More than 1,000 people have now died from COVID-19 in Alberta, though active cases have continued to follow a downward trend over the past five days.
The declining case numbers seen over the holiday season are, in part, due to the fact that laboratories have performed fewer tests in recent days, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference on Monday.
Yet despite the drop in active and new cases, the number of people being treated in hospitals for the illness has not declined.
Hinshaw provided case numbers for the most recent five-day period.
- Dec. 23 — Alberta reported 1,007 new cases, completed 15,585 tests and added 30 more deaths.
- Dec. 24 — Alberta reported 1,191 new cases, completed 17,845 tests and added 18 more deaths.
- Dec. 25 — Alberta reported 914 new cases, completed 14,193 tests and added 17 more deaths.
- Dec. 26 — Alberta reported 459 new cases, completed 6,866 tests and added 27 more deaths.
- Dec. 27 — Alberta reported 917 new cases, completed 9,633 tests and added 20 more deaths.
That brings the death toll since the pandemic began to 1,002.
As of Monday, the province had 15,487 active cases, while 878 people were being treated in hospitals for the virus, including 148 in ICU beds.
Hinshaw characterized Monday’s update as “difficult,” given that she had to report 112 deaths had been added to the total over that five-day period.
Fewer tests over the holidays
It will likely take several weeks before the trend of declining cases is reflected in the number of deaths and hospitalizations and ICU admissions, she said.
“We know that things like deaths, hospitalizations, ICU, those are what we call lagging indicators, because they do happen at a delay of one to two weeks after we start to see our case numbers change,” she said.
“So we would expect that those numbers would take longer to start to come down than our case numbers.”
Over the holidays, fewer people went to testing centres, she said, so the lower number of tests would translate into lower numbers of positive cases.
The positivity rate over much of that five-day period shifted between six and seven per cent, but jumped to more than nine per cent on Dec. 27, she said.
New variant appears in Alberta
The province’s top public health doctor announced that Alberta has reported its first case of a new variant of the virus, first seen earlier this month in the United Kingdom.
“It is important to remember that the public health measures in place are protective against this variant, and the best thing we can do to protect each other is to follow them,” Hinshaw said.
“Following public health measures is in part also contributing to our declining cases.”
There is some evidence that the variant may be more infectious than other strains of the virus, she said, but there is no evidence that it has spread in the province beyond that single case.
“We are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to be able to get the flight details and the list of individuals who were on the same plane,” Hinshaw said.
“There’s a time delay between when that individual arrived and when the symptoms began, and so it’s something that’s a theoretical possibility of transmission … at the moment, we have looked at the situation and believe that the risk is very low, but we will be making those phone calls to make sure that we are providing that additional information to anyone who may have been seated near this individual on the flight.”
The encouraging downward trends reflect the collective actions taken by Albertans over the past two weeks, Hinshaw said.
“We must remain attentive to the orders in place and continue to follow them closely to make sure that we don’t see a spike in mid-January that ignites a dangerous spread in 2021.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement calling the death toll a “tragic milestone” and said those 1,002 people were mothers, fathers, husbands or wives who will be mourned and missed.
“But even as we reach this painful milestone, there is reason for hope,” Kenney said.
“As of today, more than 6,000 Albertans have received their first vaccine doses. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so on this grim day, I ask all Albertans to double down on our public health measures. Let’s prevent as many Albertans as we can from experiencing the same pain and loss that so many already have.”
NDP Official Opposition deputy leader Sarah Hoffman offered her condolences to the families and friends of those who have died of COVID-19.
“We continue to call on Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP to do more to prevent the spread and further tragic loss of life,” Hoffman said in a statement.
“We need more staff in Alberta’s continuing care centres, we need an actual plan for school re-entry in January and we need updated modelling on COVID-19 so that we have the facts and transparency on the risks we face as this pandemic carries on.”
Source: – CBC.ca
Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”
In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.
Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.
The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.
But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”
At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.
Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.
“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.
In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.
($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.
Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.
“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.
Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.
Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.
“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)