Alberta recorded 30 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, the highest number ever reported on a single day, prompting the province’s top health official to reflect on the “heartbreaking” number and the importance of following restrictions.
“This is a heartbreaking figure,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday at a news conference. “While these deaths did not all occur yesterday, this is the highest figure that I have had the sad task of reporting.
“If anyone still needs reminding of the seriousness of this virus, of the importance of the restrictions that are currently in place, and the importance of doing everything possible to limit our interactions and break the chains of transmission, this is it,” Hinshaw said.
“There are now 790 Albertans who have died as a result of COVID-19.”
The province reported 1,571 new cases over the 24-hour period that ended at midnight Wednesday. There were 763 people being treated in Alberta hospitals for the illness, including 138 in ICU beds.
There were 19,865 active cases as of Wednesday, the first time that total has dropped below 20,000 since Dec. 5.
The regional breakdown of active cases was:
- Edmonton zone: 9,525
- Calgary zone: 7,043
- Central zone: 1,462
- North zone: 1,214
- South zone: 541
- Unknown: 80
Laboratories completed 19,800 more tests, for a positivity rate of 7.9 per cent.
‘We can and must celebrate differently’
Hinshaw noted that seasonal holidays are about a week away and reminded the public to follow the restrictions put in place by the province.
“This year we can and must celebrate differently,” she said. “Holiday gatherings with people outside of your household are not only against the restrictions that are in place, they are also the wrong thing to do right now.”
The safest way for people to celebrate this year is within their own household, or with two designated close contacts for those who live alone, Hinshaw said.
“I want to be clear that the compassionate choice is to follow the rules. It may not seem like a big deal to get together with your extended family or group of friends. If you all feel fine, you may think that there is no risk of catching COVID-19 or passing it on to others. But that is simply wrong.”
Hinshaw said there have been many examples of people attending gatherings when they have mild symptoms such as headaches or stuffy noses that they didn’t connect with COVID-19, or were infectious and didn’t know it.
“The result has been one case spreading to many,” she said. “That is how cases rise and outbreaks start. These orders are not recommendations. They are legal restrictions, and for them to be effective we need everyone to do their part. Thank you to all those who are changing plans and finding joy in different ways this year.”
During her update, Hinshaw said as of Wednesday evening 394 health-care workers had received their first doses of vaccine.
“I know that many people want to be vaccinated immediately, and that is a good thing,” she said. “There are about 4.4 million Albertans. It will take time to get enough vaccine to offer to everyone who wants it.
“Please be patient while we all wait for our turn, and be supportive of those who are in the initial groups to be immunized.”
The distribution plan will begin with critical health-care and long-term care workers and residents in continuing care.
“These are people who are most at risk, and who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day,” she said.
Public health teams fanning out
The Alberta government announced this week that public health teams will fan out across the hardest hit parts of Edmonton and Calgary to help residents try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The province identified 11 areas with high transmission rates where those efforts will concentrate, nine in Edmonton and two that cover all of northeast Calgary (east of the Deerfoot Trail)
Here’s what case numbers look like in those areas, according to the latest update:
- Calgary, Upper Northeast, 1,305.5 cases per 100,000 population, and 1,501 active cases
- Calgary, Lower Northeast, 760.1 cases per 100,000 population, and 732 active cases
- Edmonton, Northeast, 904.4 cases per 100,000 population, and 804 active cases
- Edmonton, Northgate, 821.6 cases per 100,000 population, and 677 active cases
- Edmonton, Castle Downs, 769.9 cases per 100,000 population, and 543 active cases
- Edmonton, Woodcroft West, 676.9 cases per 100,000 population, and 684 active cases
- Edmonton, Woodcroft East, 756.9 cases per 100,000 population, and 457 active cases
- Edmonton, Jasper Place, 828.6 cases per 100,000 population, and 390 active cases
- Edmonton, Eastwood, 957.3 cases per 100,000 population, and 695 active cases
- Edmonton, Abbottsfield, 729 cases per 100,000 population, and 106 active cases
- Edmonton, Mill Woods West, 895.9 cases per 100,000 population, and 548 active cases
For comparison sake, here are four other urban areas in Alberta:
- City of Lethbridge, 206.1 cases per 100,000, and 204 active cases.
- City of Medicine Hat, 124.9 cases per 100,000, and 85 active cases.
- City of Red Deer, 393.6 cases per 100,000, and 417 active cases.
- City of Grande Prairie, 162.8 cases per 100,000, and 120 active cases.
WestJet Boeing 737 MAX flight grounded at Calgary airport after ‘potential fault’ warning – Global News
According to WestJet, Flight WS658 had passengers on board and was getting ready to take off, when it was “returned to the gate after push back.”
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said in an emailed statement.
“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board.”
1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding
Stewart said the flight was cancelled, and the 35 passengers were instead put on Flight WS662, boarding a planned Dreamliner flight “only because we didn’t want to keep them waiting.” The aircraft’s return flight, WS665 from Toronto to Calgary, was also cancelled.
The Boeing 737 MAX was cleared for flight shortly after the passengers got off, and is set to return to service on Sunday, Stewart said.
According to the Calgary airport’s website, WS658 was set to take off at 8 a.m. Stewart said all of the guests on the original flight have since landed in Toronto.
WestJet flew Canada’s first commercial flight on a 737 MAX in almost two years just one day prior, after the aircraft was taken out of Canadian skies following two deadly crashes.
Chris Bauenbusch, president of CUPE Local 4070 which represents WestJet’s flight attendants, was on the cancelled flight, working as a flight attendant, when the plane had to return to the gate.
He said in the airline industry, it’s “common to have the odd hiccup here and there.”
“Obviously there’s a heightened focus on a model of aircraft coming back into service, such as what’s happening with that aircraft,” he said. “But these are common things that happen on a daily basis.”
Bauenbusch said from a union perspective, they have no issues with their members flying on the aircraft.
“The union maintains… that this is a safe aircraft, through all the rigor that it’s been put through,” he said.
In a statement, Transport Canada said it was aware of the flight that “opted to return to the gate.”
“We understand the pilots made this decision due to a cockpit warning light that signaled before departure,” the agency said.
“This incident is not related to the previous grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19 vaccine delay doesn't take away from Ont.'s failures: Doctor – CTV News
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WestJet halts Boeing 737 Max jet before takeoff after warning light in cockpit – CBC.ca
WestJet temporarily grounded a Boeing 737 Max jet that was supposed to fly from Calgary to Toronto on Friday after a warning light came on in the cockpit prior to takeoff.
Flight 658 was boarded and preparing to take off when a warning light came on.
“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart told CBC News.
“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board [so] in the interest of our guests’ time, we cancelled Flight 658 and its return 665 (Toronto/Calgary), and we rebooked them on the next available flight to ensure a timely arrival in Toronto.”
The airline says passengers were boarded onto a 787 jet and flew as planned within the hour.
Jet in question cleared to fly again
The jet in question has already been cleared and is on track for its next flight on Sunday.
The Calgary-based airline’s fleet of 13 Max jets were grounded for almost two years after more than 300 people died in two high profile crashes of the jets, operated by Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air in 2018 and 2019.
WestJet grounded its fleet of Max jets like most airlines around the world did until earlier this month, when flight authorities cleared the jets for takeoff again.
The flight would have been the jet in question’s first flight since being approved for use again, and only the third Max flight at WestJet overall since reintroduction this week.
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