Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Sept. 27

Premier Jason Kenney rejected calls for a "hard lockdown" during an appearance on a radio program Sunday, the same day his province's former top doctor signed a letter calling for immediate "fire break" measures to deal with surging cases of COVID-19.

Alberta reported more than 5,100 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend

A staff member works at an intensive care unit at an Alberta hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Provincially, ICU capacity is at 84 per cent, including additional surge beds. (AHS)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Alberta reported 5,181 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend:
    • 1,882 new cases out of 15,898 tests on Friday.
    • 1,541 new cases out of 14,846 tests on Saturday.
    • 1,758 new cases out of 15,037 tests on Sunday. 
  • There were 21,307 active cases across Alberta on Monday, the highest count in the country.
  • Alberta reported 23 more deaths from COVID. 
  • A total of 2,645 Albertans have died of COVID. 
  • The positivity rate was 11.7 per cent.
  • The province continues to lead the country by a wide margin in daily new COVID cases and active cases. 
  • There were 1,063 people being treated for COVID in hospital, 265 of whom were in intensive care beds. 
  • Provincewide, the R-value was 1.04 (with a confidence interval of 1.02 to 1.06) as of Sept. 13-19. In Edmonton, the R-value is 0.97, while in Calgary it's 0.94 . The rest of Alberta has an R-value of 1.15
  • 269,586 Albertans are considered to have recovered from COVID-19.​​​​
  • The province is preparing to activate its triage protocol, which means health-care workers will have to decide which patients are given potentially life-saving interventions like ventilators.
  • Alberta Health Services said Sept. 17 that the only surgeries happening in the province are those that must be done within a three-day window.

The latest on Alberta's COVID-19 response: ​​​​​​

  • Vaccinations for COVID-19 continue at a steady pace since the province announced its plans for a vaccine passport, known as the restrictions exemption program. 
  • Calgary's new bylaw, which brings in mandatory vaccine passports for many types of businesses, came into effect on Sept. 23.
  • It means people going to restaurants, bars, casinos, movie theatres and sporting events must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result to enter. Those who don't comply can receive a $500 fine. Peace officers will be enforcing the rules.
  • Provincially, ICU capacity is at 84 per cent, including additional surge beds. Without the additional spaces, provincial ICU admissions would be at 180 per cent of capacity, AHS said Monday.
  • The province has updated its daily symptom screening checklist. It now recommends household contacts of those with COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days if they are not vaccinated, or partially vaccinated. 
  • AHS president Dr. Verna Yiu said the province is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in children between the ages of 10 and 19. 
  • Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said last week that federal assistance is on the way to Alberta and could come in the form of Canadian Armed Forces' medical resources "and/or aero-medical evacuation capability," Canadian Red Cross resources and other federal health resources.
  • Premier Jason Kenney rejected calls for a "hard lockdown" during an appearance on a radio program Sunday, the same day that his province's former top doctor signed a letter calling for immediate "fire break" measures to deal with surging cases of COVID-19.
  • Dr. James Talbot, former chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Noel Gibney, a critical care specialist, made seven "urgent" recommendations in their letter, including the transfer of ICU patients to other provinces.

WATCH | Dr. James Talbot says hospitals could be strained for months: 

Alberta's COVID-19 crisis could drag on, expert says

23 days ago
The COVID-19 crisis in Alberta continues to worsen with hospitalizations reaching a record high. Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical officer of health for the province, says the dire hospital situation could extend for weeks and months. 7:54
  • Kenney told radio host Roy Green that a lockdown would make "no sense for the 80 per cent of the population that is vaccinated" (only 62.8 per cent of the province's total population have received two doses, but 83 per cent of those eligible have one shot). 
  • Tyler Shandro resigned as minister of health on Sept. 21. He has been moved into the labour and immigration portfolio. Jason Copping, the previous minister of labour and immigration, has taken Shandro's place. 
  • Kenney's government imposed a voluntary vaccine passport system that took effect Sept. 20 to combat the fourth wave of COVID-19.
  • Operators who are eligible for the program, but opt not to take part, will have to follow measures that include capacity limits and physical distancing (more details are provided below).

WATCH | Trying to simplify Alberta's 'restriction exemption program'

Don't call it a vaccine passport. But whatever you call it, here's how it will impact your plans for the foreseeable future.

29 days ago
There is a long list of dos and don'ts if you're venturing out to exercise, eat out, or enjoy a show. Alberta's restriction exemption program is at the forefront, but there are many lingering questions about how it will work. 4:36
  • Albertans are now able to visit a local registry agent to request a printed version of their vaccination card at no cost. They will need to provide the month and year of any dose of vaccination, their Alberta Personal Health Number and their date of birth.
  • A QR code for proof of vaccination will be made available in the coming weeks — similar to the vaccine passport systems announced months ago by Quebec and weeks ago by B.C. 
  • Starting Oct. 25, proof of two doses or a negative test will be required for entry to places operating under the restrictions exemption program. Up until then, one dose or a negative test will suffice.
  • Those who want to show a negative COVID-19 test rather than a proof of vaccination must have one that was paid for privately, not via Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories.
  • It must be a Health Canada-approved rapid antigen, rapid PCR or lab-based PCR test completed within the previous 72 hours.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta has lost patience with doctors who have actively undermined the province's response to the pandemic.
  • At an emergency meeting of the college's council Monday, council members unanimously supported issuing a strongly worded warning letter to doctors who spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines or advise patients not to get vaccinated, improperly issue exemptions for vaccines and masks, or refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks.

How the restrictions and exemptions work:

Some of the broad strokes of the new restrictions include:

As of Sept. 16:

  • Private social gatherings:
    • Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated people are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
    • Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated.
    • Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.
  • Workplaces:
    • Work-from-home measures are mandatory unless the employer has decided a physical presence is required for operational reasons.
  • Places of worship:
    • Must limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity.
    • Face masks will be mandatory and there must be two-metre physical distancing between households or two close contacts for those living alone.
  • Outdoor events:
    • No attendance restrictions, but two-metre physical distancing adhered to.
  • Schools (K-12):
    • Mandatory masking for students in Grades 4 and up, as well as staff and teachers in all grades. Schools that can implement an alternate COVID safety plan can be exempted from mandatory masking.
    • Elementary schools must implement class cohorting.
    • For physical activities in schools, youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain two-metre distance when engaged in physical activity.
    • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
    • Indoor sports/performance/recreation/special interests are permitted with requirements for two-metre physical distancing, where possible.

As of Sept. 20:

  • Restaurants, nightclubs and pubs:
    • Venues that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination. 
    • Otherwise:
      • Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
      • Liquor sales to end at 10 p.m. and consumption at 11 p.m. 
  • Weddings and funerals:
    • Hosting facilities that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent fire code capacity, whichever is less.
      • No indoor receptions are permitted.
      • All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees.
  • Entertainment and recreation facilities such as museums, movie theatres and casinos:
    • Hosting facilities that choose to implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • Limited to one-third fire code capacity, attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone.
      • People must be masked and keep two-metre physical distancing between households.
  • Adult sports, fitness and recreation:
    • Facilities that implement the restrictions exemption program can operate as usual when it comes to vaccine-eligible Albertans with proof of vaccination.
    • Otherwise:
      • No indoor group classes or activities are permitted.
      • One-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted but three-metre physical distancing is required.
      • No contact between players; no indoor competitions except where case-by-case vaccine exemptions have been granted.
  • Retail and shopping malls, places of worship, hotels and personal services are some examples of venues and businesses that are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • They must follow health restrictions that include physical distancing and capacity limits.
  • A full list of restrictions and exemptions is available on the government's website

The latest on vaccines:

  • 62.8 per cent of the province's total population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or 73.8 per cent of those eligible. Out of the province's total population, 70.6 per cent have received at least one dose, or 83 per cent of those eligible.
  • Canada-wide, 75.9 per cent of the total population have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 70.2 of the total population are fully vaccinated, according to the CBC's vaccine tracker.
  • Alberta is expanding the number of immunocompromised people who are eligible for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The full list of eligible people can be found on the province's website
  • In addition, mRNA doses — that's Pfizer or Moderna — are available to Albertans travelling to a jurisdiction that does not accept visitors vaccinated with mixed doses.
  • Alberta's premier said COVID-19 vaccine bookings have nearly tripled in the province since he announced the new passport system.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, says pregnant people are at high risk of very serious illness and are urging them to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

See which regions are being hit hardest:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported by the province on Monday.

  • Edmonton zone: 5,430.
  • Calgary zone: 5,295.
  • North zone: 3,988.
  • Central zone: 4,235.
  • South zone: 2,317.
  • Unknown: 30.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press


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