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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Saturday, Sept. 19

Alberta has identified its first likely case of COVID-19 transmission within a school, the province's top doctor said Friday, adding it was "not unexpected and not a cause for alarm."

Alberta has identified its first likely case of COVID-19 transmission within a school

Waverley School in Edmonton is the first in the province to have a case of COVID-19 transmission within the school. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The latest:

  • Alberta has identified its first likely case of COVID-19 transmission within a school, with two cases at an elementary school in Edmonton. Transmission within a school "was not unexpected and is not a cause for alarm," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, at an early afternoon news conference Friday.
  • Alberta reported 107 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 16,381.
  • There were 1,424 active cases across the province, according to the latest update, down 59 from the day before.
  • As of Friday morning across the province, there have been 78 instances of someone with COVID-19 attending school while infectious. Currently, 57 of the 2,415 schools in Alberta have reported an infectious person who attended the school.
  • The Alberta Teachers' Association released a survey Friday outlining how teachers and school leaders feel about how the pandemic has been handled in schools.
  • Alberta is starting to see a similar case load to Ontario and Quebec, which concerns experts because it has a much lower population. The number of new cases daily have gone up by about 55 per cent in the last month and the province is facing widespread community transmission.
  • Across Canada, provinces say people are flouting provincial rules around gathering size limits, leading officials to impose new restrictions as COVID-19 infections climb across the country. 
  • With COVID-19 case counts rising in many communities, kids back in schools and more people returning to work, many public health experts agree that the "social circles" or "social bubbles" that worked as a safe approach in the early days of the lockdown now come with more risk.
  • Alberta will no longer recommend asymptomatic testing for the general population with fall flu season looming.
  • One new death was reported Friday, a woman in her 50s from the North zone not linked to any outbreak.
  • A total of 255 people have died of COVID-19 in Alberta.
  • As of Thursday afternoon, there had been 10 schools in Alberta classified as having outbreaks, with one Calgary school under a "watch" (defined as five or more cases where the disease could have been acquired or transmitted in the school) and the rest with fewer cases.
  • The City of Edmonton announced Thursday it's cancelling a mask exemption card program.

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Alberta said Friday that the province's first likely case of COVID-19 transmission within a school had been confirmed, at a public elementary school in Edmonton, Waverley School

Hinshaw said both individuals were infectious within the school and that one of them "seems to have been the source for the other."

Edmonton Public Schools said about 12 students from a combined Grade 1/2 class and seven staff members need to isolate at home for 14 days, monitor for symptoms and be tested.

Alberta is starting to see a similar case load to Ontario and Quebec, which is concerning as the prairie province has a much lower population, said Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. 

For the first 15 days of September in Alberta, the province has reported an average of 137 new cases of COVID-19 per day. That's up from an average of 88 cases for that same period in August, meaning that cases have gone up by about 55 per cent in the last month.

(CBC)

The province is also facing widespread community transmission of COVID-19, rather than the disease appearing in a few specific hotspots, like a long-term care facility, said Smith.

While some of the increase in Alberta cases could be attributed to more testing in September, with upwards of 30,000 people tested per day, these jumps in case counts are still concerning, said Smith.

With fall influenza season looming, Alberta will prepare for an expected surge in demand for laboratory tests by scaling back asymptomatic testing — the practice of conducting COVID-19 tests on people without symptoms, the province announced Thursday.

"In addition to potentially contracting COVID-19, Albertans will have a greater chance of catching a cold or flu, which have very similar symptoms to COVID-19," Hinshaw said.

"More people with symptoms means that we will see more people needing to be tested. Our labs need to support cases of both COVID-19 and influenza."

Hinshaw said those with symptoms who were in close contact with confirmed cases and those linked to an outbreak will still be tested.

Provincial labs completed 13,003 COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, the province said Thursday. 

In Calgary, drop-in COVID-19 testing is now being provided at the Bow Trail assessment centre, which is located inside the old Greyhound bus terminal. The Richmond Road Diagnostic and Treatment Centre now offers COVID-19 testing by appointment only.

A Calgary teacher working at a public high school where a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared says he doesn't feel safe at work because of the sheer number of people he comes in contact with each day. 

"I feel that I have the most dangerous job as a teacher in the province," said the Lester B. Pearson High School instructor, who CBC News agreed not to name because he fears professional retribution. 

St. Wilfrid Elementary School in Calgary is the only school under the "watch" category, which Alberta Health defines as an outbreak with five or more cases where the disease could have been acquired or transmitted in the school.

There are also 12 schools in the province with outbreaks of two to four cases. 

  • Notre Dame High School, Calgary.
  • Lester B. Pearson High School, Calgary.
  • Henry Wise Wood High School, Calgary.
  • Auburn Bay School, Calgary.
  • Crescent Heights High School, Calgary.
  • Chris Akkerman School, Calgary.
  • Ross Sheppard High School, Edmonton.
  • Centre High, Edmonton. 
  • McNally School, Edmonton.
  • Waverley School, Edmonton.
  • Chinook High School, Lethbridge.
  • Foothills Composite High School, Okotoks.

The City of Edmonton is cancelling a mask exemption card program introduced in early August, interim city manager Adam Laughlin told council Thursday. 

Cards already issued will be honoured, Laughlin said, but no new cards will be issued. 

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

  • Calgary zone: 450, down from 470 on Thursday.
  • Edmonton zone: 711, down from 751.
  • North zone: 197, up from 193.
  • Central zone: 24, down from 29.
  • South zone: 38, unchanged.
  • Unknown: 4, up from 2.

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 cases by neighbourhood in Calgary as of Oct. 8. (CBC)

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 141,911 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 123,723 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 9,245.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and his wife Nancy Déziel both tested positive for COVID-19. The party confirmed that both will be in isolation until the end of September.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole also had a COVID-19 test come back positive on Friday and is now isolating.

Ontario public health officials say they can't trace how roughly half of the latest COVID-19 patients got infected.

The data suggests that many Ontarians are contracting COVID-19 through unmemorable interactions with others in the course of their daily lives. Experts are worried that failing to track the source of so many new infections will hamper efforts to rein in the spread of the virus. 

B.C, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec have also all reported a bump in cases throughout September, and some have paused their reopening plans as a result. 

Those under 40 are driving the spread in most provinces. In Ontario, health officials have identified smaller, indoor gatherings as the culprit. Younger people may also be working in precarious jobs where their exposure is increased, or where sick days may not be readily available. 

Some of Canada's biggest cities are seeing a surge in household waste thanks to myriad COVID-related trends, including the re-emergence of disposable goods, a summer full of home renovations and the continuous growth of online shopping.

Face masks, like these ones in a Halifax garbage can, are just some of the disposable items Canadians are increasing their household waste with during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Robert Short/CBC)

Early figures from the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax reveal that the amount of residential garbage collected has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.

Canadians yearning to travel abroad — despite the COVID-19 pandemic — can now get medical insurance to cover costs if they get sick with the coronavirus while travelling. 

More than six months into the global pandemic, the Liberal government is being accused of failing to meet the needs of the Canadians with disabilities who are among those hardest-hit by the public health crisis.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canada Human Rights Commission, said COVID-19 has "expanded the circle of vulnerability" in Canada — but people with disabilities still aren't getting the support they need.

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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