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Alberta enters Friday with COVID-19 highs in daily and active cases, hospitalizations – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON —
After setting new records for daily and active cases and hospitalizations multiple times this week, Alberta broke yet another COVID-19 milestone on Friday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 1,828 cases of the disease from more than 17,200, equalling Alberta’s highest positivity rate of the pandemic so far: 10.5 per cent.

“This positivity rate is a grim milestone and one that should concern us all,” the chief medical officer said.

“I want to stress the seriousness of the rise in cases numbers we are seeing, and how crucial it is that we reduce the spread and bend the curve back down.”

There are now 18,243 coronavirus cases in Alberta, with 99 of 533 hospital patients in ICU.

The province also reported 15 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the fatal count to 590.

Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to behave this weekend, avoid crowds and opt for curbside pickup, if possible.

 “By resisting the urge to socialize this weekend and limiting your close contact with others, you are not only protecting yourself and those closest to you from the virus, but you are playing a critical role in helping to break chains of transmission, which can save lives.”

FIELD HOSPITALS AND CONTACT TRACERS

Alberta Health Services is hiring more contact tracers and planning for the scenario of having to open field hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary in case they need more bed space as cases and hospitalizations see a sharp rise.

AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, who joined Dr. Hinshaw in Friday’s briefing, said there isn’t a current need for these pop-up hospitals and called it a contingency plan.

“It is clear that Alberta’s healthcare system is under significant stress, given the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province and AHS must prepare for all scenarios. This plan is part of our ongoing proactive pandemic response planning and is one of several initiatives that will ensure our healthcare system can meet increased demand caused by COVID-19.”

AHS is also still looking to hire more contact tracers to keep up with new cases. It currently employs 900 and wants to double up that number by the end of the year.

When new infections saw a large increase in recent weeks, Hinshaw did away with contact tracers calling every new case and asked them to prioritize vulnerable Albertans.

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Canadian home sales see a record December — and a record 2020 – CBC.ca

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National home sales set an all-time record in December, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported Friday.

Sales were up 47.2 per cent compared to December 2019, the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years.

The spike in sales from November to December, 7.2 per cent, was driven by gains of more than 20 per cent in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Greater Vancouver.

It was a new record for the month of December by a margin of more than 12,000 transactions.

For the sixth straight month, sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019.

It was also a record for the entire year.

Average home price up 17%

Almost 552,000 homes traded hands over Canadian MLS systems — a new annual record. It was an increase of 12.6 per cent from 2019 and 2.3 per cent more than the previous record year, 2016. 

The actual national average home price was a record $607,280 in December, up 17.1 per cent from the final month of 2019.

The CREA said that excluding Greater Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, two of the most active and expensive markets, lowers the national average price by almost $130,000.

This chart by the Canadian Real Estate Association shows the dip in sales as the pandemic began and the subsequent rebound. (Canadian Real Estate Association)

Many of the areas with the biggest price gains last month were in Ontario, including Belleville, Simcoe, Ingersoll, Woodstock and the Lakelands region, where prices were up more than 30 per cent from December 2019.

Areas with more modest price growth included Calgary and Edmonton, where prices rose 1.5 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.

TD expects sales and prices to cool

“What a fitting end to a surprisingly strong year,” TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note to clients. “Relative strength in high-wage employment, record low mortgage rates, rising supply of homes available for purchase and solid demand for larger units all supported exceptional sales and price growth last year.

“Looking ahead, we’re expecting sales and prices to cool somewhat from their robust pace in the first quarter. However, December’s surprisingly strong performance makes hitting our forecast a tougher proposition.”

Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s senior economist, said in a statement that Canada faces a “major supply problem” in 2021.

“On New Year’s Day there were fewer than 100,000 residential listings on all Canadian MLS systems, the lowest ever based on records going back three decades,” he said.

“Compare that to five years ago, when there was a quarter of a million listings available for sale. So we have record-high demand and record-low supply to start the year. How that plays out in the sales and price data will depend on how many homes become available to buy in the months ahead.”

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Quebec confirms it will delay second vaccine dose for CHSLD residents and staff – Montreal Gazette

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On Feb. 15, Quebec will begin vaccinating seniors ages 80 and over who live at home.

Health officials told the Montreal Gazette this week that they aren’t ready to release details about the next phase of vaccination plan.

Public health authorities say they’re closely monitoring seniors in CHSLDs who have received the first dose to make sure it’s still effective weeks later, said Richard Massé, a public health epidemiologist.

Massé defended Quebec’s decision to ignore a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination, which said if provinces delay administering the second dose due to logistical or epidemiological reasons, it should be given with 42 days of the first dose.

On Thursday, Canada’s Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health, which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Health from each province and territory, also weighed in on Quebec’s plan, saying if the second dose is extended beyond 42 days, “the impact on people vaccinated must be closely monitored.”

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Wife of Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 pleads with people to get vaccinated – CTV News

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IQALUIT, NUNAVUT —
The wife of a Nunavut man who died from COVID-19 after contracting it in his community is urging the territory’s residents to get vaccinated.

Diane Sammurtok’s husband Luki died in December after being flown from his home in Arviat to a southern hospital.

Sammurtok called in to Arviat’s local radio station and pleaded with people to get the vaccine.

A recording of the call was played at a news conference today and broadcast over radio and television.

Speaking through tears and sobs, Sammurtok said she doesn’t want anyone to go through what she did.

Premier Joe Savikataaq, who is from Arviat, had tears in his eyes as he listened and his voice shook as he addressed the media.

Savikataaq urged people to stop spreading misinformation about the vaccine and said he will get it when it’s his turn.

Vaccination clinics are underway in four Nunavut communities this week and are tol roll out in four more next week.

There are no active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut.

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