What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, Nov. 6

A detailed breakdown of Alberta's new cases is expected Friday, after a technical issue prevented a detailed update of "about 800" new cases on Thursday. Cases are so high in Alberta that contact tracers will no longer notify most people who have been found to be in close contact to an infected person, and AHS provided scripts for active cases to reach out to their own contacts.

Breakdown of new cases expected Friday after technical issue prevents detailed update on Nov. 5

Cases are so high in Alberta that contact tracers will no longer notify people who have been found to be in close contact to an infected person, unless they are deemed to be linked to a 'high-priority setting.' (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

  • Alberta shattered another COVID-19 record Thursday, recording about 800 new cases.
  • Detailed case numbers are expected to be released by the province Friday afternoon at a time still TBD and CBC News will bring you that news conference live. They were not available on Thursday due to technical problems with the province's reporting system.
  • Cases are so high in Alberta that contact tracers will no longer notify people who have been found to be in close contact to an infected person, unless they are deemed to be linked to a "high-priority setting."
  • AHS has created a webpage with email and phone scripts for those who have tested positive to use when notifying their own contacts.
  • Siksika First Nation east of Calgary announced that it will be closing its administration from Nov. 9 to 13 after upgrading its local risk level to RED — or high risk — due to consistent new cases without a known source.
  • Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Alberta care homes has more than quadrupled from 102 to 418 in just one month. There are now 41 outbreaks in continuing care facilities around the province.
  • COVID-19 outbreaks at nine major Alberta hospitals are putting pressure on a system that is already wrestling with a record number of novel coronavirus patients.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta shattered another COVID-19 record on Thursday, recording "about 800" new cases over the past 24 hours. A detailed breakdown of the numbers is expected to be released on Friday, after the province said that a technical issue prevented their release on Nov. 5.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's top doctor, said people may soon be faced with new public health measures to get the numbers under control.

"We are looking closely at what steps we need to recommend to government to protect the health of Albertans," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference. "But we need your help as well."

Meanwhile, Alberta's continuing care homes are bracing for another battle against COVID-19. The number of active cases in care homes has more than quadrupled, increasing from 102 to 418 cases, in just one month. There are now 41 outbreaks in continuing care facilities around the province.

"Dr. Hinshaw has been in communication with continuing care operators in Edmonton and Calgary recommending that they consider limiting visitors to the essential designated family/support people (and others in extenuating circumstances) while the transmission rates are high," said Alberta Health representative Tom McMillan in a statement to CBC.

"In the rest of the province, she advised operators to consider the transmission in the area where visitors are coming from and ensure that all necessary precautions are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19."

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says its biggest focus among hospitals right now is on the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, which has six cases on three units. (Government of Alberta)

Hinshaw stressed this week 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. 

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Alberta Health Services has created a webpage with phone and email scripts for those who have tested positive to use when notifying their own close contacts. The province has announced that it will no longer directly notify close contacts who are not health care workers, minors (whose parents will still be notified if their child is exposed at school), and those who live or work within congregate or communal facilities.

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. 

Premier Jason 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."

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Siksika Nation announced that it will be closing its administration from Nov. 9 to 13 after its local risk level was elevated to RED — or, high risk — due to consistent new cases without a known source. Earlier this week, it announced that it would be closing all of its schools and its homeless shelter after cases within the community jumped from zero to more than a dozen in just a few days. 

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. 

A snapshot of the active COVID-19 cases by health district in Calgary as of Nov. 9. (CBC)

There are currently outbreaks at nine hospitals. 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.

Here's the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Wednesday. Numbers for Thursday were not immediately available due to technical problems with the province's reporting system:

  • 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 8:00 a.m. ET on Friday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 251,338 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 207,998 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 10,380.

Canada has quietly revised its guidelines on how COVID-19 spreads to include the risk of aerosol transmission, weeks after other countries and international health organizations acknowledged the airborne threat of the coronavirus.

"SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks," the updated guidance said. 

"The droplets vary in size from large droplets that fall to the ground rapidly (within seconds or minutes) near the infected person, to smaller droplets, sometimes called aerosols, which linger in the air under some circumstances."

Ontario reported 998 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Of those new cases, 350 were found in Toronto, 269 in Peel and 71 in York Region. The seven-day average for cases is now up to 982. Updated hospitalization data was not yet available, but as of Wednesday, the province had reported 367 hospitalizations, with 75 in ICU.

A record high of 425 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in B.C. on Thursday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that there have been no new deaths, but the number of active cases, now at 3,389, has risen to its highest total to date. That includes 97 patients who are in hospital, including 24 in intensive care.

Saskatchewan reported 129 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. This is the highest climb in daily cases in the province since the beginning of the pandemic. 

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. On Thursday, the number of patients in hospital with the illness jumped to 153, up by 13 compared with Wednesday, with 16 of those in intensive care units. 

Quebec reported 1,138 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths on Thursday, 10 of which were in the past 24 hours. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 111,056 confirmed cases and 6,378 people have died. 

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.

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 currently unavailable for people with no known exposure to COVID-19.

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.