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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Nov. 30

Alberta reported 1,733 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday — breaking Saturday's record high for new cases in a single day.

Albert reports record high for new cases at 1,733 Monday, with 16,454 active cases

This was one of few masks seen at a rally against mandatory masking and other public health measures in Calgary on Saturday. Amid questions over the handling of anti-mask protests and packed scenes from Chinook Mall on Black Friday, Calgary officials said Monday that they're going to start being more aggressive laying fines and ensuring compliance of health orders to fight COVID-19. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The latest:

  • Alberta again broke COVID-19 records on Monday with 1,733 new cases, two more than the previous single-day record set on Saturday.
  • Over the past three days, the province has reported more than 5,000 new cases, with 1,731 on Saturday and another 1,608 on Sunday.
  • Across the province, hospitals were treating 453 patients for the illness, including 96 in ICU beds. Both of those totals also set new records.
  • Dr. David Zygun, medical director for the Edmonton zone, said there are plans to increase the province's ICU bed capacity for adults from 173 to 425.
  • Another eight deaths were reported on Monday, bringing the total to 541.
  • There are 1,405 active cases among students at schools, and 376 schools with active alerts or outbreaks. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said those numbers are expected to drop now that Grade 7-12 students have moved to online learning. 
  • There are 41 cases linked to an outbreak at the Calgary Remand Centre. There are reports of inmates being triple-bunked at the centre, according to concerned defence lawyers. 
  • Calgary officials said Monday that the city would start being more aggressive in ensuring compliance with health orders meant to fight the ongoing pandemic. 
  • Tom Sampson, chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said rules have been in place long enough to move from education to enforcement. 
  • Sampson said there's more clarify on what fines can be levied after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency on Nov. 24, along with a slate of new restrictions that will remain in place for at least three weeks.
  • Peace officers or police can fine people who break restrictions $1,000 per ticketed offence and up to $100,000 through the courts.
  • No fines were laid as hundreds marched through downtown Calgary on Saturday to protest against mandated masks and other public health measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the same day record highs in new cases and hospitalizations were reported in the province.
  • Hinshaw said Monday it is Albertans' democratic right to protest, but that guidelines are available as to how to do so safely. 
  • The Town of Banff is opening isolation spaces for certain residents Tuesday to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The emergency housing is available to anyone who lives in shared accommodation and has tested positive or is a close contact of someone who has tested positive. 
  • Despite the new provincial restrictions, large crowds descended on Chinook Centre in Calgary during Black Friday sales — and police say a couple of instances quickly got out of control. Multiple fights broke out Friday evening, police confirmed, and officers escorted a "whole bunch" of unruly patrons out of the facility. No charges were laid.
  • Cadillac Fairview, the mall's owner, said in a memo to employees that the mall itself won't be managing capacity restrictions, but that task will fall to each store. The mall also notified retailers that there were confirmed COVID cases at Nordstrom, Pandora, Hudson's Bay, Nespresso and Mr. Pretzel, as well as one Cadillac Fairview employee. 
  • Forest Lawn Library in Calgary is closing temporarily after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was at work on Saturday and had contact with the public. 
  • One unit at South Health Campus in Calgary is on outbreak, after a patient in the orthopedics unit tested positive.
  • For many weeks now, Calgary-Upper NE has had the highest total number of active COVID-19 cases of the 132 "local geographic areas" (or LGAs). The area surpassed 1,000 last week, a number not seen anywhere else in the province at any time during the pandemic. As of Sunday, there were 1,194 cases. That's double the numbers seen earlier in the month.

Click on the map below to zoom in or out on specific local geographic areas in Alberta and find out more about COVID-19 there:

  • People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission.
  • 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.
  • The AJHL Canmore Eagles hockey team have had 16 positive COVID cases after a player initially felt sick two weeks ago after playing a game in Drumheller. The AJHL season is currently suspended due to provincial restrictions.
  • In response to the pandemic, Calgary will offer 15 minutes of free on-street parking in Business Improvement Areas and Business Revitalization Zones from Nov. 27 until Feb. 1, 2021. 

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta reported 1,608 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the second-highest total in the province since the pandemic began.

The number came after Alberta set yet another record high number of daily new cases on Saturday — 1,731.

The health-care system is now at a tipping point if case numbers don't start to decline significantly and quickly, a full scale lockdown may be needed to get the case count under control, says Dr Lynora Saxinger, a University of Alberta infectious diseases doctor.

"The COVID patient wards are slowly taking over the hospitals," she said. "We are managing, still, and I think we are still providing very good care. But you can see how it's going to start getting very threadbare very quickly."

(CBC)

When looking at the daily updates and numbers of cases in Alberta, it's clear that Calgary's northeast has a serious COVID problem — the area surpassed 1,000 last week, a number not seen anywhere else in the province at any time during the pandemic. As of Sunday, there were 1,194 cases. 

Around 115,000 people call the upper northeast area of Calgary home.

People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission. Those opportunities vary from residents working public-facing, low-income jobs with no opportunity to work from home, to a culture of large, multi-generational households in densely populated neighbourhoods

Many said they thought the types of jobs worked by those living in the northeast could represent the number one factor behind the high COVID-19 numbers.

Hundreds marched through downtown Calgary on Saturday to protest against mandated masks and other public health measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the same day record highs in new cases and hospitalizations were reported in the province.

The protests, or "Walk for Freedom," have been a weekly occurrence in the city and across the country for months, but Saturday was the first since the province's 10-person limit on outdoor gatherings was announced.

Some signs at Saturday's protest expressed misinformation, saying vaccines can alter DNA or that masks cause bacterial or fungal infections. Others expressed economic concerns, or anger at the federal or provincial government. Members of at least two far-right or white supremacist groups were also seen in attendance. 

No tickets were handed out at Saturday's protest, but police say they are considering a plan for strategic enforcement going forward. 

Also despite the new provincial restrictions, large crowds of shoppers descended for Black Friday sales at Chinook Centre in Calgary — and police say a couple of instances quickly got out of control.

Multiple fights broke out and officers escorted a "whole bunch" of unruly patrons out of the facility. No charges were laid.

Calgary police Staff Sgt. Mike Calhoun said the emphasis remains on education rather than enforcement — but that could change.

Kenney says social gatherings are the largest source of transmission in the province, adding that, for example, 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. 

Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Thursday that she feels personally betrayed by someone inside the public service after CBC News reported the contents of secret recordings that revealed disagreements and, at times, political interference in the province's pandemic response.

"I am profoundly disappointed that confidential internal conversations have been shared, actions that are a violation of the public service oath and code of conduct," Hinshaw told a news conference last Friday. 

Hinshaw delivered her public rebuke after CBC News earlier on Thursday reported it had obtained 20 secret recordings from daily meetings of the province's COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre, as well as meeting minutes and interviews with staff directly involved in pandemic planning.

They reveal how Kenney, Shandro and other cabinet ministers often overruled the expert advice of already overwhelmed civil servants. 

On two occasions health officials acceded to political requests to provide testing to the public that officials believed had little value in limiting the spread of the virus.  

The recordings also reveal the Kenney government pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy and avoiding the appearance of curtailing Albertans' freedoms than enforcing compliance to safeguard public health.

A floor sign at a northeast Calgary supermarket urges shoppers to keep their distance. People who live and work in the northeast say there are many reasons that make their communities easy pickings for a virus that thrives on density and easy opportunities for transmission. Those opportunities vary from residents working public-facing, low-income jobs with no opportunity to work from home, to a culture of large, multi-generational households in densely populated neighbourhoods. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

An Edmonton academic who commented for CBC News about the story says he has received racist messages as a result. 

Ubaka Ogbogu, an associate law professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in public health law and policy, was critical of what was revealed in the story. He described the province's pandemic response as being "in tatters."

On Saturday, Ogbogu — who says he's one of the few Black academics at the U of A — shared via Twitter a recording of a message left on his office voicemail that was laden with expletives and racist language. He said receiving the message forced him to take his profile off the university's website.

Ogbogu said he believes the caller wasn't happy with his comments in the CBC story, but said he thinks their views have been framed by the way UCP staff have portrayed him on Twitter, describing him as biased and partisan in favour of the NDP.

After the story about secret recordings was published, Steve Buick, press secretary for the minister of health, tweeted about Ogbogu, calling him "the most frantically biased academic in Alberta."

When reached for comment on Saturday, Buick said the provincial government condemns hatred directed toward any Albertan. He also defended his response to Ogbogu's criticism.

Ogbogu said online targeting by UCP staff members encourages others to pile on and harass him and other academics. 

Doctors in the Edmonton zone of Alberta Health Services are setting up their own pandemic response committee to advise the public and comment on policy set by the province to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

The Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee will be co-chaired by Dr. James Talbot, Alberta's former chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Noel Gibney, an intensive care physician and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. 

Effective Nov. 25, 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.

Currently, 17 Alberta hospitals are now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to information published by AHS there are more than 160 COVID-19 cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths are linked to the 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.

The new restrictions introduced by the Alberta government on Nov. 24 and set to remain in effect until at least Dec. 15 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. Everyone 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. Staff at the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District will continue to work in-person at schools. 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 building's capacity. 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

There are more than 6,100 active cases in Calgary and more than 7,300 active cases in Edmonton

This month has set multiple records for Alberta, which surpassed 1,000 daily new cases for the first time on Nov. 14. The province's deadliest day was Nov. 16, when 20 more deaths were reported. It also surpassed 10,000 active cases for the first time this month — the number of active cases now sits at 16,454,

Edmonton Centre voter Ubaka Ogbogu says he was dumbfounded when told he should renounce his heritage if he was worried about Bill C-24. (CBC)

Here is the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Monday.

  • Calgary zone: 6,141, up from 5,756 reported on Sunday.
  • Edmonton zone: 7,388, up from 7,230.
  • North zone: 869, up from 857.
  • South zone: 693, up from 642.
  • Central zone: 1,238, up from 1,101.
  • Unknown: 125, up 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 7:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Canada's COVID-19 case count stood at 370,278, with 63,835 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 12,032.

The federal government will release its long-awaited fiscal update today — including a spending plan to help Canadians cope with COVID-19 while recharging the national economy and key sectors battered by the global crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will rise in the House of Commons at 4 p.m. ET today to outline details of her plan to both boost job creation and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

A majority of Canadians could be inoculated against COVID-19 by September 2021 "if all goes according to plan," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday. Trudeau said it was important the vaccine reaches all Canadians "no matter where they live."

Ontario reported 1,708 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 24 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,648. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 586, with 156 in intensive care.

Public health measures are ramping up in five regions across Ontario on Monday. Windsor-Essex is entering the red alert level of the province's tiered pandemic response plan. Haldimand-Norfolk enters the orange level, while Hastings Prince Edward, Lambton and Northwestern enter the yellow zone.

The province said the regions will stay in their new categories for at least 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, before a change is considered. 

In Quebec, a Montreal long-term care home transferred 20 residents to local hospitals on Sunday after COVID-19 took hold in the last week, concerning officials and terrifying families.

COVID-19 case numbers are continuing their slow but steady rise across most of Atlantic Canada.

Health officials in New Brunswick reported 14 new cases on Sunday, with the bulk of the new cases in the Saint John Region. In Nova Scotia, all 10 of the province's new cases are in the central zone, which includes Halifax.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported four new cases, all in the Eastern Health region, while Prince Edward Island had no new cases

Manitoba reported 365 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday and 11 new deaths — almost all of which were linked to outbreaks in care homes. Health officials said nine of the 11 deaths were people in their 80s and 90s, one was a man in his 60s and one was a man in his 70s.

In Saskatchewan, the number of cases of COVID-19 at a Saskatoon correctional centre increased to 128, with 106 cases reported among inmates and 22 in staff. Health officials reported 351 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 3,605.

In British Columbia, which doesn't provide COVID-19 data on weekends, a church in Langley was hit with a $2,300 fine for holding an in-person religious service, which is currently prohibited.

Across the North, Nunavut reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories.

The head of a U.S. biotechnology company that is developing one of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates says Canada is not far behind other countries when it comes to receiving doses of its vaccine, despite criticism of the government's procurement plan from the Conservative opposition.

"Canada is not at the back of the line," Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and chairman of Moderna, told CBC's Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday.

Moderna Inc. said it would ask U.S. and European regulators Monday to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection — ramping up the race to begin limited vaccinations as the coronavirus rampage worsens.

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 11:24 AM MT

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