Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Feb. 24

The latest:

  • Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw will not be providing a live update until March 1.
  • Alberta Health Services’ phone lines were jammed and the government website crashed by 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the first day that all Albertans 75 and older could book COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Albertans born in 1946 or earlier were able to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine appointment starting Wednesday at 8 a.m. MT.  Appointments are supposed to be booked online or by calling 811.
  • Appointments 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. 
  • Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that 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.
  • Shandro said AHS was working to fix delays Albertans were experiencing in booking vaccines through AHS, and that as of mid-afternoon, 25,000 appointments had been booked and the system had expanded capacity to book 5,000 appointments per hour. 
  • 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.
  • 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 4.6 per cent, up from 4.4 per cent the previous day. However some regions, like northern Alberta, are seeing testing positivity rates as high as 10 per cent.
  • Alberta reported 430 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, compared with 267 new cases reported the previous day.
  • There were 4,545 active cases, down from 4,516 the previous day.
  • Thirteen more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,866.
  • There were 307 people in hospital, including 56 in intensive care.
  • The province has confirmed a total of 323 cases of people infected with a coronavirus variant — 316 of the strain first identified in the U.K. and seven of the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Hinshaw says the province will wait until after March 1 to make a decision on moving to Stage 2 of reopening because the R-value and positivity rate have increased while new cases have plateaued rather than continued a downward trend. 
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry announced Tuesday morning that the city’s state of local emergency has been extended for another 90 days. 
  • As of Monday, most international air passengers have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results. All travellers flying into Canada from abroad land in one of four cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal — and are responsible for booking their own rooms there even if they plan on travelling on to other destinations. Those with negative results on their arrival tests will be able to take connecting flights to their final destinations. 
  • RCMP said in a news release that observations were made that the GraceLife Church in Parkland County west of Edmonton held service beyond the designated capacity on Sunday.
  • Pastor James Coates of the GraceLife Church was brought into custody last week after his arrest on two counts of contravening the Public Health Act and on one criminal charge for failing to comply with a condition of an undertaking. He will appear in court on Wednesday
  • An outbreak at the Cargill plant near High River has reached 22 cases, six of which are active. 
  • The Canadian military is defending its decision to send around 500 members to Fort Polk, La. — including members of the  Edmonton-based 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1CMBG) — this week to participate in a three-week long exercise with roughly 4,500 U.S. troops. One Edmonton soldier called it a “trivial exercise” that  needlessly puts troops at risk of COVID-19.  
  • Alberta has administered 186,572 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 77,354 Albertans fully immunized, having received two doses.
  • A total of 235 schools, or around 10 per cent of all schools in the province, are experiencing outbreaks.

See the detailed regional breakdown:

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,564, down from 1,612 reported on Tuesday (48,482 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 925, down from 930 (51,469 recovered).
  • North zone: 942, up from 875 (10,443 recovered).
  • South zone: 353, up from 350 (5,973 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 759, up from 745 (9,161 recovered).
  • Unknown: 2, down from 4 (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:


Alberta’s vaccination booking system overwhelmed on 1st day that all seniors born in 1946 and older eligible

Alberta Health Services’ phone lines are jammed and the government website has crashed on the first day that Albertans born in 1946 or earlier can book COVID-19 vaccinations.

An additional 230,000 seniors age 75 and older are now eligible for the vaccine, along with all those in Phase 1A who are still receiving theirs, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Alberta Health Services said Wednesday morning that it is experiencing “very high volumes” and that if users are having trouble accessing the website, to try again soon. 

Multiple people who called Health Link at 811 reported not being able to get through on the phone lines at all or being partially through the booking process only to be disconnected.

Others reported the same on the Alberta Health Services online booking tool, with the site either being down entirely or crashing as they were mid-way through booking an appointment.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that, as of mid-afternoon, 25,000 people had successfully booked appointments. He said system capacity had been increased to allow 5,000 bookings per hour.

Shandro also announced that 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as well as at the AHS sites will soon offer vaccination appointments for those 75 and older. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.


Albertans born in 1946 or earlier can book COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting Wednesday

Starting Wednesday at 8 a.m. MT, Albertans born in 1946 or earlier will be able to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine appointment.

Appointments can be booked online or by calling 811. There’s expected to be high demand, so the province is asking people to be patient. 

The appointments will be booked at 58 sites around the province, between 8:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m., seven days a week. Those hours will be extended as more doses arrive. More than 230,000 seniors will be eligible. 

Family members are allowed to book appointments for seniors but should make sure they have photo ID or an Alberta health card.

Seniors who can’t find transportation to their appointments can call 211 for help.


Optimism, relief as Alberta’s long-term care centres see significant drop in COVID-19 cases

After months of worrying about the risk of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, Nicole Bugeaud is finally feeling some relief.

Bugeaud’s sister, Dominique, has Down Syndrome and lives at Centre de Santé Saint-Thomas, a supportive living facility in Edmonton.

Nicole Bugeaud is feeling a sense of relief now that her sister, who lives in St. Thomas Manor a supportive living facility in Edmonton, has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Francois Joly/CBC News)

The past year has been a rollercoaster for Nicole and her family, but now that her sister has received both doses of the vaccine, she says things are getting better.

“It was a difficult year in the sense that things were evolving very quickly, cases were erupting everywhere, protocols were put in place limiting visitations,” Bugeaud said.

“Trying to explain to her that what was going on wasn’t easy. But in the last couple of months, things have gone better. Cases have gone down, two-shot vaccinations were completed for all residents and things seem to be calming down a lot more.”


Alberta to hold off on making decision on Stage 2 reopening until March

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said as the R-value and the positivity rate have increased and new cases have plateaued — rather than continuing a downward trend, as hoped — the province will wait until after March 1 to make a decision on moving to Stage 2 of reopening. 

That’s so the province can take extra time to evaluate what those numbers mean, Hinshaw said, and whether the increases are significant. 

“In terms of what’s concerning or not concerning, we want to see our case counts either being stable or going down. Because when cases start to grow, if that’s sustained over time, then we can get into a situation like we were in in the fall,” she said during Monday’s update. 

“And that’s why we need to take the full three weeks, to be able to look very closely at where those numbers are coming from. Are there patterns? Are there things that we can do to be able to target particular locations? And give us that chance to fully evaluate whether this is a few-day fluctuation or whether this is a longer trend that is concerning.”

Alberta’s R-value has grown to 1.03, meaning that more than one person on average contracts COVID-19 from each positive case. Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the R-value is much higher at 1.13. 


After criticism, Premier Jason Kenney condemns racist elements at Edmonton torch rally

After two days of silence and criticism from other political leaders, Premier Jason Kenney on Monday condemned the racist elements and symbolism of a weekend torch rally at the Alberta legislature.

The event was held to protest public health measures used to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some anti-lockdown protesters carried lit torches, a symbol of white supremacy used by the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, and more recently by white supremacists at the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

In a written statement sent at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Kenney acknowledged the source of the torch imagery used in posters promoting the event, and the affiliations of some people involved.

Anti-lockdown protesters surrounded police during scuffles at a rally on the legislature grounds on Saturday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC News )

“I understand that publicity for this event incorporated an image apparently taken from the notorious 2017 Charlottesville torch rally, which was an explicitly white supremacist event,” Kenney said in a statement issued through his press secretary.

“Prominent racists promoted Saturday’s protest at the legislature, and individuals attended the event from known hate groups like the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ and ‘Urban Infidels.’ I condemn these voices of bigotry in the strongest possible terms.”

For more, see: After criticism, Premier Jason Kenney condemns racist elements at Edmonton torch rally


Most air passengers entering Canada now under new travel rules

Beginning Monday, most air passengers entering Canada must comply with new travel measures, including a pricey hotel quarantine.

Most air passengers will now have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results.

Passengers must pre-book their hotel stay before arriving in Canada.

On Friday, the federal government posted online a list of approved quarantine hotels. Eighteen are currently listed.

There is no option to book online, so travellers must call a dedicated phone line to reserve a room.

Once they get through on the phone line, passengers must reserve a room for three nights — even though they only have to stay for as long as it takes to get their test results.

Travellers who test negative can leave immediately and finish the rest of their 14-day quarantine at home. Those who need to take a connecting domestic flight can book it at this point and fly home.


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