Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Tuesday, Jan. 19

The latest numbers:

  • Alberta reported 474 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, out of 8,500 tests. There are now 11,923 active cases in the province, down from 12,234 cases on Sunday. The positivity rate was 5.4 per cent, down from a 6.5 per cent positivity rate the previous day.
  • There are 739 people in hospital, with 120 in intensive care, up slightly from 738 in hospital the previous day. Another 11 people have died for a total of 1,447 dead. 
  • Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta will have no more vaccine doses available to administer as first doses by the end of Monday or early Tuesday owing to the unexpected supply disruption the federal government announced last week.
  • The premier says first-dose vaccinations have wrapped up at all 357 long-term care and designated supported living facilities in the province.
  • While some health restrictions eased Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the province’s isn’t out of the woods yet. She said it’s important to continue to follow precautions and be mindful of community transmission in an effort to reduce case numbers and hospitalizations.
  • A total of 89,814 vaccines have been administered as of Sunday.
  • Kenney says Alberta currently has the capacity to deliver 50,000 doses per week and by March it’s expected the province would be able to administer about 200,000 doses per week. “But we do not have the supply to match,” he said.
  • The planned vaccination of First Nations and Métis individuals and seniors over age 75 has been put on hold.
  • Dr. Hinshaw will provide the latest infection numbers at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • Since reaching a peak on Dec. 7 of 1,767 new cases per day, the seven-day average of daily new cases has been steadily declining in Alberta. As of Jan. 17, the seven-day average was 747, which is roughly the level it was at in mid-November when the numbers were exploding. 
  • The total of active cases in Alberta has been dropping slowly but steadily since it peaked at 21,138 on Dec. 13, a day after tougher provincial restrictions kicked in that made working from home mandatory for those who could, banned in-person service at restaurants, pubs and bars, and entirely closed entertainment and recreation facilities from movie theatres to gyms, personal and wellness services like spas and hair salons. A few days earlier, the province had also instituted a mandatory provincewide mask requirement, and banned all outdoor and indoor social gatherings with people beyond one’s immediate household. 
  • Twelve schools, about 0.4 per cent, are on alert or have outbreaks, with 15 cases in total. Outbreaks have been declared in two of them, accounting for five cases. In-school transmission has likely occurred in three schools, and all three only led to one new case.
  • The provincewide R-value is 0.90meaning that each person who contracts COVID-19 will transmit coronavirus to less than one other person, on average. 

(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

See the detailed regional breakdown:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as of Monday.

  • Calgary zone: 4,463, down from 4,610 reported on Sunday (39,921 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 4,237, down from 4,303 (44,310 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,636, down from 1,704 (7,513 recovered).
  • South zone: 413, down from 415 (5,062 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,148, down from 1,182 (7,024 recovered).
  • Unknown: 26, up from 20 (111 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 from yesterday and today:

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, compares current COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations to numbers from October to explain why the province is taking a cautious approach to relaxing restrictions. 1:19

Alberta to run out of COVID-19 vaccine supply:

Kenney said Monday that because of the supply disruption the federal government announced last week, Alberta will have no more vaccine doses available to administer as first doses by the end of today or early Tuesday.

He also said no more new first dose appointments will be accepted and some first dose appointments already booked will be rescheduled over the coming days to accommodate limited supply. Doses have been allocated to ensure second doses are available for committed appointments.

The planned vaccination of First Nations and Métis individuals and seniors over age 75 has also been put on hold.

The federal government announced on Friday that shipments from Pfizer, one of two vaccine manufacturers approved for use in Canada, will be reduced until mid-February.

The Pfizer vaccine supply has been temporarily slowed because the pharmaceutical giant is cutting production to upgrade its manufacturing capacity at its facility in Belgium. The reduction affects every country receiving vaccines from the facility.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton in March. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

On the weekend, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Twitter that she had been in touch with Pfizer and had been assured the company is “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.

Anand also said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

“I want to assure Albertans that despite this setback, we remain in position to immediately ramp up and get back to record vaccination numbers once sufficient doses are delivered. We remain undeterred in our efforts to get vaccines to those who need them most,” Kenney said.

First Nations leaders frustrated:

Alberta First Nations leaders say they are frustrated with the way the province is handling COVID-19 vaccine distribution after the government paused the rollout of first doses until supply is restocked.

“The province continues to make unilateral decisions on First Nations health with questionable First Nation involvement. How many times must it be said that sovereign First Nations must be involved in the decisions that affect them?” Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras said Monday.

Marlene Poitras, regional chief for Alberta for the Assembly of First Nations, released a statement criticizing the province’s handling of COVID-19 vaccine for First Nations on Jan. 18, 2020. (Submitted by Marlene Poitras)

Poitras released a statement after Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta is expected to run out of vaccine doses by late Monday or early Tuesday, citing shortages of the Pfizer vaccine announced last week.

Kenney said Monday that means there is a pause on booking new first dose appointments, and that the expansion of the vaccination program to all Albertans over 75 and Indigenous people over 65 is being pushed back. 

To find out more, see: Alberta First Nations leaders frustrated by delay in vaccine rollout

Health restrictions eased Monday:

Alberta has eased some public health restrictions starting as of Monday, allowing personal and wellness services businesses to reopen by appointment only.

The changes impact hair salons, barber shops, esthetics, manicure and pedicure businesses, reflexology, piercing and tattoo shops, and other personal and wellness services throughout the province. 

Alberta plans to ease some COVID-19 restrictions but Health Minister Tyler Shandro has words for those who might take advantage of the changes. 0:51

Appointments should be limited to one-on-one services and businesses and clients are expected to keep following the public health guidelines.

Starting Jan. 18, up to 10 people will also be allowed to gather outdoors, and up to 20 people will be allowed to attend a funeral, with the caveat that all who attend wear masks and maintain two metres of physical distancing.

Funeral receptions are still not allowed, and indoor gatherings remain prohibited.

Post-holiday COVID-19 numbers:

Fears of a post-holiday COVID-19 surge appear not to have materialized in Alberta, and experts say current trends are encouraging, but the province still has some way to go before major public-health measures can be safely lifted.

Before the holidays, Kenney said he was concerned that Albertans might misunderstand or disregard the stricter rules imposed in December restricting family gatherings.

But it appears Albertans generally followed the rules and limited the spread of the virus.

Infectious disease expert Craig Jenne says multiple data points in January 2021 suggest Alberta is successfully curbing the spread of COVID-19 but the trends need to continue for some time before restrictions can be safely eased. 1:02

A post-holiday spike in cases would be expected to have shown up in the data by now, but so far there has been no major increase.

Analysis on Alberta and COVID-19 denialism:

In a new analysis piece, CBC’s Drew Anderson studies how anxiety, along with economic consequences, have made the province a prime breeding ground for conspiracy.

“Those forces have conspired to make Alberta a prime breeding ground for the kind of conspiratorial thinking on display, which pulls nuggets of truth from the flurry of science in real time and contorts it into a narrative of oppression. It is a near-perfect storm for the small minority caught up in it,” Anderson writes.

“The question is: how did they find themselves in its path?”

Protestors gather at the Municipal Plaza in Calgary for the walk for freedom on December 12, 2020. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Calls for restrictions to be eased:

Two United Conservative MLAs are pushing for COVID-19 restrictions to be altered on a regional basis, rather than apply the same rules across the entire province. 

Drew Barnes and Michaela Glasgo, who represent ridings that cover the Medicine Hat area, say the public health orders are often disproportionate to the low number of cases in their southeastern region.

MLAs Michaela Glasgo, left, and Drew Barnes, right, are asking the premier and health officials to consider regional pandemic restrictions instead of blanket rules for the whole province (Michaela Glasgo/Twitter, Drew Barnes/Twitter)

They’ve both heard from many constituents urging them to ask for relief from some of the measures — and that message has been relayed to the premier.

“I think it’s time to open up now,” Barnes told CBC News. “I would ask the premier to consider this strongly.”

On the front lines of COVID-19:

A Calgary emergency room physician is capturing life on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic through her camera lens. 

For the past six weeks, Dr. Heather Patterson has visited hospitals in the city to take photos of what unfolds in the hallways and patient rooms — and even in the ICU.

This Calgary doctor has been documenting COVID-19 from behind the scenes. 2:56

“As the pandemic began to affect our Calgary hospitals and community, I realized that I wanted to capture what was actually happening inside our hospitals,” Patterson told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.

“I wanted to tell the authentic story of this team of people who have a common goal, and how we’re achieving that.”

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