Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, May 4

Facing pointed questions over his handling of the pandemic, Premier Jason Kenney announces new restrictions to combat surging COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm the health-care system.

Kenney announces stronger public health measures, including moving all students to online learning

A crowd sits on bleachers and lawnchairs with two people on horses in the foreground.
Hundreds attended a rodeo near Bowden, Alta., over the weekend in defiance of public health restrictions, despite surging COVID-19 cases. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The latest on restrictions and reopenings:

  • As Alberta's total active COVID-19 case count climbs to new heights daily and it continues to have the highest cases per capita of any province or state in North America, Premier Jason Kenney has announced new public health measures.
  • "We will not permit our health-care system to be overwhelmed," Kenney said, saying that could happen in a matter of weeks if case growth doesn't slow. 
  • All K-12 students in the province will move to online learning at the end of the week until May 25, after the May long weekend. The premier said 80,000 students and staff are already in self-isolation. All post-secondary classes will also move online. 
  • Workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks now must close for 10 days, unless they are essential workplaces.
  • Restaurants must move to take-out only, meaning patios must close. 
  • Retail will be limited to 10 per cent of fire code occupancy. 
  • Outdoor social gatherings will be limited to five people, and you are recommended to limit gatherings to a maximum of two different family cohorts. 
  • Places of worship are limited to 15 people and funerals are limited to 10 people. 
  • All indoor fitness activities must close, as well as hair salons, nail salons.
  • Outdoor sports are limited to household and close contacts only. 
  • The fine for violations is doubling from $1,000 to $2,000
  • The new public health measures apply to all parts of Alberta except those with fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people and fewer than 30 active cases.
  • The full list of current restrictions is available on the province's website
  • The premier said Albertans who are ignoring the public health rules "will not be tolerated."
  • However, critics say Kenney's own messaging has been confusing and contradictory during the pandemic. Last week, for example, Kenney said no new laws were necessary, but days later instituted new regulations in so-called COVID-19 hot spots, calling them critical to bending the curve. The flipflops continued Monday, as he said further restrictions wouldn't have an impact — then said he would be imposing more on Tuesday.
  • The United Conservative Party government also has been accused repeatedly of ignoring calls from the medical community to be quicker and broader when imposing restrictions and less hasty in removing them.
  • The apparent lack of enforcement for violators of public health restrictions has also been a hot button.
  • For example, critics noted the rodeo and other rallies against public-health measures were advertised in advance, but authorities seem to have done little to ensure public-health measures were followed at the events and violators ticketed or charged.
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi criticised the premier for the conflicting messages on Monday, as well as saying he's finding it "incredibly frustrating" that tickets being given to people for breaching COVID-19 public health orders are being thrown out in the courts. Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld confirmed Monday that the province had asked the police to not clog the already overburdened courts by writing too many tickets for COVID-19 violators.
  • According to the province, from March 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, there were 576 tickets filed in provincial court under the Public Health Act. Of those, 38 per cent are still before the court, 12 per cent resulted in conviction or were paid before reaching court, and 10 per cent were quashed or otherwise resolved.

WATCH | Alberta premier frustrated by COVID-19 deniers:

Alberta premier frustrated with Alberta’s COVID-deniers

3 years ago
Duration 2:19
Premier Jason Kenney says some Albertans’ COVID-19 denial is “as astounding as it is aggravating” - and that people need to get board with restrictions and vaccinations.

  • Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also called out the province on its approach to COVID-19 on Monday, saying it should have imposed wider restrictions throughout the province last week.
  • And NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the half-measures Kenney has put in place are not working, repeating calls for the UCP government to provide paid sick leave and effective enforcement across all of Alberta. The NDP is also demanding all the data around decision-making for restrictions and all of the written recommendations to cabinet from Alberta's chief medical health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
  • "The worst part about all of this is how predictable and preventable all of this was," said Calgary emergency room physician Dr Joe Vipond, one of the doctors who has been sounding the alarm about Alberta's COVID-19 situation for months. "We should have known this was where this was going, especially with the variants. It's pretty devastating."
  • The previous round of restrictions were imposed on April 30, when the provincial government implemented new public-health measures in hot spots across the province where there are more than 350 active cases per 100,000 people and at least 250 total active cases.
  • The list of targeted communities included Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Airdrie, Lethbridge, and Strathcona County.
  • All junior and senior high schools in the targeted communities moved to at-home learning starting May 3, though some had already shifted to online learning.
  • Indoor fitness and indoor sports were shut down in these communities as of April 30.
  • The mandatory restrictions were to remain in effect for a minimum of two weeks. 

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • On Tuesday, Alberta again reported its highest total of active cases since the pandemic began, with 23,623 active cases.
  • Alberta reported 1,743 new cases of COVID-19. 
  • The province's testing positivity rate is now 12 per cent, after reaching its highest ever on Monday at 13.2 — which means one in eight Albertans tested have COVID-19.
  • The province has the highest active case rate in Canada and the United States, with 534 active cases per 100,000 people — more than twice that of the case rate of 251 in Ontario.
  • There are now 671 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 150 people in intensive care
  • Nine more people have died, for a total of 2,099 deaths.
  • The latest R-value reported for the province was 1.12, significantly higher than last week's R-value of 1.04, meaning the virus is spreading to more people for each confirmed case. 
  • 172,931 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19. 
  • Currently, 808 schools, about 33 per cent of all schools in Alberta, are on alert or have outbreaks. In-school transmission is believed to have occurred in 678 schools.
  • Due to an increase in the number of Albertans in the Calgary zone requesting a COVID-19 test, it may take three to five days from the time someone makes a request to when testing occurs, AHS said last week.
  • Alberta is cutting back scheduled surgeries in its two major cities and the northern part of the province to make room for a possible influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • On May 1, the province stopped screening all positive tests for variants of concern, in order to maintain required lab capacity for COVID-19 testing. Variant screening will now target populations with a higher risk of being infected with a variant, or a higher risk of spreading variant strains.

(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.)

The latest on vaccines:

  • Kenney announced Monday that teachers, child-care workers and school support staff are now eligible to be vaccinated.
  • Albertans categorized in the rest of the Phase 2C and 2D vaccine rollout plan became eligible to book appointments as of April 30.
  • Albertans in these final groups of Phase 2 include front-line disability workers and workers in group homes and other supportive living sites, workers at locations with potential for large outbreaks, police officers and provincial sheriffs, all Albertans aged 50 and older, and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) persons aged 35 and older.
  • The province has also expanded the number of people eligible due to underlying health conditions. As of April 27, those born between 2006 and 2009 with qualifying conditions can book appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • Alberta Health said on April 30 that the vast majority of doses of the province's supply of AstraZeneca-Oxford have now been administered or booked. Existing bookings will be honoured.
  • 1,668,455 vaccine doses have been administered in Alberta, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.
  • 303,509 Albertans have been fully immunized (2 doses).

The latest on more dangerous variants:

  • There were 876 new cases involving variants of concern reported on Tuesday . On Monday, the province reported 1,900 — the highest number of new variant cases reported in a single day.
  • About 62.3 per cent of active cases have been identified as variants of concern, but not all cases are being screened for variants.
  • There are 14,728 active variant cases, while 21,063 people have recovered and 99 people have died from variant infections.
  • Alberta had 33,815 cases linked to variant B117, first detected in the United Kingdom; 114 cases linked to variant B1351, first detected in South Africa; two cases linked to variant B1617, first detected in India; and 1,959 cases linked to the variant P1, which was first identified in Brazil.
  • On May 1, the province stopped screening all positive tests for variants of concern, in order to maintain required lab capacity for COVID-19 testing. Variant screening will now target populations with a higher risk of being infected with a variant, or a higher risk of spreading variant strains.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 9,889 active cases, down from 9,942 active cases reported on Monday (68,706 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 6,014, down from 6,033 (62,892 recovered).
  • North zone: 3,564, up from 3,478 (17,740 recovered).
  • South zone: 1,260, down from 1,261 (9,443recovered).
  • Central zone: 2,836, up from 2,807 (14,135 recovered).
  • Unknown: 60, down from 87 (15 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.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

How Alberta compares to other provinces and territories: