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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, April 29

Fort McMurray flood workers have been exempt from physical-distancing measures as health officials urge Albertans to keep up strict prevention techniques.

Physical distancing loosened for flood workers, labour calls for meat plant closures

A grocery store is surrounded by floodwater on Franklin Avenue in Fort McMurray on Monday. Workers trying to stop the floods and remediate damage have been exempt from some physical-distancing measures. (Greg Halinda/The Canadian Press)

The latest:

What you need to know in Alberta today:

Alberta is on track to opening some aspects of the economy in May, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday afternoon. No final decision has been made, however.

New modelling suggests fewer Albertans than originally predicted will be hospitalized. Kenney says he believes those lower hospitalization numbers are due to Alberta's relatively young population and high testing numbers.

Across the province, there are 64 people in hospital with COVID-19, and 22 are in intensive care. A total of 1,953 people have recovered, and 136,511 have been tested.

Here is the case breakdown by zone as of Wednesday afternoon: 

  • Calgary zone: 3,520
  • South zone: 833
  • Edmonton zone: 489
  • North zone: 205
  • Central zone: 84
  • Unknown: 34  
Calgary continues to lead the province in the number of COVID-19 cases. (CBC)

Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, encouraged people to keep following physical distancing measures, despite how tiring it may be to do so.

As Fort McMurray battles a flood during a pandemic, the provincial government has exempted relief workers from some aspects of physical-distancing measures.

Cargill announced a temporary shut down of its beef plant near High River on April 23. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Labour advocates are calling for Alberta meat plants to be closed to manage outbreaks.

Cargill's meat-processing plant north of High River has been temporarily closed due to hundreds of employees contracting the disease. The company announced Wednesday it would reopen the facility on May 4 and asked that all employees in good health return to work.

The plan has been deemed responsible for one-quarter of the provincial case count. It's Canada's largest outbreak tied to a single site. Public health officials have counted 1,167 related cases, 759 of whom are workers, as of Tuesday. One worker had died.

Another plant in Brooks also has infected employees.

About 60 per cent of the workers live in Calgary. The mayor said Tuesday that city staff were working to make sure they will be fed and cared for while they'll ill. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said many are paid low wages and are considered marginalized.

Nenshi said Calgary will keep flags at half-mast during the pandemic to remember those who've died from the virus.

Business owner Dennis Nephin fills sandbags to protect the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray from flooding. (Dennis Nephin)

Meanwhile, McDonald's Canada has started importing beef from the United States to deal with shortages due to COVID-19 problems at Canadian meat plants. In the U.S., President Donald Trump has ordered meat plants to stay open. One union said 20 U.S. meat plant workers have died.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, has not committed to the federal government getting involved in mandating plants stay open or close. He said his government is watching the industry closely and considers worker safety to be a priority.

Calgary Transit has limited access to buildings at some bus and CTrain stations, starting Wednesday.

No buildings will be accessible at the following CTrain stations: Anderson, Southland, Heritage, Erlton and Stampede stations. Commuters must instead use at-grade crossings and ramps to access public transportation.

Station building access has been limited from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at SAIT, Chinook and Southland bus shelters.

Easter Seals has cancelled spring and summer camps at Camp Horizon in Bragg Creek due to COVID-19. The charity said the suspension was the first in its 55-year history. It's asking families, if they are able, to donate their camp fees to help keep the organization running.

At least two Albertans say they have received emergency pandemic benefits without applying for them — or needing them.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, while wearing a mask, wished a woman a happy birthday outside her senior's home. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Those who've lost jobs due to the pandemic can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program, which offers $2,000 every four weeks.

One Alberta musician has found a way to stay busy, and paid, during the pandemic. Matt Masters has taken his show on the road to perform curbside concerts.

WATCH | How Matt Masters performs his music from a distance:

Musician takes show on the road for COVID-19

CBC News Calgary

12 months ago
3:06
Matt Masters says he’s busier than ever with curbside concerts 3:06

Edmonton has seen fewer than usual child abuse reports since the pandemic began. Crises usually see higher than normal child abuse and domestic violence, so advocate say they worry people aren't reporting the abuse that's happening.

Federal officials have warned that analysis so far shows domestic violence and conflict rates have spiked in Canada, and so have urged people to seek help if they need it.

Alberta offers 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.

What you need to know today in Canada:

Some Canadian provincial leaders are talking more seriously about reopening their economies and loosening physical-distancing restrictions.

Quebec Premier François Legault said he will try to reopen the economy without restarting the pandemic.

Quebec has been hardest hit in the country. The province's numbers of cases and deaths have made up nearly half of all of those in Canada.

P.E.I., Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta are all preparing their reopening plans, as well.

Canada has announced new modelling projections for COVID-19 cases and death. The projections show physical distancing measures are working. The number of new cases of COVID-19 was doubling every three days previously, and is now doubling every 16 days, the modelling shows.

In the meantime, Canadian war veterans are encouraging people to keep their spirits up. A series of veterans have done video pep talks.

WATCH | WWII veteran Reg Harrison's pandemic pep talk:

WW II veteran Reg Harrison's pandemic pep talk

CBC News Saskatchewan

12 months ago
0:37
Reg Harrison, 97, who survived four plane crashes during the war, offers up encouraging words 0:37

The worldwide tally of COVID-19 cases has surpassed three million, with more than 208,000 deaths. Health officials warn this figure, tallied by Johns Hopkins University, is an underestimate as not all cases are caught.

Scientists continue to work toward a vaccine.

Doctors have warned the pandemic has made it more difficult to provide medically assisted death, despite an increase in interest since the pandemic began. Legislation to further address medically assisted death has been delayed.

WATCH | A helicopter pilot flies over the Fort McMurray flood:

Fly over the Fort McMurray flood with a helicopter pilot to see its devastation

CBC News Calgary

12 months ago
5:33
Paul Spring, with Phoenix Heli-Flight, was the pilot who took Premier Jason Kenney and Mayor Don Scott over the flood damage recently in Fort McMurray. 5:33

Charities and nonprofits are struggling to stay afloat and some have laid off thousands of employees. The federal government has offered several programs to help, including wage subsidies.

COVID-19 doesn't typically hit children as hard as adults but doctors have noted a unique symptom that parents can watch for. Some children with the novel coronavirus see their toes change colour as if they have frostbite, a condition physicians said resolves naturally.

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.

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 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

You can find Alberta Health Services' latest coronavirus updates here.

Here are the latest symptoms and how they progress over time, according to the World Health Organization. (CBC News)

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. 

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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