Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, March 8

Retails stores and malls will be allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire-code, and youth sports teams and activities will be allowed to resume with up to 10 participants, Alberta's health minister announced Monday.

On Monday, Alberta announced further easing to COVID-19 restrictions and estimated 278 new cases

A woman wearing a mask enjoys a nice day in Calgary amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Health Minister Tyler Shandro says it's time for province to move forward safely and complete Step 2 of the reopening plan. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • The Alberta Health Services COVID-19 online booking tool will be temporarily unavailable for appointment booking between midnight and 2 a.m. on Tuesday.
  • Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the province will now move fully into Step 2 of the reopening, as hospitalizations have remained below 450.
  • Shandro says all retail services and malls can host up to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, not including staff.
  • Youth, college and university athletic programs will now be able to have practices with a maximum of 10 people that are masked and physical distanced.
  • Restrictions are also being 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.
  • Shandro says any decisions on the province moving to Step 3 of the reopening will be made on March 22nd at the earliest.
( Evelyne Asselin/CBC)
  • As of March 8, the province says 297,692 doses of vaccine have been administered, and 91,027 Albertans have been fully immunized with two doses.
  • Alberta reported an estimated 278 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday as well as six more deaths.
  • As of Sunday, there were 4,633 active cases across the province, a decrease of 16 from the day before. 
  • The province reported 254 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 36 people in intensive care beds.
  • On Sunday, 5,485 coronavirus tests were completed with a positivity rate of 5.4 per cent.
  • An additional six variant cases were recorded, bringing the total to 659. Of those variant cases, almost all — 646 — are the strain first identified in the U.K., and 13 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Alberta's R-value has decreased slightly to 0.95, from 1.01. An R-value below 1.0 means the rate of transmission was decreasing during that period
  • Friday marked the one-year anniversary since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Alberta. Since that first case a year ago, 133,202 other Albertans have tested positive for the virus. Nearly 2,000 Albertans have died. See graphics and video that dramatically illustrate how it forever changed the province, from remote communities to large workforces, here.
  • Alberta said Thursday it would expand its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to include people under age 75 starting March 15 — and, if shipments arrive as scheduled, all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.
  • Alberta Health will soon begin using the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and plans to offer the first 58,500 doses of that vaccine only to healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 64.
  • Bookings for the AstraZeneca vaccine will begin on March 10 for any Albertan born in 1957 and those born between 1958 and 1971 will be offered chances to book vaccine appointments in the following days as long as supply lasts.
  • 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.
  • Health Canada has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, making it the fourth vaccine to be approved for use in Canada. The approval is expected to provide a significant boost to Canada's vaccine rollout.
  • Hinshaw announced the province will join others in adopting the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendation to extend the period between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • 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.

See which regions are being hit hardest

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,608, down from 1,659 (49,835 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,191, up from 1,154 (52,241 recovered).
  • North zone: 960, up from 958 (11,315 recovered).
  • South zone: 367, up from 353 (6,282 recovered).
  • Central zone: 491, down from 511 (9,800 recovered).
  • Unknown: 16, up from 14 (93 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 eases more COVID-19 restrictions, completes Step 2 of reopening plan

Retails stores and malls will be allowed increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire-code, and youth sports teams and activities will be allowed to resume with up to 10 participants, Alberta's health minister announced Monday.

Tyler Shandro said with case counts and positivity rates continuing to decline, along with deaths and hospitalizations, it is now safe for the province to complete Step 2 of its reopening plan.

"The situation is changing and we need to change along with it," Shandro said Monday at a news conference. "We said that we'd complete Step 2 when it was safe to do so, and I believe that it now is.

"The time is right to keep moving safely forward, and at the same time there are reasons for us to remain cautious. We're not seeing the same sharp decline in cases that we saw in December. Cases have plateaued. And we still have to consider carefully how to get the balance right. But I believe that this step, the remainder of Step 2 today, is safe," he said.

"Just last week I announced that we should be able to offer every Albertans a first dose by June 30, and that changes the whole picture here in Alberta."

Effective immediately, the province will complete Step 2 by easing more restrictions, Shandro said.

Alberta commits to eliminating pandemic surgery backlog by end of year

The province says that in the next fiscal year, starting April 1, the health system will provide 55,000 additional surgeries on top of the normal volume of 290,000, and by 2023 it plans to be able to to provide all scheduled surgeries within "clinically acceptable times."

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says this plan, which will receive $1.25 billion from the province's COVID-19 contingency in last week's budget, and $120 million from the Alberta Surgical Initiative, should eliminate the pandemic backlog of 36,000 surgeries by the end of the year.

"Even as AHS was forced to make specific changes to free up capacity, they pressed ahead where they could, and they've worked in partnership with Covenant Health and chartered surgical facilities to minimize delays for patients and the backlog of postponed surgeries," he said Friday. 

Shandro says chartered surgical facilities began ramping up their surgical activity in December, especially cataract surgeries that have the largest wait lists.

This spring, the government will issue requests for proposals for additional capacity for ophthalmology and orthopedic surgical services, in March and May, respectively.

"By 2023, this plan means that chartered surgical facilities will offer Albertans 90,000 surgeries each year, far more than the current 40,000 surgeries each year," he said. 

Province plans to give all adults their first doses by the end of June

Alberta will expand its COVID-19 vaccine rollout to include people under age 75 starting March 15, and if shipments arrive as scheduled, all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June, the health minister says.

"By June 30, we expect to have offered every single adult in the province at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday at a news conference.

Alberta expands COVID-19 vaccine rollout

2 years ago
Duration 0:52
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Thursday that if vaccine shipments arrive as scheduled, all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.

Under the expanding vaccine program set to begin in less than two weeks, about 437,000 more people between the ages of 65 and 74 will become eligible for inoculations, Shandro said.

To avoid long delays for those making appointments, when Phase 2A begins on March 15 bookings will be offered in two-year age groups, Shandro said.

On the first day, anyone aged 73 or 74 will be able to book.

On the second day, eligibility will be expanded to include anyone aged 71 to 72, and so on from there.

From remote communities to large workforces, the pandemic has forever changed the province

It was inevitable, the premier said.

Though there were only dozens of cases of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 reported in Canada, health officials were resigned that the pandemic would eventually spread into Alberta.

A news bulletin went out in the late afternoon March 5, with few details aside from confirmation that a presumptive case had been confirmed.

Less than an hour later, the province's chief medical officer of health took to the podium.

"Uh, you all know, my name is Dr. Deena Hinshaw," she said. "I'm here, as you know, to provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta."

Hinshaw went on to provide more details: the presumptive case was a woman in her 50s who had been on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of California.

Nearly a year later, Hinshaw needed to introduce herself to Albertans no longer — she had become a fixture when it came to her daily updates on cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks and deaths.

For more, see: These graphics show just how deeply COVID-19 has infiltrated Alberta

Calgary brings back more widened pathways

Calgary expanded its Adaptive Roadways Program to include more roads on Saturday in order to provide more space for residents to physically distance as the weather warms.

The program was first introduced last year as more people spent time outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. City pathways were widened by closing certain roads and parking lanes to motor vehicles.

On March. 6 the city closed two eastbound lanes on Memorial Drive between Ninth Street N.W. 

A couple strolls down a portion of Calgary's Memorial Drive, a popular spot for walkers and joggers along the Bow River, which was closed to traffic to give people space to physically distance themselves. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The city also closed the entire lower deck of the Centre Street bridge between Riverfront Avenue S.E. and Memorial Drive N.W.

"What we're trying to do is really target areas that are super congested. And certainly we saw in Eau Claire the pathway system was packed last weekend," said Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Other roadways already widened include:

  • Riverfront Avenue S.E. — The westbound parking lane is closed between Fourth Street and First Street S.E. 
  • Crescent Road N.W. — The parking lane is closed going east between 7A Street N.W. and First Street S.E.
  • 12th Street S.E. — The parking lane going south is closed between Eighth Avenue and 21st Avenue S.E.

  • 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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