With nearly 750 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, the province has finalized plans for Canadian Red Cross to set up an “alternate care centre,” or tent hospital, at the University of Alberta’s Butterdome.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday the facility would create 100 more inpatient beds if needed, but that there were no plans to staff the site as of yet.
“This is a purely precautionary measure for use if needed in the future.”
The tent hospital will take several weeks to set up, Hinshaw said.
The Butterdome was used as an assessment centre in the spring.
The province confirmed 1,270 new cases of COVID-19 over some 17,500 tests in 24 hours.
Its positivity rate has dropped to 7.3 per cent, although 749 people remain in hospital with the disease. Of those, 139 are receiving intensive care.
Alberta’s top doctor also reported 16 new deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the total death tally since March to 760.
“It is a sobering statistic that in less than 10 months, more Albertans have died from COVID-19 than have died from influenza in the last 10 years combined.”
While Hinshaw said no demographic is the sole reason cases in the province rose, she reminded the public that it does affect every age group – including young adults who aren’t even the most vulnerable.
“In Alberta to date, more than 32,000 people between the ages of 20 and 39 have contracted COVID-19. More than 380 of them have been hospitalized. And sadly, eight of these have died,” she said. “To put this in perspective, if you gathered every Albertan between the ages of 20 and 39 who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they would fill the Saddledome in Calgary, the Centrium in Red Deer and the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.”
HOW VACCINE ROLLOUT WILL WORK
With the first 3,900 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses already administered in the province, and another 25,350 to arrive next week, Hinshaw took several minutes to reassure Albertans it had gone through rigorous checks at both the provincial and federal level.
Respiratory therapists, ICU staff and physicians, and long-term care and supportive living staff of designated facilities were among the first immunized.
Some of the 25,350 doses arriving next will be kept to be administered as the second dose for those who received the vaccine this week. The rest will be given to priority health care workers across the province. As the province is given the green light to transport the vaccine – which needs to be refrigerated at ultra-cold temperatures – it will look at immunizing residents of long-term and supportive living facilities.
As the first months of the new year go on, the vaccine will be available to more health care workers like home care staff and ER workers. In part ‘B’ of the first rollout phase, any Albertan aged 75 or older will be offered the vaccine, as well as those aged 65 or older on First Nations and Metis settlements, and workers in COVID-19 wards. The focus, Hinshaw said, will be people at highest risk of severe outcomes of contracting COVID-19 and the people who care for them or who are in shortest supply across the health care system.
Hinshaw said the second phase of rollout could include first responders and frontline professionals as soon as April, but that those specific groups would be decided in the new year.
“As more vaccine is available and as potentially new vaccines are licensed, we may be able to shift those dates, if things move more quickly than anticipated. But at this point, that is our anticipated timeline.”
She confirmed some “groups” have requested expedited access. Alberta Health would be considering their services when it made decisions for Phase 2, Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw urged Albertans to get immunized when a vaccine is available to the general public.
“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defense against serious infections. We’re taking every precaution, and acting on clear evidence showing this vaccine is safe for Albertans, and it works.
“When it is your turn, please get immunized. There’s an act of kindness for yourself, for your loved ones and for your community.”
Pandemic claims another life in northern BC – Prince George Citizen
The COVID-19 pandemic claimed another life in the Northern Health region, according to statistics released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Friday.
The death brings the pandemic’s death toll in the region to 48. In a joint statement issued on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix reported a total of nine new COVID-related deaths in the province. COVID-19 had claimed a total of 1,047 lives in B.C. as of Friday.
“We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Henry and Dix said.
There were 49 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the Northern Health region on Friday. The number of active cases in the region went up to 497, from 486 on Thursday, according to the B.C. CDC.
There were 44 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, including 13 in intensive care. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been 2,745 cases of COVID-19 in the region, of which 2,182 have recovered.
In their joint statement, Henry and Dix said there were a total of 509 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.
“There are 4,604 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 349 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 68 of whom are in intensive care,” they said. “Since we last reported, we have had 101 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 260 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 13 in the Island Health region, 86 in the Interior Health region, 49 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.”
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 60,117 cases in the province.
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“Currently, 7,132 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 53,115 people who tested positive have recovered,” Henry and Dix said. “To date, 75,914 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. We are disappointed to hear today there will be a short-term delay in the delivery of some of the Pfizer vaccines to British Columbia in the coming weeks as the company upgrades its production facility. We are working closely with the federal government to determine how this might impact our immunization rollout in the immediate term, and we will have more to share in the coming days.”
In pandemic politics, timing is everything – Winnipeg Free Press
Premier Brian Pallister said a disruption in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a good example of why Manitoba has been slow and cautious in its COVID-19 immunization rollout.
Government was prepared for this kind of bump in the road, he said.
However, according to the province’s own figures, Manitoba was falling behind its own vaccine schedule long before the Pfizer vaccine slowdown was announced.
Pfizer-BioNTech confirmed Friday it plans to delay some vaccine shipments (including to Canada) in the coming weeks to retool its manufacturing plants. Company officials said they expect to catch up by the end of March.
There are no details on how it will affect shipments to the provinces. But there will be a temporary reduction in doses.
Given how far behind Manitoba is in its immunization program, that slowdown may not make much of a difference.
But it does give the Pallister government political cover; the slower the shipments over the next few weeks, the easier it will be to catch up.
“I think this backs up our strategy,” Pallister said Friday. “Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
Not exactly. The provincial government expressed confidence in the supply chain two weeks ago, announcing there was no longer any need to hold back 50 per cent of doses for followup booster shots.
“I think this backs up our strategy. Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
— Premier Brian Pallister
Officials argued, rightly, there was enough certainty in the supply chain to rely on future shipments for second doses. They said they would maintain enough supply to meet demand for the following week. Beyond that, there was no plan to build up large inventories.
The province has fallen behind since then. The Pfizer delay buys time to catch up, while claiming plans were always in place for this. That’s why, late Friday, there was an announcement of a pause in new vaccination appointments (even though Pfizer shipments are still coming; there are just going to be fewer of them).
Pallister’s comments make for great political rhetoric, but they collide with the facts.
Manitoba has administered 13,539 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since the immunization program began in December. The total number of vaccines received to date is 38,890. If all 5,300 doses sent to First Nations earlier this month have been used, it means only 48 per cent of doses have been injected so far. Manitoba was scheduled to receive 7,400 doses of Moderna this week. If those doses have arrived (the province refuses to confirm when it receives shipments), only 41 per cent of doses have been administered. The rest are sitting in freezers.
Nowhere in the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout plan did it say the province planned to stockpile that much inventory in case of a supply disruption.
Part of the reason for Manitoba’s slow rollout is the delay in getting vaccines to residents of personal-care homes. The province had enough inventory to start that program in early January, but didn’t begin until Monday. In a pandemic, every day matters.
The plan is to immunize an estimated 9,834 care-home residents over 28 days. The target for the first week was 1,157, but the number has fallen well short. As of Thursday, only 281 residents had received injections.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin would not provide any explanation for the low number Friday, other than to say there will be more updates next week.
To meet the federal government’s original shipment estimates for January and February (which will now change), Manitoba would have to administer almost 2,400 doses a day.
But just 1,130 people, including care-home residents, were vaccinated between Wednesday and Friday.
The province just can’t seem to get this program off the ground. But now there’s an excuse.
It remains unclear when the Pfizer doses will be delayed, or by how much. But politically, this could be a blessing in disguise for the Pallister government.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.
Province claims residents seeing light at end of the COVID-19 tunnel – Nanaimo News NOW
The optimistic statement from the province comes as the vaccine rollout suffered a blow.
Pfizer ran into production trouble while upgrading their facility, which the province admitted will create a short-term delay in the delivery of some vaccines.
Earlier on Friday, health minister Adrian Dix said the shortage will have a significant effect in February and March when only half of the 50,000 doses expected will be delivered.
Dix said this may mean public health officials will revisit leaving 35 days between the first and second dose of the vaccine, instead of the 21 to 28 days recommended by the World Health Organization. The gap was extended in an effort to provide more of the first dose to more people.
There was good news in Dr. Henry’s statement, which confirmed 509 new COVID-19 cases with 4,604 considered active. This is a decrease of roughly two hundred in two days.
Hospitalizations dipped to 349 with the number of people in critical care at its lowest point since November.
Island Health saw 13 new cases, with 175 considered active. This is a drop of more than 20 cases in two days. Ten people are in hospital for their symptoms including two receiving critical care.
The central Vancouver Island area remains the most affected in the health authority, with roughly two thirds of all active cases.
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