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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Nov. 25

The government has imposed a state of public health emergency and tightened restrictions across the province, but some health-care stakeholders warn the new rules won't stop the surge that has given Alberta the most active COVID-19 cases of any province.

Calgary joins Alberta in imposing a state of emergency due to coronavirus pandemic

Pedestrians wears masks as they wait for the crosswalk to change in Edmonton on Tuesday, as the COVID-19 numbers spike and the Alberta government declared a state of public health emergency (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Alberta reported its 500th death on Wednesday as the province reported nine new deaths and 1,265 new cases of COVID-19.
  • The province continued to break records on Wednesday with 13,719 active cases and 355 people in hospital. 
  • The City of Calgary declared a local state of emergency as of 1:31 p.m. Wednesday, saying it supported the tougher restrictions imposed by the Alberta government on Tuesday. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the local state of emergency would let the city move quicker to respond to COVID-19.
  • Calgary will not be immediately impose new restrictions of its own, but the move will allow the city to move quickly to procure supplies, deal with vulnerable Calgarians and access funds from other levels of government.
  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency on Tuesday afternoon, along with a slate of new restrictions that will remain in place for at least three weeks as his government tries to slow a pandemic raging on a day when the province reported 1,115 new cases and 13,349 active cases of the disease, by far the highest number yet.
  • The new restrictions include:
    • Indoor social gatherings: No indoor social gatherings allowed in any setting (private homes, public spaces or workplaces). Indoor close contacts must be limited to people in the same household. It doesn't apply to service visits from caregivers, health or child care providers and co-parenting arrangements. People who live alone can have up to the same two non-household contacts throughout the restricted time. Work and support group meetings aren't considered social gatherings but must follow public health measures and limit attendance.
    • Outdoor social gatherings: Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Movement in and out of homes aren't permitted at backyard gatherings. Every must remain distanced and follow public health measures. Festivals and events are banned.
    • The gathering restrictions don't impact support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, which associate minister of mental health and addictions Jason Luan said are considered essential services. Members of those groups will still need to adhere to physical distancing and masking where applicable. 
    • Schools: Beginning Nov. 30, all students in Grades 7-12 will immediately move to online learning until they begin their winter break. Grades K-6 will continue in-person learning until their scheduled winter break (generally Dec. 18). In-person learning for all students will be delayed a week until Jan. 11. 
    • Weddings and funerals: Maximum of 10 people for wedding ceremonies or funeral services.
    • Places of worship: Faith-based groups can operate with mandatory reduced capacity of one-third of their regular attendance. Mask use is mandatory. This is only in effect in regions with enhanced status on the province's COVID-19 map. 
    • Working from home: All businesses are encouraged to have employees work from home as much as possible. Kenney said that would include provincial government employees.
    • 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.
    • Food and beverage: Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges will be open. Tables can seat a maximum of six people from the same household, while people who live alone can meet with up to two non-household contacts who are part of their cohort. Last call will continue to be at 10 p.m. and licensed food-serving establishments must close at 11.
    • Businesses that can remain open with restrictions include most retail businesses, with capacity limited to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy. That includes liquor and cannabis shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, clothing stores, computer and technology stores, hardware, automotive and approved farmers and seasonal markets. Also included are movie theatres, museums and galleries, libraries, casinos (though table games must close) and indoor entertainment centres.
    • Masks in indoor workplaces: Masks are mandatory in all indoor workplaces in the Calgary and Edmonton areas, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or an appropriate barrier is in place. This does not change current student mask requirements in schools
    • Fitness and recreation centres can operate with reduced capacity, but only for individual workouts, with no group fitness, group classes, group training, team practices or games.
    • A full list of the new restrictions is available on the province's website
  • Peace officers or police can fine people who break restrictions $1,000 per ticketed offence and up to $100,000 through the courts.
  • There are 355 people in hospital, 71 in ICU.
  • Alberta Health plans to make available more than 2,000 acute-care beds and up to 400 ICU beds for patients with COVID-19 across the province in the coming weeks.
  • Alberta's move to online learning for students has received some mixed reviews from advocacy groups and school divisions.
  • On Monday, the government admitted defeat in terms of its already limited contact tracing, saying the team can't keep up with its attempts to trace contacts among those linked to high-priority settings such as hospitals, schools and continuing care homes. They're now only tracing the most recent cases among people in high-priority settings.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney made his first public appearance since Nov. 12 on Tuesday, after quarantining due to a COVID-19 exposure for the second time, 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 repeated calls to do so from hundreds of doctors and unions representing health-care workers, he did not want to implement a lockdown, as he feels it would be "an unprecedented violation of fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms."

  • WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney discuss the new restrictions

Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for Alberta

CBC News Edmonton

2 months agoVideo
3:57
Alberta rolled out new restrictions on Tuesday that prohibit all social gatherings in people's homes and make masks mandatory for all indoor workplaces in the province's two largest cities. 3:57

"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. 

He said the restrictions would 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. 

Health-care workers are saying new restrictions introduced by Kenney on Tuesday don't do enough to slow the spread of the virus.

Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, which represents 27,000 health-care workers in the province, says the measures fall short of what's needed. 

"Jason Kenney has once again put Albertans at grave risk due to his failure of leadership … the measures announced today are inadequate," Parker said in a release following Tuesday's announcement. 

Parker was among more than 400 doctors and health-care policy experts who had signed a letter to the premier on Sunday calling for a circuit-breaker lockdown, mask mandate, and mandatory paid sick leave. 

School divisions were unprepared for the announcement that thousands of Alberta students would be temporarily vacating their classrooms in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, says Trisha Estabrooks, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board.

Estabrooks said school boards received "not one inkling" of advance warning. The first time she heard about the measures was on Tuesday, as the school board paused its regular public meeting to watch Kenney's news conference. 

Effective Wednesday, AHS has changed visitation rules for acute-care hospitals with outbreaks, and for communities that are under enhanced status. The changes are:

  • For patients admitted to hospital and in ambulatory care, including emergency departments, only one designated family or support person will be permitted.
  • For maternity and postpartum units, one designated family or support person will be permitted.
  • For pediatrics and NICU, as well as critical care, up to two designated family or support persons are permitted.
  • In end-of-life situations, one designated family or support person is permitted, and the presence of any other visitors must be pre-arranged with the site or unit.

There are more than 5,000 active cases in Calgary and more than 6,200 active cases in Edmonton

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. 

Thousands of Albertans caught in a COVID-19 contact tracing backlog will no longer have their cases investigated. 

The Alberta government had already scaled back contract tracing in the province 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 settings such as hospitals, schools and continuing care homes.

On Monday, the government scaled it back further, saying that starting Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) was 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 that means about 3,000 people won't get contact tracing calls as tracers prioritize the newest cases, which they say are the most infectious.

Meanwhile, 15 Alberta hospitals are now battling COVID-19 outbreaks. Since last Thursday outbreaks have been declared at health centres in Drumheller, Oyen and Devon, along with Chinook Regional hospital in Lethbridge.

In Calgary, outbreaks at three adult hospitals continue to grow. There are now 21 cases on four units at the Rockyview General. An outbreak has been declared on another unit at the Peter Lougheed hospital, bringing the total there to 18 cases on four units. There have been three deaths linked to that one. The latest Foothills hospital outbreaks are affecting two units. There are now 10 cases there and one person has died.

(CBC)

Meanwhile, 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.

In one, 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.

"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.

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

  • WATCH | What is a circuit-breaker lockdown and does it work?

Hinshaw likens COVID-19 in Alberta to snowball rolling downhill

CBC News Edmonton

2 months agoVideo
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

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. 

Meanwhile, polls show that Kenney's handling of the pandemic in the province is getting low marks — and that could be sapping support for the federal Conservative Party.

Since March 2, the Conservatives have slipped only 1.2 percentage points in national support in the CBC's Poll Tracker. However, the party is down 8.3 points in Alberta, which is significantly more than anywhere else in the country.

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 Wednesday:

  • Calgary zone: 5,028, up from 4,903 reported on Tuesday. 
  • Edmonton zone: 6,268, up from 6,128.
  • North zone: 805, up from 764.
  • South zone: 656, up from 649.
  • Central zone: 876, up from 830.
  • Unknown: 86, up from 75. 

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 4:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 345,463, with 57,639 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 11,689.

Ontario is expected to provide guidance Wednesday on how people should handle the upcoming holiday season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Toronto and Peel Region are currently under the grey, or lockdown, level in the province's tiered COVID-19 alert system, with those restrictions to stay in place at least until the week of Christmas.

The tough new rules have sparked outcry from some small business owners, who argue they unfairly clamp down on small retailers while big-box stores that sell essentials like groceries are still allowed to sell "non-essential" products.

Quebec, which has seen the most cases of any province to date, recently provided its own guidance around Christmas.

Premier François Legault has said that people in that province can attend up to two social gatherings (with a maximum of 10 people in attendance at each event) from Dec. 24-27. People who plan on attending these gatherings are also asked to quarantine a week before and a week after.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, meanwhile, urged people to be "very, very observant" of the province's public health guidelines over the holidays. He waded into the broader debate about how to handle the holiday season this week, calling Quebec's plan "dangerous."

Manitoba reported 476 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 12 additional deaths, bringing the province's death toll to 248.

Saskatchewan reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 2,927. Premier Scott Moe and the province's chief medical health officer are expected to hold a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

British Columbia, meanwhile, reported 941 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — a new daily high in the province, which also announced a new public health measure.

Health officials in B.C. had already introduced a mask requirement for indoor public spaces and new rules around social gatherings, but on Tuesday they also moved to temporarily ban indoor group fitness activities.

In Atlantic Canada, where a travel bubble that tied the provinces together has been temporarily popped, Nova Scotia's premier is once again urging people to "stay the blazes home."

After announcing 37 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — the most the province has seen since late April — health officials put forward new regulations that will see a range of closures in the Halifax area beginning later this week. Restaurant dining rooms will close, as will public spaces like libraries, casinos and recreation centres.

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.
    Nov 30, 2020 11:34 AM MT

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