Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, March 12


Alberta continues to lower the age range of those able to get COVID-19 vaccinations, with people born in 1959 or 1960 added to the list of those who can book appointments for the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine as of Friday at 8 a.m.

Alberta deploys almost 1 million rapid tests to help screen for COVID-19

Bill Metz received the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine in Edmonton on March 12, 2021. Metz told AHS he’s been a bingo caller for 34 years. When the pandemic hit, in-person bingo was shut down and although he’s been calling games online, he longs to do the job in person again. (Alberta Health Services)

The latest on AstraZeneca/Covishield:

  • Alberta continues to lower the age range of those able to get COVID-19 vaccinations, after on Wednesday began a staggered rollout of the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine one or two years at a time to people born in 1957-1971 who don’t have a severe chronic illness and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972-1986.
  • As of Friday at 8 a.m., people born in 1959 or 1960 were added to the list of those who can book appointments for the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine.
  • That means all Albertans born from 1957 to 1960 can now book immunization appointments using the AHS online booking tool or by calling Health Link at 811.
  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972 to 1975 are also able to book their appointments by calling Health Link at 811.
  • The province said it would announce when it was expanding the rollout to other birth years in the 50 to 64 range in coming days dependent on supplies.
  • Additional shipments vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week. 
  • Alberta Health is recommending the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine for people aged 18 to 64 if they do not have a severe chronic illness. The initial doses are not available at pharmacies and must be booked through AHS.
  • AHS told CBC News on Thursday that more than 21,000 Albertans had already booked AstraZeneca/Covishield shots.

The latest on expanded rapid testing:

  • The Alberta government is shipping 924,000 rapid tests to sites across the province to speed up screening for COVID-19, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. 
  • Rapid tests are intended to support screening programs to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Shandro said, and will help prevent outbreaks at a range of businesses and sectors:
    • 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL.
    • 267,000 to long-term care, designated-supportive living and hospice facilities.
    • 100,000 for a new pilot program offering rapid tests in two Calgary schoolsIt’s expected that one Calgary Board of Education school and one Calgary Catholic School District school will participate in the pilot.
    • 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres and other health-care sites.
    • 76,000 to WestJet.
    • 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province.

Students line up to have their hands sanitized at Eric Harvie School in northwest Calgary. The province is deploying 100,000 rapid tests for a new pilot project in two Calgary schools. (Mike Symington/CBC)

  • The tests will be used at Cargill’s High River meatpacking plant — which had the largest outbreak in Canada tied to a single site — over the next several months and the government said discussions are underway to provide tests to other meat-processing plants.
  • Mobile testing will also be used to help with the outbreak at the Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer.

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • The next update from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is set for Friday at 3:30 p.m. CBC Edmonton and Calgary will carry it live on the websites and Facebook.
  • As of Thursday, the province reported 364 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths.
  • There were 4,488 active cases across the province, a decrease of 25 from the day before.
  • The province reported 259 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 38 people in intensive care beds.
  • 10,200 coronavirus tests were completed with a positivity rate of about four per cent.
  • An additional 41 variant cases were recorded, bringing the total to 775. Of those variant cases, almost all — 760 — are the strain first identified in the U.K., and 15 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Alberta’s R-value is 0.95. An R-value below 1.0 means the rate of transmission was decreasing during that period.

The latest on vaccinations:

  • As of Thursday, the province said 317,574 doses of vaccine had been administered, and 91,366 Albertans have been fully immunized with two doses.
  • If shipments arrive as scheduled, the province says all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.

Monique Prud’homme, one of the first Albertans to receive the Covishield/AstraZeneca vaccine, on March 11, 2021, told Alberta Health Services she is ‘so excited’ and looks forward to someday having her grandchildren stay over, hosting family meals at home, visiting friends and her father. (Alberta Health Services)

  • A batch of AstraZeneca vaccine under investigation by international health authorities for possible links to blood clots is not part of Alberta’s supply.
  • Hinshaw issued a statement Thursday assuring Albertans that doses being administered in the province are safe. 
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are available at 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as well as at the 116  immunization sites operated by AHS across the province. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
  • AHS began operating a vaccination site at the Genesis Centre in Martindale in northeast Calgary on Thursday, making it the 24th immunization site operated by the province in the Calgary Zone. 

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • A southeast Calgary church that has previously been fined for defying COVID-19 safety regulations has been handed two more public health order violation tickets. Two tickets for court summons were issued to Fairview Baptist Church by community peace officers on March 8 related to physical distancing and gathering over capacity, the city said Thursday.
  • The Alberta government announced Monday that the province could step fully into Step 2 of reopening, as hospitalizations have remained below 450.
  • Retail stores and malls are now allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, and youth sports teams and activities are allowed to resume with up to 10 participants. Masks and physical distancing are still required.
  • Restrictions were eased for child, youth and adult performances, including singing, theatre and playing wind instruments, though participants must follow the same restrictions as for youth sports.
  • Banquet halls, community hall and hotels can now host permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 people, and funeral services with up to 20.
  • The province says any decisions on moving to Step 3 of the reopening will be made on March 22 at the earliest.

See which regions are being hit hardest

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported Thursday by the province:

  • Calgary zone: 1,654, up from 1,623 (50,159 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,147, down from 1,156 (52,524 recovered).
  • North zone: 813, down from 836 (11,612 recovered).
  • South zone: 438, up from 396 (6,350 recovered).
  • Central zone: 431, down from 440 (9,978 recovered).
  • Unknown: 5, down from 12 (93 recovered).

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

You can see active cases by local health area on the following interactive map. Scroll, zoom and click on the map for more information.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says rapid tests can miss identifying positive cases of COVID-19 and that care must be taken to avoid “providing a false sense of security.” 1:46

  • For the latest on what’s happening in the rest of Canada and around the world, see here.

With files from The Canadian Press

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