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

The latest:

  • Alberta reported 301 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, down from 415 the day before.
  • There are 4,584 active cases across the province as well as three more deaths.
  • Hospitalizations continue to decline — there are 250 people being treated in hospital for COVID-19, a decrease of 12 from the day before. There are now 46 in intensive care beds.
  • The province is well below its 450 hospitalizations benchmark for moving to Step 2, which officials have said could happen as early as Monday.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the government will also consider leading indicators like R-value, new cases and positivity rate when deciding to move to the next phase of reopening. 
  • A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures.
  • Hinshaw is set to provide an update on Monday at 3:30 p.m.
  • The province confirmed on Sunday a total of 430 cases of people infected with a coronavirus variant — 422 of the strain first identified in the U.K. and eight of the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Alberta’s R-value has increased to 1.03, meaning that more than one person on average contracts COVID-19 from each positive case. An R-value above 1.0 indicates exponential growth. Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the R-value is much higher, at 1.13. 
  • The testing positivity rate is 4.03 per cent, down from 5.3 per cent the previous day.
  • The province’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout has now seen 227,678 doses of vaccine administered. That number includes 87,695 Albertans who are fully immunized with two doses of the vaccine. 
  • Alberta Health Services said Friday that more than 110,000 Alberta seniors born in 1946 or earlier are now booked to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated and that more than half of Alberta’s population over 75 have been vaccinated or are booked to be vaccinated.
  • The head of Alberta Health Services apologized for the “frustration and worry” caused by problems during the launch of its online COVID-19 vaccine appointment booking system. 
  • Alberta Health confirmed Friday there are now three deaths linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel meat-packing plant in Red Deer.
  • Health Canada approved use of the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca on Friday, clearing the way for millions of more inoculations in Canada.
  • The pandemic derailed the Alberta government’s plans to return to a balanced budget, as Thursday it proposed nearly $62 billion in spending for 2021-22.
  • Appointments for Albertans born in 1946 or earlier are supposed to be booked online or by calling 811.
  • They are to be booked at 58 sites around the province, between 8:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m., seven days a week. The government has said that those hours will be extended as more doses arrive. More than 230,000 seniors will be eligible. 
  • Shandro said vaccinations for those 75 and older will soon be available at 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as well as at the AHS sites. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
  • Cases in Alberta’s long-term care homes have plummeted by 92 per cent following vaccinations.
  • Premier Jason Kenney said all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living have now received their second shot of the vaccine.
  • Shandro said Thursday that family doctors and their clinical staff will be included in Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That’s expected to take place between April and September.

See the detailed regional breakdown

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as of Sunday:

  • Calgary zone: 1,551, up from 1,545 (48,967 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 970, up from 926 (51,797 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,059, up from 1,044 (10,690 recovered).
  • South zone: 319, up from 314 (6,100 recovered).
  • Central zone: 670, down from 702 (9,386 recovered).
  • Unknown: 15, unchanged (94 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


Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

The recent expiry of a ministerial order means some Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce COVID-19 rules under the public health act.

According to a bulletin posted online by the Alberta government, level one community peace officers and level two Alberta peace officers saw those temporary enforcement powers expire earlier this week.

Terri Miller, president of the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers, said that order gave the officers the ability to enforce the public health act while working in tandem with local police and Alberta Health.

“Once the ministerial order is removed, their ability to enforce under that public health act is also removed,” Miller said. “So the onus would fall back on local police agencies, such as the RCMP.”

Some Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce COVID-19 rules under the public health act after the expiration of a ministerial order. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Municipal bylaws in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t affected by the announcement.

The Alberta government initially gave municipal peace officers the power to fine people under the public health act in March of last year. Those powers were rescinded when the province cancelled the public health emergency.

The order issued Nov. 27 gave peace officers the power to fine a second time, and contained a sunset clause that allowed it to expire after 90 days. 

WestJet says it has reached a tentative agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees on a first collective agreement that would cover more than 3,100 cabin crew if ratified.

CUPE has represented cabin crew at Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. since 2018 and has engaged the company in collective bargaining toward a union contract since April 2019.

WestJet has reached a tentative deal with cabin crews represented by CUPE. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

In a statement, CUPE Local 4070 president Chris Rauenbusch characterized the news as a “monumental task” given COVID-19 travel restrictions and layoffs.

“[This is] an unprecedented achievement at the height of trying times for our industry,” he said.

The union and the company now will await a ratification vote from the membership. In a statement, Ed Sims, WestJet’s president and CEO, said he was pleased with the development.

The head of Alberta Health Services has apologized for the “frustration and worry” caused by problems during the launch of its online COVID-19 vaccine appointment booking system. 

AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu released a statement Friday, saying she wants to acknowledge the anger felt by seniors and their families who ran into technical difficulties when the provincial booking system became overwhelmed after opening to those 75 and older on Wednesday.

‘I’m excited to finally get my vaccine,’ Richard Wright, 75, told AHS staff. He received his first dose of the vaccine Wednesday in Grande Prairie. ‘I’m hoping to be able to safely visit friends and family this summer.’ (AHS)

The site repeatedly crashed and the 811 phone line jammed as Albertans tried for hours to book appointments.

“I want to publicly and personally apologize to anyone who experienced frustration, anger, or worry over what should be a hopeful time in the pandemic response,” she said.

Yiu said that AHS made “an error in judgement” when it stress-tested the booking system, and underestimated how many people would use the online tool and call 811 to try and book an appointment at launch time.

In her statement, Yiu also addressed reports of line-ups at immunization clinics, as seniors have queued to get their shots.

“Everyone who has an appointment is being vaccinated, and we have put in place better line management and process at the sites to encourage people to wait in their vehicles until their time slot,” she said.

“Some of the clinics are behind schedule because we are taking time with each person, and we may need to extend the 10-minute allotment for each immunization. We are looking at that, and learning how to be efficient, caring, and respectful of all Albertans.”

The union representing Calgary’s transit workers says despite an overall drop in ridership, a steady number of operational issues indicate a need to bring back some of the transit workers laid off last spring.

Approximately 450 workers were laid off last spring and routes were scaled back or temporarily suspended after revenues and ridership plunged due to COVID-19.

Mike Mahar, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, says staff are now complaining about too much overtime, too many overloaded buses and sporadic bus breakdowns that lead to “no shows” because there’s no one to backfill.

A man wears a face mask as he waits for transit in Calgary on March 18. Transit workers say more staff is needed for overburdened system. (The Canadian Press)

Mahar said within the last week, a charter transit bus ran into problems and left students at a high school scrambling to find another way home.

“Normally Calgary Transit will have, you know, five or six or seven people on what they call standby, and as soon as the bus breaks down, they dispatch another bus with another driver,” he said. “They can’t do that when they’ve maxed themselves out, there’s just no resources left.”

A group of Edmonton medical staff are calling on the province to delay plans to move forward with further relaxation of COVID-19 measures.

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMA) released a letter Friday saying that instead of moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan, the Alberta government should close bars and restaurants to indoor service or, at least, institute capacity limits. 

Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of EZMA’s pandemic committee, worries that the province is getting ahead of itself. 

“You’re virtually guaranteeing that you are going to miss the signal,” Talbot said.

“They should be waiting longer if they are going to use hospitalizations [as a lagging indicator] and in fact they should be using active cases.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer, said the province would not make a decision to further ease restrictions until Monday at the earliest.  After a steady decline since December, Alberta’s daily new cases and test positivity rate have plateaued and showed signs of trending upward since the province entered Step 1 on Feb. 8, which included reopening bars and restaurants for in-person service.

Alberta Health confirmed two more deaths linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Olymel meatpacking plant in Red Deer on Friday, bringing the total to three.

Henry De Leon, 50, who worked at the plant for 15 years, died on Wednesday after spending three weeks on a ventilator, his family told CBC News. 

The Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer, Alta. A COVID-19 outbreak at the site has infected as many as 1 in 5 workers, Alberta Health Services says. (CBC)

The other Olymel outbreak-related death reported by the province on Friday was a woman in her 60s, who died on Sunday.

Alberta Health does not report the identities of people who die of COVID-19. 

The first COVID-19 death linked to the outbreak was Darwin Doloque, 35, who died on Jan. 28

There are 500 cases linked to the outbreak at the Red Deer meatpacking plant, according to the most recent update from Alberta Health. Of those, 156 are considered active.

Fixated on bolstering the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has postponed its promise of a fiscal reckoning to a later, undetermined time.

A government that one year ago insisted the province had a spending problem will now raise Alberta’s planned expenses by eight per cent compared to last year, proposing nearly $62 billion in spending for 2021-22.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said Alberta’s situation has changed dramatically, and so should the government’s plans.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews speaks at a news conference at the legislature Thursday. (CBC)

“I’m not happy with COVID-19 and the pandemic, and having to deal with the resulting economic challenges of the province,” Toews said at a Thursday news conference before tabling the budget.

“This is where we find ourselves, and we have to adjust to make sure that we’re delivering the most competent, responsible governance possible.”

Among the planned spending this year is a $1.25-billion contingency fund to respond to COVID-19, which includes vaccination rollout. 

With an estimated $43.7 billion in revenue, Toews predicted an $18.2-billion deficit in the coming year — one of the largest in the province’s history.

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

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