What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Oct. 15

Three cardiology patients at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19, and Foothills hospital in Calgary confirms two more cases in the biggest active outbreak in Alberta as hospitalization numbers climb to a new high this week.

3 cardiology patients test positive at Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, while Foothills sees 2 more cases

Health-care workers put on protective equipment at a COVID-19 testing facility in Alberta. Hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 are now the highest they've been since the start of the pandemic in Alberta. (Alberta Health Services)

The latest:

  • Two more cases have been confirmed — one patient and one health-care worker — in the biggest active outbreak in Alberta, at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, as of noon Thursday. That brings the total active cases to 89, while 11 people have died. The hospital says it still has no conclusive proof how the outbreaks started.
  • Three cardiology patients at the University of Alberta Hospital's Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Health officials are keeping a close eye on hospital capacity as Alberta's COVID-19 cases continue to surge, driving hospitalization numbers to a new high.
  • There are 101 people in hospital as of Thursday, 16 of whom are in intensive care.
  • Alberta reported 244 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total active cases to 2,738, up 49 from the previous day.
  • Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is expected to hold her next provincial update news conference on Friday.
  • The bulk of the cases continue to be in Edmonton, which now has 1,497 active cases. 
  • One more death has been reported, man in his 80s who is linked to the outbreak at Millwoods Shepherds Care Centre in Edmonton, bringing the total deaths to 288.
  • Ninety-one schools now have outbreaks, 22 of which are in the watch category because there are five or more cases.
  • The Calgary Catholic School District said Thursday that there are 35 positive cases in its schools, resulting in 935 students and 88 staff members in self isolation for 14 days. "This is a significant increase from last week," the board said.
  • In the biggest active outbreak in Alberta, at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, 11 people have died and 89 have tested positive for COVID-19. Two more cases were reported at Foothills on Thursday.
  • There is an outbreak of eight cases at Cavendish Farms near Lethbridge. 
  • Additional voluntary measures are in place designed to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases in Edmonton.
  • Doctors and governments say the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to get the flu shot. The influenza vaccine won't be available to the general public in Alberta until Oct. 19, but pharmacies say appointments to get the shot in the first two weeks are filling up fast.

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Dr. Peter Jamieson, the medical director for the Foothills Medical Centre, said there's still an active investigation into the outbreaks at the Calgary hospital that have so far claimed 11 lives, infected 89 others and sent hundreds of health-care workers into isolation.

"We still don't have conclusive proof as to the origin of the outbreaks and we can't speculate," Jamieson said at a news conference mid-day Thursday.

"The preliminary conclusion that we've reached is that we don't think there is a single source that explains all of the outbreaks we're seeing."

Investigators believe there are linkages between the outbreaks that occurred on two medical cardiology units and one intensive care cardiac unit, but are still investigating links between other units.

Of the 89 confirmed cases connected to the outbreaks, 46 were patients (11 currently active and in hospital), 38 were health-care workers and five were visitors, he said.

Alberta Health Services confirmed Wednesday that three cardiology patients at the University of Alberta Hospital's Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton had tested positive for COVID-19.

All patients are isolated and teams are working to determine where the outbreak started and how the infection was transmitted. Contact tracing efforts are underway to help identify health-care workers who need to isolate, Williamson added.

Currently, none of the institute's services have been affected, but AHS noted that there is potential for a reduction.

AHS said there was no connection between the Mazankowski and FMC outbreaks.

Hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 are now the highest they've been since the start of the pandemic in Alberta. Between Friday and Monday, 961 new cases were identified in the province. Another 243 people tested positive on Tuesday.

According to provincial data, Alberta hit an all time high on Monday with 102 Albertans hospitalized and 13 of those patients in intensive care. As of Wednesday, 100 people were hospitalized with 14 in ICU.

Because of the cases, no visitors are being allowed on the unit.

A slow economic recovery from the pandemic threatens to delay a full rebound in world energy demand to 2025, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.

A vaccine and therapeutics could mean the global economy rebounds in 2021 and energy demand recovers by 2023, the IEA said in its annual World Energy Outlook. The agency advises Western governments on energy policy.

Here's the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Thursday:

  • Edmonton zone: 1,497, up 24 from Wednesday.
  • Calgary zone: 788, down 3.
  • North zone: 130, up 6.
  • South zone: 191, up 14.
  • Central zone: 116, up 8.
  • Unknown: 16 cases, unchanged.

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

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

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 5:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 191,588 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 161,345 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC's reporting stood at 9,699.

Among the highlights — or low lights — across the country on Thursday:

  • New Brunswick, the only hot spot in the so-called Atlantic bubble, announced no new COVID-19 cases for the first time since Oct. 4.
  • Ontario reported 783 cases of COVID-19, mainly concentrated in four public health units: Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Ottawa. Toronto has consistently seen the most new daily cases throughout the pandemic, but Ottawa currently has the worst per-capita rate of COVID-19 cases in the province, according to officials.
  • Manitoba reported 173 new cases of COVID-19, the third day in a row the province has set a new record for a single-day increase in cases.

A recent COVID-19 outbreak at a southern Ontario fitness studio is raising questions about how certain indoor settings can provide a perfect storm for superspreading events. The studio has been connected to 69 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, despite screening customers, operating at 50 per cent capacity and keeping the recommended two-metre radius around bikes.

Ontario and Quebec recently reintroduced closures at gyms in virus hot spots, including Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, for a four-week period to help limit spread.

You can read more about what medical experts say about how the novel coronavirus can spread in a gym setting and different types of fitness classes here.

The federal government is prepared to offer small businesses rent and mortgage relief for October — but that money won't actually get into the hands of business owners until November, says one prominent Canadian business group.

In the meantime, many small businesses are scrambling to make rent or mortgage payments in the midst of the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WestJet will soon no longer fly to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City and drastically cut back its service to St. John's and Halifax.

The Calgary-based airline said Wednesday it is eliminating 100 flights, which represent about 80 per cent of the airline's service in and out of Atlantic Canada. The airline also says it is also suspending operations to Quebec City, by removing its flight between there and Toronto.

"It has become increasingly unviable to serve these markets," CEO Ed Sims said. "Since the pandemic's beginning, we have worked to keep essential air service to all of our domestic airports. However, demand for travel is being severely limited by restrictive policies and third-party fee increases that have left us out of runway without sector-specific support."

Health-care providers in multiple provinces are struggling to keep up with demand for the flu vaccine, as Canadians hope to fend off a "twindemic" of influenza and COVID-19.

The online booking system in Montérégie, Que., crashed on Tuesday, the first day residents were able to book an appointment through the regional health authority.

Self-assessment and supports:

Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19, but testing is open to anyone, even without symptoms. 

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.


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