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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, Nov. 24

Alberta's government reported a state of public health emergency and a slate of new restrictions on Tuesday, in an attempt to stem the rise of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Premier Jason Kenney announced state of emergency, stronger new restrictions

A man wears a mask in downtown Calgary on Oct. 30, 2020. With 13,166 active cases on Monday, Alberta had more than any other province. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

For the latest, see: Everything you need to know about Alberta's new COVID-19 restrictions and the latest pandemic news on Wednesday, Nov. 25


The latest:

  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency, along with a slate of new restrictions on Tuesday that will remain in place for three weeks — an attempt to stem the rise of COVID-19 cases across the province. 
  • The new mandatory restrictions include no indoor social gatherings, limiting outdoor social gatherings to 10 people, and limiting funeral services and wedding ceremonies to 10 people. 
  • A full list of the new restrictions is available on the province's website
  • Grade 7-12 students will move to at-home classes on Nov. 30. 
  • Employees across the province are asked to work from home if possible. 
  • In areas under enhanced restrictions, places of worship are restricted to one-third of their regular attendance and some businesses like banquet halls, indoor playgrounds and sports will be closed. 
  • Restaurants, bars and casinos remain open with some restrictions. 
  • Peace officers or police can fine those who break restrictions $1,000 per ticketed offence and up to $100,000 through the courts.
  • Alberta reported another 1,115 new cases on Monday, but Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said much fewer tests were done — around 13,000 versus 19,000 the previous day. The tests had an 8.3 per cent positivity rate. Another 16 people have died, for a total of 492 deaths. 
  • There are 348 people in hospital, 66 in ICU. The province has 70 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients. 
  • Until Tuesday, the premier has been silent since his last public appearance via teleconference on Nov. 12. Kenney was forced into quarantine for a second time two weeks ago after he was exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. A spokesperson said his isolation period ended Monday. 
  • With 13,349 active cases, Alberta now has the highest total active cases of all the provinces and territories.
  • Tuesday represents the seventh time in just over one week that Alberta has reported more than 1,000 new cases in a single day, often breaking daily records for total cases and daily news cases.
  • Hinshaw admitted defeat in terms of the government's already limited contact tracing, saying Monday that the team can no longer keep up with its attempts to trace contacts among those linked to high-priority settings such as hospitals, schools and continuing care homes. Starting Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is temporarily giving up on investigating contacts for people who received their positive test result more than 10 days ago, so about 3,000 people won't get contact tracing calls as tracers prioritize new cases.
  • The Alberta government had already scaled back its contract tracing on Nov. 6, due to the team being overwhelmed, asking positive cases to notify their own close contacts unless they were deemed to be linked to one of the high-priority setting.
  • The restrictions fall far short of those imposed in high-risk areas in some other provinces — such as the Toronto and Peel regions of Ontario, where non-essential stores are closed to shoppers, and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery. And Manitoba, for example, went into code red under the provincial pandemic response system on Nov. 12, tightening restrictions on gatherings and in-store sales, and further tightened them on Nov. 19, restricting people from going into the home, cottage or other private residence of another person. It also temporarily banned the sale of non-essential items in stores that also sell essential goods.
  • It also fell short of measures being urged in three different letters sent to the government after being signed en masse by provincial health-care workers, appealing for tightened restrictions and more drastic measures.
  • In the latest, sent Monday to Kenney, Shandro and Hinshaw, hundreds of Alberta doctors said the province's health-care system has already crossed the brink of disaster, and urged a swift lockdown to prevent further spread of COVID-19. 
  • WATCH | Why Dr. Hinshaw thinks COVID-19 cases in Alberta are like a snowball

Hinshaw likens COVID-19 in Alberta to snowball rolling downhill

CBC News Edmonton

3 months ago
1:31
Speaking Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw likened Alberta’s COVID-19 cases to a snowball rolling downhill, growing faster and larger every day. We expect to hear about new restrictions in Alberta on Tuesday morning. 1:31

  • There are 318 schools on active alerts including 181 school outbreaks, with 1,135 active cases. 
  • The Calgary Catholic School District, which has 140 cases and almost 4,000 students in isolation, has asked that parents and guardians not enter its schools except in emergencies.
  • There are more than 4,900 active cases in Calgary and more than 6,100 active cases in Edmonton
  • Two health-care workers from the labour and delivery unit at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary were in isolation Monday after a visitor did not disclose their COVID-19 status during the on-site screening process, AHS has confirmed.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made his first public appearance in days, after quarantining due to a COVID-19 exposure, to announce that the province is once again under a state of public health emergency. 

He announced a number of new mandatory restrictions that will remain in place for three weeks in an effort to slow the exponential spread of COVID-19 across the province. 

Kenney said despite calls to do so from hundreds of doctors, he did not want to implement a lockdown, as he feels it would be "an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms."

"We are not involved in a chase after zero," he said — saying the measures are intended to give the health-care system capacity to respond. 

The new measures are: 

  • A ban on indoor social gatherings in any setting, including workplaces. However bars and restaurants remain open — but a maximum of six people, all who must be from the same household, can be seated at each table.
  • Beginning Nov. 30, all students Grades 7-12 will immediately move to at-home learning until they begin their winter break. In-person learning for all students will resume Jan. 11. Diploma exams will be optional.
  • Outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Funeral services and wedding ceremonies are also limited to 10 people. Receptions are no longer permitted.
  • In Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding communities, masks will be mandatory in indoor workplaces. 
  • In all areas under enhanced status, places of worship will be limited to one-third of their regular attendance.
  • Capacity will be restricted to 25 per cent for businesses like retail, grocery stores, movie theatres, casinos and gyms. 
  • Businesses that must close include banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoriums and concert venues, community centres, children's play places and indoor playgrounds. Sports are also included in this category.
  • All businesses are encouraged to have employees work from home. 

He said the restrictions will be evaluated on Dec. 15, and that stricter measures could be imposed if conditions do not improve. Breaking restrictions could result in $1,000 fines.

"If we do not slow the sharp rise of both hospitalizations and ICU admissions, they will threaten our ability to continue delivering health services that we all rely on," Kenney said. 

Kenney said social gatherings are the largest source of transmission in the province and that the risk of transmission in restaurants is lower than at home. However, he did not share what percentage of transmissions are linked to social gatherings — according the Alberta Health, 85 per cent of cases have an unknown source of transmission. 

(CBC)

Hinshaw has said she will hold COVID-19 updates every day this week.

The past week has set multiple records for Alberta, which only surpassed 1,000 daily new cases for the first time on Nov. 14. The province's deadliest day was last Monday, when 20 more deaths were reported. It also surpassed 10,000 active cases for the first time — the number of active cases now sits at 13,349, and tests are showing an 8.3 per cent positivity rate. 

Sixteen more people have died, bringing the total deaths in the province to 492.

Thousands of Albertans caught in a COVID-19 contact tracing backlog will no longer have their cases investigated. The province's contact tracing system has grown increasingly overwhelmed as Alberta's case counts spike.

Starting Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is temporarily giving up on investigating contacts for people who received their positive test result more than 10 days ago.

There are currently 11,500 people on the waitlist and about 3,000 of them will not be investigated.

Shandro was forced to defend an absent Kenney in the legislature Monday for his silence about the surge in COVID-19 cases. 

  • WATCH | After protesters built a mock graveyard outside his Calgary office, Health Minister Tyler Shandro blasts the 'stunt'

Tyler Shandro blasts graveyard 'stunt'

CBC News Calgary

3 months ago
0:57
Alberta's health minister says it was offensive to hear about the fake gravestones that appeared in front of his Calgary constituency office. 0:57

Two health-care workers from the labour and delivery unit at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary are now in isolation after a visitor did not disclose their COVID-19 symptoms during the on-site screening process, AHS has confirmed.

Alberta Health Services recently has had to deal with several situations where designated family or support people of patients intentionally didn't disclose their COVID-19 symptom status, said Hinshaw.

"While the vast majority of Albertans understand that doing this puts loved ones and the teams caring for their loved ones at even greater risk of illness, the few who choose to do this are impacting us all," Hinshaw said Friday during a media availability.

WATCH | Dr. Joe Vipond calls for a hard lockdown for an indefinite period until the COVID-19 cases in Alberta drop significantly in the video below

Alberta in 'crisis mode' amid high COVID-19 numbers, Calgary doctor says

Canada

3 months ago
1:35
Alberta needs a hard lockdown to reduce the rapid rise of coronavirus in the province, says Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician at Rockyview Hospital in Calgary. 1:35

"Please be honest. We are dealing with a multiplier effect in Alberta. We cannot afford that in our health-care facilities."

Hinshaw said the situation in Alberta was "grim" and noted that two individuals in their 30s were among the deaths announced in the past week and a woman in her 20s on Saturday.

"Having a chronic medical condition is very common," Hinshaw said. "These conditions include things like high blood pressure and diabetes. In Alberta, almost one quarter of all adults over the age of 20 have a chronic condition. That is almost 800,000 people."

Alberta's associate minister of mental health and addictions said he misrepresented government policy in a town hall when he said the province was waiting for hospital capacity to be pushed to the limit before announcing further restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"Our criteria is measured against our hospital capacity to handle ICUs and hospitalizations. So we're waiting to see where that threshold will be pushed to our limit and then gradually reduce more activities that way," Jason Luan said during the virtual town hall for his Calgary-Foothills constituency, in a video posted to social media. 

However, Luan later said in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday that his comments were inaccurate.

"Yes, hospital capacity is a critical consideration in any COVID-19 response … but I was incorrect in suggesting anyone is waiting until we are pushed to the limit," he wrote.

Calgary police say they've been asked 35 times since April to find and transport vulnerable citizens who have tested positive for COVID-19 but have nowhere to self-isolate. They're taken to a hospital in order to get them off the street. Officers have located all but six of the 35. 

The process is different for those who have the ability to isolate but choose not to. Those individuals can be fined under provincial health orders, and police have issued 38 tickets to those who failed to comply. 

Should ongoing trials for COVID-19 vaccine candidates continue successfully, Alberta expects it will receive around 686,000 vaccine doses early in the new year of the Pfizer vaccine and 221,000 of the Moderna vaccine.

Health officials in Alberta have begun hunting around for specialized freezers, one of the first steps in preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines which could begin arriving within the next few months.

Earlier this month, the province began the procurement process for freezers able to meet COVID-19 vaccine storage requirements. 

First Nations in Alberta are seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases compared with reserves in other parts of Canada.The latest data shows 860 cases since the pandemic hit — the next closest is Manitoba with 710, according to Indigenous Services Canada.

This map shows the active cases count in different health zones of Calgary and area on Nov. 19. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Here is the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Tuesday:

  • Calgary zone: 4,903, up from 4,845 reported on Monday. 
  • Edmonton zone: 6,128, up from 5,991.
  • North zone: 764, up from 748.
  • South zone: 649, up from 664.
  • Central zone: 830, up from 812.
  • Unknown: 75, down from 106. 

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

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 6:10 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 337,555, with 56,832 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 11,521.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 1,933 new cases of COVID-19 over the last three days as well as 17 deaths. B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry became emotional during Monday's briefing as she addressed the growing spread of the virus in long-term care and assisted living.

She said it is urgent for everyone to do their part to reduce their social interactions and get the spread of this virus under control, but also offered reassurance that health officials and members of the public have the tools and the knowledge to do that.

"I say this to fuel that fire of determination and resilience that I have seen in people across this province," Henry said.

Manitoba reported 543 COVID-19 cases —  a new daily record — as well as seven more deaths, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced. The province where health officials recently imposed strict measures to try to get a handle on rising case numbers.

Ontario reported a record high daily COVID-19 case number on Monday with 1,589 new cases and 19 additional deaths, bringing the death toll in the province to 3,505.

The update on Monday came after people in Toronto and Peel Region woke up to new rules after the province announced a lockdown period for those regions set to last at least 28 days. Non-essential stores in those regions will be closed to shoppers, and restaurants can only offer takeout and delivery.

Premier Doug Ford also announced that the province has appointed retired Gen. Rick Hillier to lead Ontario's vaccine rollout. Hillier previously served as the chief of defence staff of the Canadian Forces for three years.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after he was potentially exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Jim Billington, the executive director of communications for Moe's office, said in an email that the premier isn't experiencing any symptoms but was tested for the virus.

Saskatchewan reported 235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, along with four new deaths.

Quebec on Monday reported 1,164 cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths, including three reported to have occurred in the last 24 hours. Hospitalizations stood at 634, with 98 in intensive care, according to the province.

In Atlantic Canada, which has so far been spared the worst of the global pandemic, two premiers told residents of their provinces that travel guidelines are changing and they were temporarily withdrawing from the Atlantic bubble, which has allowed residents of the four Atlantic provinces to travel freely between the provinces without self-isolating since July.

Newfoundland and Labrador's premier said that a decision to temporarily pull out of the Atlantic bubble is meant to stave off a second wave and try to protect the upcoming holiday season.

As of Wednesday, people arriving in the province from other "bubble" provinces will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Prince Edward Island also moved on Monday to suspend non-essential travel to and from the island for a two-week period. Premier Dennis King described the move as "an extra layer of caution."

New Brunswick reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death. Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, urged residents to "please, wear a mask" and keep their close contacts low. "We must all remain vigilant. There has never been a time when the risk was zero," she said.

Nova Scotia reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, equalling Sunday's total. There are currently 51 active cases in the province and 1,143 tests were completed in the province on Sunday.

Self-assessment and supports:

With winter cold and influenza season approaching, Alberta Health Services will prioritize Albertans for testing who have symptoms, and those groups which are at higher risk of getting or spreading the virus.

General asymptomatic testing is currently unavailable for people with no known exposure to COVID-19.

Those who test positive will be asked to use the online COVID-19 contact tracing tool, so that their close contacts can be notified by text message.

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services' latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta's One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Corrections

  • For places of worship, faith-based groups can operate at a maximum of one-third of their regular attendance, not one-third of the building's capacity as originally reported.
    Nov 30, 2020 11:33 AM MT

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