What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Nov. 4
There are now 6,230 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, an increase from 6,110 the day before
- Alberta reported 515 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
- On Tuesday, the province had reported 2,268 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous four days, an average of 567 cases per day.
- There are now 6,230 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, an increase from 6,110 reported Tuesday. That number had jumped up on Tuesday from 5,172 last Friday.
- Alberta reported five new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 343.
- The province said it was experiencing some delays in reporting additional data on Wednesday.
- There were 778 active cases among students and staff at 117 schools as of Tuesday.
- Rockyview General Hospital now has an outbreak of COVID-19 in its general medicine unit.
- A specialized lab at the University of Calgary is reopening to develop research into treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
- COVID-19 outbreaks at eight major Alberta hospitals are putting pressure on a system that is already wrestling with a record number of novel coronavirus patients.
- Alberta's premier said Monday the single biggest thing people could do to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the province would be to stop with the private parties and social gatherings. Respecting public health orders that limit private gatherings to 15 people in Edmonton and Calgary would help get the spread under control, said Premier Jason Kenney.
- Meanwhile, some infectious disease experts are concerned that Alberta could easily see three to five times its current number in the coming months if serious steps are not taken.
What you need to know today in Alberta
Alberta continues to see high numbers of COVID-19 case numbers, one day after the province reported 2,268 new cases reported over four days — an average of 567 new cases per day.
The province reported 515 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 30,447.
Cases of COVID-19 in Calgary have risen sharply and an infectious disease expert says the province needs to quickly act to ensure those numbers don't continue to grow out of control.
"I think history would judge us harshly if we actually don't really address [the numbers] quite clearly and firmly, and ... that is something that I think we'll be looking for over the next few days," said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta.
The city is also seeing a high positivity rate among those tested, at seven per cent — it's remained around the two per cent mark for most of the pandemic — numbers Saxinger called "truly alarming" that could indicate there are cases in the community health officials aren't aware of.
The World Health Organization has recommended a positivity rate of five per cent for two straight weeks before loosening restrictions to slow transmission.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Tuesday that within the next few days it will become evident if recent public health measures like social gathering limits in Edmonton and Calgary are reducing the rate of transmission.
If not, she said, it might be time to consider "other options."
Hinshaw stressed that COVID-19 is much more deadly than the seasonal flu. In the last four flu seasons, the peak deaths in a single year was 92. In just eight months, 343 people have died of COVID-19, despite what Hinshaw described as "extraordinary measures" to contain transmission.
"We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic. I know this has been a tiring year, and one that's taken a mental and physical toll on many. But we cannot give up. We must not give up. I believe one of the problems underlying pandemic fatigue is a sense of powerlessness, and for some, a loss of hope," she said.
"It can be easy to feel like COVID is happening to us, that it is beyond our control to make better or worse. But hope is not lost. We still have the power to collectively reverse the trend."
Alberta still has not adopted the federal contact tracing app, despite the provincial government saying it would do so in August. Hinshaw said the provincial app remains available but that no app is a magic bullet — reducing close contacts and following guidance remains the most effective strategy for reducing spread.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday that the new numbers are "extraordinarily troubling."
"We are on track as a province to having 1,000 new cases a day as soon as the end of this week … we are not just above where we were in the spring, we are far above where we were in the spring," he said.
"A vaccine is months away, we need to redouble our efforts to avoid a lockdown, to look after one another, to flatten this curve."
Before this past week, which set new records on multiple days in a row, the highest active case total was 3,022, which was reported on April 30 at the peak of the first wave.
The U of C's Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) lab, which is located in the Snyder Institute of Chronic Diseases, will now be used to study SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that leads to the development of COVID-19.
Researchers say the facility will allow them to work with the live virus, enabling experiments that previously were not possible.
"We're hoping to be able to grow [the virus], to study it, put it into cells," said Dr. Paul Kubes, the lead for the Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases in the Changing Environment research strategy at the U of C.
Alberta's premier says the spread of COVID-19 could be better controlled in the province if people would stop partying.
Kenney warned Alberta Health Services may need to cancel elective surgeries, as it did in the spring, to make more room for potential COVID patients, should case numbers continue to escalate.
"We're all fed up with this," Kenney said Monday of the pandemic. "But now, more than ever, we need to take this seriously. And the single biggest thing people could do is just stop with the private parties and the social gatherings."
A new temporary measure, which caps attendance at 15 for events where people will be "mixing and mingling" like parties and baby showers, applies in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.
The province is also recommending voluntary measures in both cities: wearing non-medical masks in all indoor work settings, except where people are alone in an office or cubicle, or a barrier is in place, and limiting themselves to no more than three cohorts.
There are currently outbreaks at three hospitals in Calgary and five in Edmonton.
There is also one additional hospital in Calgary with units under watch.
Dr. Laurie-Ann Baker, an ER doctor and associate zone medical director with Alberta Health Services (AHS), said their biggest focus right now is on the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, which has six cases on three units.
One person has died due to the outbreaks at the PLC.
"We want to avoid hospitals and the community becoming overwhelmed," she said.
As of last week, Albertans have been administered more than 597,000 doses of the flu vaccine so far this year, an increase of more than 50,000 when compared with the same time period last year.
Health officials have said this year it is more important than ever to get the flu shot because of the pandemic.
Here's the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Wednesday:
- Edmonton zone: 2,642, up from 2,581 on Tuesday.
- Calgary zone: 2,610, up from 2,532.
- North zone: 400, down from 413.
- South zone: 333, up from 317.
- Central zone: 224, down from 235.
- Unknown: 21, down from 32.
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 p.m. ET on Wednesday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 247,703 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 205,647 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 10,331.
B.C's health minister and a top public health official on Tuesday reminded people in the province to keep gatherings small, saying "much of the recent transmission" in the province has been connected to get-togethers.
"This is particularly important in the Fraser Health region where public health teams are asking everyone to avoid all social gatherings in your home right now — even those that are within the restrictions of the provincial health officer order," a statement from Health Minister Adrian Dix and Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said.
Health officials in Saskatchewan are introducing a new measure requiring masks in public indoor spaces in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. The measure, which will be in place for 28 days before being reviewed, takes effect Friday.
In Manitoba, the Red Cross has been asked to provide staff to help care for residents at some long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.
Ontario is moving to a colour-coded system to communicate what regions are under what restrictions, saying the new system will be an "early warning system" and allow the province to scale public health measures based on what's happening in a given region.
The move was announced as the province set a new single-day record, reporting 1,050 new COVID-19 cases. The seven-day average of new cases ticked up to 950. The information released on Tuesday put hospitalizations at 357, with 73 in intensive care.
Quebec reported an eight-day low of 871 new COVID-19 infections and 34 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including five recorded in the 24 hours prior. The Tuesday figures put the number of people in hospital in the province at 526, with 85 receiving intensive care.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is now recommending Canadians choose three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they prepare to spend more time indoors over the winter.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during her bi-weekly pandemic briefing in Ottawa Tuesday.
"To improve the level of protection that can be provided by non-medical masks or face coverings, we are recommending that you consider a three-layer nonmedical mask," she said.
According to recently updated guidelines, two layers of the mask should be made of a tightly woven fabric, such as cotton or linen, and the middle layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric.
The Public Health website now includes instructions for making three-layer masks.
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 no longer available to anyone, but voluntary asymptomatic testing is available to:
- School teachers and staff.
- Health-care workers.
- Staff and residents at long-term care and congregate living facilities.
- Any Albertans experiencing homelessness.
- Travellers requiring a test before departure.
Additional groups can also access asymptomatic testing if required.
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.
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.