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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Dec. 28 –



The latest:

  • More than 1,000 Albertans have now died of COVID-19. The province logged another 112 deaths over the last five days, for a total of 1,002. 
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, provided an update on case numbers and hospitalizations on Monday, after a break over the Christmas holiday. She’ll next speak on Jan. 5, and online case numbers will be updated on Dec. 29, Dec. 30 and Jan. 4.
  • Alberta now has 15,487 active cases. On Dec. 23, it reported 1,007 new cases, 1,191 on Dec. 24, 914 on Dec. 25, 459 on Dec. 26, and 917 on Dec. 27. The province said fewer people were tested over the holidays. 
  • Hospitalizations have continued to increase, with 878 people in hospital, and 148 in intensive care. 
  • The province said the testing positivity rate hovered between 6 and 7 per cent over the last five days, and was 9.6 per cent on Sunday.
  • The first case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the U.K. has arrived in Alberta. Hinshaw said the case is linked to a person who recently arrived from the U.K., and that the person is currently in isolation. 
  • More than 6,000 Albertans have now received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
  • There are currently 1,363 active and 5,008 recovered cases at long-term care facilities. Of all reported deaths, 66 per cent have been at long-term care sites.

  • Alberta had made a one-time exemption to its social gathering rules for people who live alone, allowing them to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and 28.
  • Alberta Health Services has begun the rollout of an additional 25,350 doses of the vaccine to all health-care zones on Wednesday. More than 3,000 health-care workers in Calgary and Edmonton have received their first dose.
  • Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month’s end. The federal department announced the approval on Dec. 23 after completing a review of the company’s clinical trial data.
  • Alberta leads the country in terms of the number of passengers hit with fines or warning letters for refusing to wear a mask on board a flight, CBC reported last week.
  • Anyone who has been in the United Kingdom in the past 14 days should get tested for COVID-19, whether they’re symptomatic or not in view of the new, potentially more contagious strain of the coronavirus spreading in that country, the Alberta government said on Dec. 21. The province also said travellers from the UK who are participating in Alberta’s border pilot rapid-test program must immediately quarantine, whether they’ve had a negative test or not.
  • Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.
  • Paramedics are asking the government to expedite their access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as it’s not clear when they will be immunized. 
  • The government plans to administer the vaccine to 29,000 health-care workers by the end of December and give to long-term care residents, staff who work in long-term care and designated supportive living centres, health-care workers in the highest risk areas of hospitals and people over the age of 75 in the first quarter of 2021.

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta crossed a tragic milestone on Monday, with more than 1,000 deaths in the province due to COVID-19.

“To all those who are grieving, Alberta grieves with you. Words cannot ease the pain caused by this loss, and I know it seems unfair that public safety measures mean we cannot say a proper goodbye to those who mean so much to us,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a release. “This is part of COVID-19’s heartbreaking cost. It is why we must all work together to support those who have lost someone and do all we can to spare others from experiencing this grief.”

The province reported new case numbers and hospitalizations on Monday, after a break over the holidays.

Over the past five days, Alberta saw the following new case numbers, tests completed, and deaths: 

  • Dec. 23: 1,007 caes, 15,585 tests, 30 deaths.
  • Dec. 24: 1,191 cases, 17,845 tests, 18 deaths.
  • Dec. 25: 914 cases, 14,193 tests, 17 deaths.
  • Dec. 26: 458 cases, 6,866 tests, 27 deaths. 
  • Dec. 27: 917 cases, 9,633 tests, 20 deaths. 

Fewer tests were completed over the Christmas break, but the positivity rate was 9.6 per cent as of Sunday. 

Hospitalizations have continued to increase, with 878 people in hospital, and 148 in intensive care. 

Premier Jason Kenney says new exemption allows Albertans who live alone to spend time with others over the holiday. 2:50

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, asked people not to become complacent due to the lower case numbers and suggested planning virtual celebrations for ringing in 2021.

“Let’s finish the year strong by following both the details and the spirit of the rules that are in place,” she said on Monday.

Alberta has now reported its first case of a COVID-19 variant, linked to a traveller from the U.K. who is in isolation.

“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. 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, so we are going to be following up specifically with individuals who were seated in close rows,” Hinshaw said.

“But again, 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 new variant is believed to spread more easily and faster than the original version of the virus, based on modelling and some epidemiological data, but it is not believed to be more deadly.

The province wasn’t able to immediately provide details on enforcement of public health restrictions over the holidays, after videos circulated showing crowded shopping malls in Calgary and Edmonton on Boxing Day. 

Indoor retail spaces are limited to 15 per cent of capacity until at least mid-January. Not following the mandatory restrictions can result in fines of $1,000 or up to $100,000 through the courts.

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says the goal in 2021 is to get vaccines out and put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear-view mirror, then work to fix a battered and beleaguered economy.

But with a $21-billion deficit and Alberta’s oil and gas economy still in flux, where’s the money going to come from?

“We will not cut our way out of a $21-billion deficit,” Toews said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press. “We have to get the economy growing again. And economic recovery will very quickly become job No. 1 as we start to get past the pandemic.”

At the start of 2020, Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government was busy trying to resuscitate an already suffering economy only to see COVID-19 blow everything apart and take with it Kenney’s key election promise to balance the deficit in his first term.

That goal is now a distant memory with a projected budget deficit this year tripling an original forecast of $6.8 billion. COVID-19 has slashed demand for energy, shuttered businesses and necessitated relief aid and job supports to keep people going.

Finance Minister Travis Toews said economic recovery will be a top priority for the province in 2021 after pandemic recovery. (Trevor Wilson/CBC )

Alberta’s steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools are working, and case numbers suggest that when students do catch the virus, it’s usually outside their classrooms, says the province’s top public health doctor.

Case numbers in schools slowly increased throughout the fall, then began to rise more steeply in November, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference last week.

In late November, the province brought in new health measures that paused team sports and group performances and limited social gatherings. Junior and senior high students shifted to learning at home while elementary-age students remained at school in person.

Hinshaw said that in all three age groups, new case numbers roughly tripled from the beginning of November to the end of the month, then plateaued and have fallen over the past few weeks.

“This similar trend in all three age groups supports the other evidence we have seen suggesting that the school model in place is protective against in-school transmission,” she said. “Instead, it seems that it is mainly all the other in-person activities that children undertake that are exposing them to the virus and helping to spread COVID-19.

Alberta chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Shopping at the Noel Christmas Light Park and Market looks different this year, but as one of the few indoor activities still happening in the city, some entrepreneurs say it’s been a lifeline during a time when business should be booming.

The market, held at Calgary’s BMO Centre, has implemented capacity limits, physical distancing, and strict sanitization and disinfection procedures. Instead of enjoying treats like mini dougnuts inside, shoppers must take them to-go. And, when entering the building, attendees go through a health questionnaire which includes having their temperatures taken. 

Manager Annette McArthur says the pandemic precautions haven’t dampened shoppers’ spirits. “They’re just happy to be able to get out of their house and go somewhere that is festive and fun and makes them forget, just even for a little while, that we’re in the middle of a health crisis,” she said. 

The market will be open until Jan. 3. 

Shoppers browse at the Noel Christmas Market in Calgary. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Transport Canada has handed out dozens of tickets and warning letters to passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights. Most of those have involved Alberta. 

A review of Transport Canada data by CBC News reveals that WestJet passengers have been the hardest hit — with 50 of the 72 incidents, or nearly 70 per cent, involving passengers on the Calgary-based airline.

WestJet passengers were also issued eight of the nine fines levied, with tickets ranging from $100 to as high as $2,000.

Those who receive warning letters could be handed a bigger fine if they violate the rules a second time. Transport Canada says the fine could be as high as $5,000.

Sweeping new restrictions intended to curb the surge of COVID-19 in the province took affect on Dec. 13. They will remain in place at least for four weeks — through Christmas and New Year’s. A full list of the tighter measures is available on the province’s website.

Single parents have always shouldered extra responsibilities, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges for this growing segment of the Alberta population.

According to census data from Statistics Canada, Alberta is home to more than 186,000 lone-parent families. 

Though some share custody or have the help of a live-in partner, others have navigated the pandemic almost entirely on their own, balancing work, school and child care. 

This immersive art exhibit in Banff is helping locals find the Christmas spirit. Find out what you’re missing if you live outside the Bow Valley. 3:26

The pandemic has increased the weight of those responsibilities, according to Layna Haley, who runs support groups for single mothers online through the St. Albert-based Kaleo Collective. Her organization has seen a surge in single mothers seeking supports, she said.

Seven parents in the COVID-19 hotspots of Edmonton and Calgary shared their struggles — and successes — with CBC just days before the province enacted new restrictions. You can read them here.

Parks Canada is asking hikers and skiers heading to the trails to plan ahead, as COVID-19 restrictions may force plans to shift, especially during the winter holidays.

Daniella Rubeling, visitor experience manager for the agency’s Banff field unit, says one of the most important things to prepare for is the weather. 

“Winter weather conditions can change quickly. And as we can see today, you know, the weather conditions can be quite extreme sometimes. And so we want to make sure people are prepared with the right clothing, the right gear, checking the conditions before they go and making sure that they have some alternative plans in place,” she said on Tuesday.

“So should weather conditions change or parking lots be full … have some backup areas to visit.”

Single parents in Alberta talk about how they are handling work, school and child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 0:56

Some parts of the Rockies received between 20 and 70 centimetres of snow on Tuesday, causing road closures and putting many areas at high risk of avalanches.

Another concern, Rubeling said, is people who are new to winter outdoor recreation.

While there are some closures, there’s still plenty to do in the mountain town and park — like winter walks, cross-country skiing and fat-biking. There is also downhill skiing, but some hills like Lake Louise have moved toward a reservation system.

People can visit the Parks Canada website for details on what’s open, what’s closed, what parking lots are full and how to enjoy the park safely, Rubeling said. 

When Alberta’s COVID-19 outreach program began to reach front doors this week, volunteers say they were met with delight and appreciation.

“It’s something you don’t expect to see at your door, someone handing out at least two packages of self-protective gear and saying ‘happy holidays,'” volunteer Hanan Noor said.

Volunteers have started distributing care kits this week directly to households in the neighbourhoods hit hardest by COVID-19 in Edmonton and Calgary. Noor participated in Edmonton on Tuesday and Wednesday, going door-to-door in the Mill Woods area.

Click on the map below to zoom in or out on specific local geographic areas in Alberta and find out more about COVID-19 there:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases updated as of Dec.28:

  • Calgary zone: 5,429, down from 6,470 reported on Dec. 23. (32,152 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 7,127, down from 8,427 (34,672 recovered).
  • North zone: 1,049, down from 1,092 (5,537 recovered).
  • South zone: 301, down from 390 (4,568 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 1,484, up from 1,391 (4,708 recovered).
  • Unknown: 51, down from 117 (150 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

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 552,020, with 79,863 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,964.

A new lockdown began in Ontario where officials reported a two-day total of 4,301 cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 2,005 more cases on Sunday. Locally, there were 572 new cases in Toronto, 331 in Peel Region, 207 in York Region and 140 in Windsor-Essex County.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23 but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

Under the new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout and delivery, while non-essential stores can only provide curbside pickup and delivery. Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that sell food can stay open but with capacity limits and physical-distancing measures.

Manitoba reported 28 additional deaths on Sunday that included cases from Dec. 24 to Dec. 27, bringing the province’s total deaths linked to the coronavirus to 645. More than 500 new cases were also identified in the same period, bringing the provincial total to 24,145.

Saskatchewan reported 559 new cases, seven new deaths and 500 new recoveries for the same period.

In Quebec, a provincewide lockdown went into effect on Dec. 25, with businesses deemed non-essential ordered to remain closed until at least Jan. 11. The province did not publish data on the number of new infections or deaths on Friday or Saturday.

A count released on Sunday shows Quebec has recorded 6,783 more cases since Dec. 24, with 110 new deaths.

New Brunswick announced two new cases, which means the province now has 38 active cases. There have been eight deaths and one person is in hospital, in the intensive care unit.

With Ontario joining Manitoba and Quebec in closing non-essential retail stores for in-person shopping and much of the rest of Canada curtailing in-store capacity, the new rules have been having an effect on Boxing Day shopping. The limitations are forcing bargain hunters in many parts of the country to look online for deals instead of lining up and crowding into stores in person.

Newfoundland and Labrador announced three new confirmed cases on Sunday since its last update on Dec. 24, one of which is travel related. Two of the cases involve residents who returned to the province after working in Alberta and who are now self isolating, according to the provincial Health Department.

Self-assessment and supports:

With winter cold and influenza season upon us, Alberta Health Services will prioritize Albertans for testing who have symptoms, and those groups which are at higher risk of getting or spreading the virus.

General asymptomatic testing is currently unavailable for people with no known exposure to COVID-19.

Those who test positive will be asked to use the online COVID-19 contact tracing tool, so that their close contacts can be notified by text message.

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services’ latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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2 people in their 20s in Calgary zone among Alberta’s COVID-19 fatalities Saturday – Global News



Two people in their 20s with no known pre-existing conditions were added to Alberta’s COVID-19 fatality list on Saturday.

Alberta recorded a total of 13 additional deaths Saturday, including a woman and a man in their 20s, both in Calgary zone. Neither had known co-morbidities, Alberta Health said.

Officials said the man died on Jan. 16, while the woman’s death was recorded Jan. 18.

Read more:
Coronavirus: London-Middlesex reports death of teen – youngest in the region

The province also added 573 new cases of the disease. The active case numbers in the province now sit at 9,727, with 820 new recoveries outweighing the new cases and deaths.

The positive cases come from 10,894 new tests, giving a provincial positivity rate of just over five per cent.

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Hospitalizations are also down, with 676 people currently in hospital, 114 of whom are in intensive care.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said on social media Saturday that even as numbers drop, the province needs to continue to follow health orders to keep them trending downwards.

According to the provincial numbers, 1,022 Albertans received vaccine doses on Jan. 22.

Read more:
What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist

Alberta has been affected by shortages of COVID-19 vaccine supply that have led to a pausing of first doses and delays for some second doses in the province, although Hinshaw said this week that she believes there is enough vaccine to distribute second doses.

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“At the moment, we don’t anticipate needing to push our second dose appointments past the 42 days,” she said Tuesday.

Click to play video 'What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist'

What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist

What to know about 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta as shortages persist

Of the 13 deaths reported Saturday, only five were connected to outbreaks at long-term care homes.

The rest were people who were not in care.

In the Edmonton zone, three men in their 80s with pre-existing conditions who were connected to the outbreak at Youville Home, the outbreak at Terra Losa Lifestyle Options, and the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre died.

A woman in her 60s in Edmonton zone with comorbidities died.

In the Calgary zone, along with the two fatalities of people in their 20s, a man in his 70s with pre-existing conditions who was linked to the outbreak at Academy of Aging also died.

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The North zone saw four fatalities recorded, A man in his 60s with pre-existing conditions died in the William J.Cadzoe – Lac La Biche Healthcare Centre outbreak.

Also in North zone, a man and woman in their 70s and a woman in her 80s, all with comorbidities but none connected to outbreaks, died.

Two men in their 50s died in Central zone. Neither had any known pre-existing conditions.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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2 Albertans in their 20s among the 13 COVID-19 deaths reported Saturday – CTV Edmonton



Two Albertans in their 20s are among the 13 COVID-19 fatalities the province reported on Saturday. 

The deaths of one man and one woman both occurred in the Calgary Zone, which is significantly bigger than the city itself. 

Neither death involved any confirmed comorbidities. Fourteen people under the age of 40 have now died due to COVID-19, including seven under the age of 30.

The province’s death toll now stands at 1,525 people.

The province reported 573 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday as active cases fell for a seventh straight day. Its total case count also rose above the 120,000 mark to 120,330.

Hospitalizations continue a general downward trend as the number of COVID-19 patients fell by 27, to 676. The number of patients in intensive care units fell by one to 114. 

The province administered 10,894 tests with a 5.32 per cent positivity rate.

More than 98,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to Albertans.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will return for an in-person update on Monday. 

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WestJet cancels Boeing 737 MAX flight moments before takeoff | Venture – Daily Hive



WestJet cancelled a Boeing 737 MAX flight after it had already left its gate at Calgary International Airport on January 22.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed to Daily Hive that WestJet flight WS658, which was supposed to travel to Toronto, had to return to its gate after push off on Friday morning.

“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” said Lauren Stewart, a media relations manager at WestJet.

“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board.”

The flight, as well as its Toronto to Calgary return, were cancelled in the interest of passenger’s time. Guests were rebooked on the next available flight.

Stewart stressed that the decision to cancel the flight was only made because there was space on a Toronto-bound Dreamliner flight.

Had passengers not already been on their way, the WS658 flight would have operated as normal following the all-clear by a maintenance team, she said. The plane has since been inspected and will return to operation on January 24.

“There was no safety risk to our guests and this was unrelated to any previous matter,” Stewart said.

In March 2019, Transport Canada grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes across the country following a pair of deadly crashes that killed 346 people.

The aircraft’s return-to-service was approved on January 18, 2021. WestJet began flying the planes on January 21, the first airline in Canada to do so in nearly two years.

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