Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Sept. 30

The fourth wave of the COVID-19 crisis is unrelenting in Alberta, as provincial health officials reported nearly 1,700 new cases and 34 more deaths on Wednesday, for the highest daily death toll since January.

All Alberta public service employees required to have proof of vaccination

Bernie Cook, during his first therapy session in the COVID unit at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary after being discharged from the hospital's ICU on Sept. 21, 2021. (Leah Hennel/Alberta Health Services)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Jason Copping and Alberta Health Services president Dr. Verna Yiu gave an update on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta on Thursday afternoon.
  • Public service commissioner Tim Grant was also at the press conference. 
  • Kenney announced the Government of Alberta is implementing a proof of COVID-19 vaccination policy for all Alberta public service employees. This will apply to approximately 25,500 employees.
  • Employees will have until Nov. 30 to submit their proof of full vaccination.
  • There are nine patients from other provinces in Alberta's ICUs, Kenney said Thursday.
  • This comes as the province's ICUs are at 83 per cent of capacity. Without additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 179 per cent of capacity. 
  • The provincial government is finalizing arrangements to have medical personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces come to Alberta. They will likely be based in the Edmonton area, Kenney said.
  • The Canadian Red Cross will provide staff to the Red Deer Regional Hospital, Kenney said.
  • Medical staff from Newfoundland and Labrador will likely be deployed to Fort McMurray, the premier said.
  • Kenney said he asked for an inventory of Johnson and Johnson vaccines. The Government of Canada has committed to securing the vaccines by as early as next week.
  • Alberta reported 1,706 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, out of 17,590 tests. 
  • There were 20,255 active cases across Alberta.
  • Alberta reported 20 more deaths from COVID on Thursday. 
  • A total of 2,717 Albertans have died of COVID. 
  • The positivity rate was 11.46 per cent.
  • The province continues to lead the country by a wide margin in daily new COVID cases and active cases. 
  • There were 1,083 people being treated for COVID in hospital, 263 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
  • 275,200 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.

WATCH| Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta's fastest-growing COVID-19 cohort are school-aged children living in rural areas with low vaccination rates:

Highest COVID-19 rate is among rural children: Kenney

4 months ago
Duration 2:15
Alberta’s fastest-growing COVID-19 cohort are school-aged children living in rural areas with low vaccination rates, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday. 2:15

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

  • Anti-vaccination protests and all other demonstrations outside hospitals will be banned in a move to make Alberta health-care facilities safer for staff, patients and families, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.
  • Kenney said the province was still monitoring the impact of new public health measures that went into effect eight days ago. No new restrictions were announced.
  • Provincially, ICU capacity is at 83 per cent, including additional surge beds. Without the additional spaces, provincial ICU admissions would be at 179 per cent of capacity, AHS said.
  • There are 309 patients in ICU, the vast majority of whom are COVID positive, AHS said on Thursday. 
  • Alberta's northern health zone, which encompasses regions where vaccination uptake is well below the provincial average, is operating at over 100 per cent of its intensive care capacity. AHS said that as of Wednesday, the North zone had 15 ICU spaces, including nine surge beds, between the Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray hospitals. AHS says it is operating at 104 per cent capacity.
  • Alberta has 373 ICU beds open in Alberta, including 200 additional spaces (a 115 per cent increase over a baseline of 173). AHS has opened 22 additional ICU surge spaces in the past seven days.
  • 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. 
  • Women delivering babies will only be able to have one support person, starting next week. AHS says it's in an effort to manage the escalating impact of COVID-19.
  • 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.

WATCH | Kenney says unvaccinated unlikely to comply with new measures:

Kenney says unvaccinated unlikely to comply with widespread restrictions

4 months ago
Duration 1:37
Asked whether Alberta would introduce stricter COVID-19 rules, Premier Jason Kenney says now is not the time. 1:37
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The City of Lethbridge is joining Edmonton and Calgary in making it mandatory for city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. All workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, the city announced on Sept. 28.
  • The Calgary Airport Authority announced on Sept. 29 that it will be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees. The policy provides alternative protocols for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated employees, such as weekly COVID-19 tests. The requirement comes into full effect on Nov. 15. 
  • The regulator for Alberta doctors is exploring ways to speed up its investigations into physicians accused of spreading misinformation or treating patients with unproven COVID-19 remedies. "Our processes can be slow but we're looking at ways that we can expedite that," Dr. Scott McLeod, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, told a news conference Wednesday.
  • McLeod said the CPSA will prioritize pandemic complaints reviews to ensure patients are protected. If verbal warnings are ignored, doctors will be punished, he said. 

WATCH | ICU stay changes Calgary man's mind about COVID vaccine:

ICU stay changes Calgary man's mind about COVID vaccine

4 months ago
Duration 2:23
Bernie Cook was hesitant to get the vaccine when he caught COVID. His sickness gave him first-hand experience through one of Alberta's crowded ICUs. Now he's warning others to take action to avoid the same fate. 2:23

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:

  • 63.2 per cent of the province's total population have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or 74.3 per cent of those eligible.
  • Out of the province's total population, 71.1 per cent have received at least one dose, or 83.6 per cent of those eligible.
  • Canada-wide, 76.2 per cent of the total population have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 70.6 per cent 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.
  • 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 Thursday.

  • Edmonton zone: 5,175.
  • Calgary zone: 4,831.
  • North zone: 3,989.
  • Central zone: 3,942.
  • South zone: 2,295.
  • Unknown: 23.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press


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