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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, March 1

Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan. 

Full reporting unavailable due to technical issues, province says

Alberta Health Services will offer vaccines for children between five and 11 on a walk-in basis in March. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Daily case counts have never been perfect, but at this point in the Omicron-driven wave, they're a deeply flawed metric. Throughout the pandemic, the case counts have been based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing done by provincial bodies like Alberta Health Services, but those testing protocols have shifted to prioritize high-priority groups and people in higher risk settings, like health-care workers. So there are likely to be thousands of cases going untested, or tested but not reported, since there is no system for cataloguing at-home rapid antigen tests. 

As a result, CBC News will de-emphasize case counts in our coverage, in favour of data and metrics that experts now say are more illuminating — such as COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, which help us understand Omicron's impact on the health-care system and severity of illness it causes, as well as the testing positivity rate, which if it starts to level out and come down could indicate the wave has peaked.


    The latest on restrictions: 

    • Nearly all pandemic public health measures were lifted in the province as of March 1, as the Alberta government launched Step 2 of its reopening plan. 
    • This phase removes indoor masking, remaining school requirements, youth screening for entertainment and sports, removal of capacity limits on all large venues and entertainment venues, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings lifted and mandatory work from home lifted. 
    • However, masking will still be required in high-risk settings including Alberta Health Services-operated and contracted facilities, all continuing care settings, and on municipal transit services. The rule does not cover private services such as taxis or Uber trips.
    • The City of Calgary said in a statement that the pandemic face covering bylaw ends automatically when the province removes its requirement for indoor masking.
    • The City of Edmonton's face-covering bylaw remains in effect. People will still be required to wear masks in stores, city facilities and while walking around in restaurants within Edmonton city limits. Council is set to review its bylaw next week. 
    • However, the UCP government announced on March 1 that it plans to amend the Municipal Government Act to restrict the ability of municipalities to pass bylaws that contradict public health policies and rules enacted by the province.
    • As of Feb. 14, there are no masking requirements for children and youth 12 years old and younger and no masking requirements for children and youth in schools for any age.
    • Stage 1 took effect Feb. 16 and removed the restrictions exemption program, removed restrictions on food and beverage at entertainment venues, and removed capacity limits for all venues, except those that have a large capacity. 
    • Kenney says the province is working toward a third stage, which does not have a date, where people would no longer be required to isolate if they have COVID-19, and COVID operational and outbreak protocols will be lifted in continuing care facilities. 
    • Health Minister Jason Copping said the stages are all conditions-based approach, based on hospitalization trends. 
    • Alberta is now in a period of transition as it begins to shift from a pandemic response to COVID-19 to an endemic one, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health. She pointed to a joint statement issued by chief medical officers of health across Canada outlining the need to make the transition.

    The latest numbers:

    • The province said Tuesday that full reporting was unavailable due to technical issues. Estimated figures were provided and are as follows:
    • There are an estimated 1,225 Albertans in hospital with COVID, and 80 in intensive care.
    • The latest figures on deaths related to COVID-19 were not available Tuesday. The province reported Monday that a total of 3,912 Albertans have died of COVID-19. 
    • On Monday, the positivity rate over the past seven days for lab confirmed cases was around 22 per cent. 
    • The figures on active COVID-19 cases in the province were not available Tuesday. On Monday, there were 9,188 active cases of COVID-19.
    • Currently, there are 18 COVID-19 outbreaks at acute care facilities across the province. 
    • The province reported an estimated 500 new cases on Feb. 28. It did not say how many tests were performed. 

    Schools:

    • Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said on Twitter on Feb. 22 that none of the more than 2,500 schools in Alberta was shifted to temporary at-home learning to address operational challenges brought on by the virus.
    • "As recently as January 28, that number was 29 schools, so the numbers have been steadily trending downward," said Katherine Stavropoulos, who is LaGrange's press secretary. 
    • The University of Calgary extended online teaching until Feb. 19, with a return to in-person classes after Reading Week, beginning on Feb. 28.
    • The University of Alberta also delayed its return to in-person activities until the week of Feb. 28.

    Wastewater monitoring:

    • Wastewater numbers in Calgary show a declining number of new COVID-19 infections. Data for Edmonton also shows a decline. The data from a dashboard created by the University of Calgary Centre for Informatics show the average amount of COVID-19 detected in wastewater has trended downward since a peak on Jan. 11 in Calgary.
    • As the Alberta government scales back on widespread PCR testing to focus on those in high-priority settings, the province is now relying on wastewater surveillance more than ever before to track the prevalence of COVID-19 in Alberta.
    • The province's wastewater — and the amount of infection in it — has been monitored for two years by a group of 23 researchers in a joint project with the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
    • The data is updated publicly three times per week.
    • It depicts the amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA — the virus that causes COVID-19 — that's in the province's wastewater.
    • The virus is shed in peoples' feces before symptoms arise, so values in the data associate strongest with cases occurring six days after the samples are collected.

    Isolation times:

    • As of Jan. 3, people with at least two doses of vaccine who test positive for COVID-19 need to isolate for only five days instead of 10.    
           
      • If symptoms continue past five days, fully vaccinated people must continue to isolate until feeling better.
      •    
      • If they're symptom free after five days, they must wear a mask around others at all times when they're outside their home.
      •    
      • The change does not apply to people who aren't fully vaccinated, who must continue to isolate for 10 days or until their symptoms end, whichever is longer.
      •    
      • Copping said the change followed evidence that suggests fully immunized people have shorter infectious periods. 
      •    
      • This change also follows the approach taken by Ontario and some other provinces, as well as the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, Copping said.
      •    
      • Exceptions will be provided for workplaces where disruption of service for 24 hours or more would be harmful to the public, and where there is no other way to continue the service except by bringing workers back before their isolation period has ended, Copping said. 
      •    
      • In these circumstances, additional public health measures will be required. For example, Copping said returning workers would not be allowed to remove their masks when in the same room as anyone else at any time.
      •    
    • Hinshaw announced on Feb. 3 that the province has shortened the recommended quarantine period for unvaccinated, asymptomatic household contacts of confirmed cases. The quarantine time decreased to 10 days from 14.

    Vaccinations:

    • Copping announced Alberta Health Services will offer vaccines for children between five and 11 on a walk-in basis in early March. The health provider said in a news release that it will assess the demand for walk-in appointments for kids on March 16 to determine if it needs to expand its services.
    • According to Alberta Health, 75.9 per cent of the province's population — or 86.5 per cent of those older than 12 — have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

    Which regions are being hit hardest:

    Here is the latest detailed regional breakdown of active cases, as reported by the province on Feb. 28:

    COVID in Alberta in charts and graphs:











    Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

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