from the day before, with 48 people in intensive care beds.
  • 10,362 coronavirus tests were completed with a positivity rate of 3.92 per cent.
  • Sixteen additional variant cases were recorded on Wednesday, bringing the total to 508. Of those variant cases, almost all — 500 — are the strain first identified in the U.K. and eight are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Alberta's R-value has decreased slightly to 1.01, from 1.03, but it still means that more than one person on average contracts COVID-19 from each positive case. An R-value above 1.0 indicates exponential growth. Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the R-value fell from 1.13 to 0.94.
  • A fourth death has been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at a central Alberta pork-processing plant, its union president confirmed to CBC News on Wednesday. The person who died was a worker at the Olymel Red Deer Food Processing Plant in Red Deer, raising the total to three workers who have died along with one other person whose death was linked to the outbreak.
  • The outbreak, first declared on Nov. 17, has been linked to at least 500 cases.
  • The union representing workers at the slaughterhouse is calling for its potential reopening this week to be delayed, saying in an open letter that employees do not feel safe.
  • As of March 1, the province's COVID-19 vaccination rollout has resulted in 255,283 doses of vaccine being administered. That number includes 89,094 Albertans who are fully immunized with two doses of vaccine.
  • Kenney said Monday that cases in the province's long-term care homes have plummeted by 95 per cent after vaccinations.
  • On Feb. 19, the vaccination program expanded to all residents in retirement centres, lodges and other supportive and congregate living facilities with residents aged 75 or older.
  • Last Wednesday, it expanded to include all Albertans born in 1946 and earlier — about 230,000 more people.
  • Vaccinations also became available for all First Nations, Inuit, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Métis Settlement.in the province.
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are available at 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as well as at the AHS sites. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
  • Family doctors and their clinical staff will be included in Phase 2 of Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That's expected to take place between April and September.

See which regions are being hit hardest

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,622, up from 1,560 (49,237 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,054, up from 1,030 (51,959 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,039, down from 1,061 (10,895 recovered).
  • South zone: 331, down from 333 (6,166 recovered).
  • Central zone: 590, down from 636 (9,552 recovered).
  • Unknown: 13, up from 11 (94 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:


Alberta confirms first long-term care outbreak linked to coronavirus variant

An outbreak of COVID-19 in an Alberta long-term care facility as been linked to a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus for the first time.

The outbreak was confirmed late on Friday at Churchill Manor in Edmonton with a single case, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday at a news conference.

Speaking Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said 27 staff and residents at Churchill Manor in Edmonton have tested positive for the coronavirus since Friday, including 19 cases confirmed as positive for the variant. (Government of Alberta)

Hinshaw said 27 staff and residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since Friday, including 19 cases confirmed as positive for the variant.

"Local public health teams and the operator are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and working closely together to limit spread and protect everyone involved," Hinshaw said.

"Last week, before this outbreak started, we implemented mandatory new protocols that are being followed. These created new, stronger measures for when a variant case is identified in any supportive living, long-term care or hospice site.

"Staff working at an outbreak site must not work at any other workplace for the duration of the outbreak, and anyone entering the facility will be required to wear a mask and eye protection continuously."


Decisions about 'safe' fitness activities will be made by gyms and clients, health minister says

Decisions about what constitutes "safe" indoor fitness activities will be left to gym owners and their clients, Alberta's health minister says.

Under Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan, announced on Monday, gyms and fitness centres were allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday there was some confusion about which activities would be allowed, and he tried to clear that up.

The Alberta government says low-intensity exercises include weightlifting, low-intensity dance classes, yoga, barre and indoor climbing, as well as the low-intensity use of treadmills, ellipticals and related equipment. Masks must still be worn. (Steven Senne/AP/The Canadian Press)

"If you operate a gym, you can be open," he said. "That is perfectly within the rules."

Shandro said "low-intensity" activities are those that don't significantly raise a person's breathing rate, and said gyms and clients will be allowed to make such decisions for themselves.

"We're relying on owners and clients to use judgment, to show good faith," Shandro said at a news conference.

 


4th death linked to COVID-19 outbreak at Alberta meat-processing plant, union confirms

A third worker has died after a COVID-19 outbreak at a central Alberta pork-processing plant, raising the total number of deaths linked to the outbreak to four, the union representing the plant's employees has confirmed.

"Our investigation has revealed that a third worker from the Olymel Red Deer plant has died," said UFCW 401 President Thomas Hesse on Wednesday.

The worker has not yet been publicly identified.

The Olymel outbreak, first declared on Nov. 17, has been linked to at least 500 cases, and led to the plant temporarily closing on Feb. 15.

The first death, on Jan. 28, was of Darwin Doloque, a 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines and was found dead in his home.

More than 500 cases and four deaths have been linked to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel Red Deer Food Processing Plant in Red Deer, Alta. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

His death was followed on Feb. 24 by that of Henry De Leon, a 50-year-old who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and had worked at the plant for 15 years. He left behind a wife, two adult children and three grandchildren.

The third death linked to the outbreak was a woman in her 60s who has not been publicly identified. It has not been disclosed how she was linked to the outbreak.

The outbreak at the Olymel plant is now deadlier than the outbreak at the Cargill meat-processing plant near High River, the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.


Some stakeholders express confusion, disappointment at scaled-back Stage 2

Some business owners and stakeholders are expressing confusion and disappointment after the Alberta government announced that Stage 2 of its reopening plan would start with a scaled-back approach to easing restrictions.

Initially Stage 2 included the potential reopening of facilities that included banquet halls, community halls and conference centres, and the further reopening of fitness facilities.

Scott Wildeman, the president of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada and an instructor with GYMVMT in Calgary, says safety protocols in Alberta's fitness facilities were robust. (CBC)

Instead, it will now begin with libraries reopening at 15 per cent of fire code capacity. Low-intensity individual and group fitness activities, such as light strength training, Pilates and tai-chi, are also now permitted at gyms.

But high-intensity workouts including spinning and CrossFit currently remain prohibited, and restrictions on hotels, community and banquet halls, and conference centres will continue until Stage 3 — "at least" three weeks away, Shandro said Monday.

"To be honest, my heart stopped a bit [when I heard the announcement]," said Christine Dairon, the marketing director for the Delta by Marriott Calgary South.


  • 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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