Alberta is not bringing in any new health measures, despite Friday’s announcement of a record 1,155 new cases of COVID-19.
“Our current situation is grim,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.
But Hinshaw said officials are waiting to see if measures announced one week ago have an effect on case numbers before pursuing further restrictions to slow the spread.
“Of course, I am concerned,” she said. “The measures that we have put in place over the past several months may have somewhat slowed the growth, but they have not bent the curve as much as we need to.
“And we do need everyone to pull together to follow all of those measures to the letter, or unfortunately we will need to put in additional restrictions.”
Alberta has one of the highest infection rates in the country, but has among the fewest restrictions.
On Friday, Ontario restricted shopping, closed high schools, restaurants and bars, while other provinces mandated face masks.
‘Even if you don’t like them’
Hinshaw urged Albertans to follow mandatory and voluntary health measures.
“This weekend, I encourage everyone to abide by all public health measures even if you don’t like them, even if they’re inconvenient or even if you don’t agree with them. We must all do our part to bend the curve, prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed and prevent more restrictive measures from coming into effect.”
WATCH | Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says health measures need to strike right balance
There were 11 deaths new deaths attributed to the disease, bringing the total number of deaths to 462.
Hinshaw dismissed the idea that only the elderly are vulnerable, pointing out two individuals in their 30s were among the deaths announced this past week. She also made it clear that people with co-morbidities include a significant number of Albertans of all ages.
“Severe outcomes are not limited just to those already at the very end of their lives, and it is a mistake to think so,” Hinshaw said,
“Having a chronic medical condition is very common,” she said. “These conditions include things like high blood pressure and diabetes. In Alberta, almost one-quarter of all adults over the age of 20 have a chronic condition. That is almost 800,000 people.
“When looking just at men in Alberta, more than half of men over 50 and almost 70 per cent of men over 65 have high blood pressure. That should not be a death sentence.”
Currently, 310 people are being treated in hospital, of which 58 are in intensive care units.
Hinshaw said that there are 173 general adult ICU beds in the province. While 70 have been designated for COVID-19 patients, more beds can be shifted if the need arises, she said.
“Alberta Health Services manages ICU beds and staff depending on demand from both COVID-19 patients and patients with other conditions that require intensive care,” she said.
“These beds can be used for many patient types. I want to assure Albertans that as more COVID-19 patients require intensive care, AHS is able to add additional intensive care capacity.”
AHS has prepared more ICU beds in the Edmonton and Calgary zones to be ready if needed, Hinshaw said.
“This is where most of the capacity is likely to be required, but creating this capacity means stopping or delaying other services, and this is the impact we want to avoid.”
More exemptions to long-term care single-site rule
As the pandemic continues to hammer long-term care homes, Hinshaw has signed an increasing number of exemptions to a rule that prevents staff from working at multiple facilities.
The province confirmed 22 long-term care or supportive living facilities have active exemptions to the single-site rule, an increase of seven in two weeks.
Exemptions to the rule were expected to be “extremely rare,” according to a public health order signed by Hinshaw in April.
But with 76 supportive and long-term care facilities in Alberta facing outbreaks as of Friday, Hinshaw says some operators need additional staff, as workers fall sick or are forced to quarantine.
“It really is about allowing the safe care provision for all the residents’ needs and allowing the workers to come to that site and support the staff that are there,” Hinshaw said Friday.
Hinshaw implemented the rule in late April in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus between facilities. The vast majority of long-term care staff are part-time or casual workers, who routinely took jobs at multiple sites to make ends meet before the pandemic.
Susan Slade, vice president with the Alberta Union of Public Employees, reiterated the union’s call for the government to hire more workers and take over staffing across private and public facilities, a move B.C. implemented early in the pandemic.
“I don’t understand why Alberta is not looking at this approach, why they’re not having consultations with the unions that are representing these members to ensure there is staffing,” she said.
Slade said staff who are picking up shifts at exempt facilities worry they could end up being the source of transmission to another long-term care home or their loved ones.
“The whole situation is frightening,” she said.
Hiding symptoms, risking health workers
Hinshaw said she has heard of people who have the disease covering up their symptoms while visiting hospitals to see loved ones.
“I understand that it is hard to not be able to see a loved one or accompany them to hospital, but we must all think beyond ourselves right now,” she said.
“If a provider or other member of a health care team gets sick, it means they are not available to treat patients for at least two weeks, which translates to a lack of staff to care for all patients.
“Ultimately if this behaviour continues, Alberta Health Service will have to consider limiting designated family and support and visitation even further. And that is not something we want AHS to have to do.”
The number of active cases now sits at 10,655, the highest number in Alberta since the pandemic began in March.
Here is how the active cases break down in the zones:
- Edmonton zone: 4,520 cases
- Calgary zone: 4,272 cases
- North zone: 651 cases
- South zone: 569 cases
- Central zone: 564 cases
- Unknown: 79 cases
The 11 deaths reported Friday include:
- A woman in her 90s from Edmonton, linked to the outbreak at Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.
- A woman in her 80s, also linked to the outbreak at Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.
- A man in his 80s, linked to the outbreak at Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.
- A woman in her 60s from Edmonton, linked to an outbreak at Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
- A woman in her 90s from the Edmonton zone, linked to the outbreak at Covenant Care Chateau Vitaline.
- A man in his 90s, also linked to an outbreak at Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
- A man in his 70s from the North zone, linked to the outbreak at Grande Prairie Care Centre.
- A man in his 60s from the Edmonton zone.
- A man in his 60s from the South zone.
- A woman in her 70s from the Calgary zone.
- A man in his 80s from the Central zone.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Alberta is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities.
In Alberta, health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.
Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals, according to the draft implementation plan detailed in the Alberta Health Services (AHS) document.
There has been increasing pressure on hospitals in the province, which has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases each day for nearly two weeks. On Wednesday, officials reported 1,685 new cases, along with 10 new deaths. There were 504 people in hospital, 97 of whom were in intensive care.
WATCH | Prospect of field hospitals concerns Edmonton intensive care doctor:
Also on Wednesday, CBC News reported that Alberta has informally asked the Trudeau government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals, according to a federal source.
The source said the province would likely receive at least four field hospitals — two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government.
Alberta introduced new COVID-19 measures on Nov. 24. They included banning all social gatherings in people’s homes, making masks mandatory for all indoor workplaces in the province’s two largest cities and moving all students in grades 7 to 12 to online learning starting Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, British Columbia officials have announced new restrictions that prohibit all indoor adult team sports and return children’s programs to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.
The move came as the province reported 834 new cases and 12 more deaths on Wednesday, with COVID-19 hospitalizations rising to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.
“We continue to see that indoor group activities — whether for fitness or team sports — are much higher risk right now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a written statement.
In her Wednesday press briefing, Henry again urged everyone to not travel unless absolutely essential, citing the example of an old timers’ hockey team from the Interior that recently travelled to Alberta for games.
Some team members came back with COVID-19 and exposed their family members and co-workers, which led to “several dozen” new cases in the community, Henry said.
WATCH | B.C.’s top doctor asks residents to avoid non-essential travel:
Separately, news that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended length of quarantine after exposure has Canadian health experts weighing whether a similar approach could be useful here.
The CDC is shortening its quarantine recommendation from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result. Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday.
In an interview with CBC News, infection control and disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam said he believes that duration could be lowered given what has been learned about the disease since the pandemic began.
WATCH | Why one expert says Canada should look at shortening quarantine period:
What’s happening across Canada
As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 393,070 — two additional cases are pending confirmation — with 68,292 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,369.
Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days’ worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.
The number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units has risen to 203, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.
Public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday that the province has “plateaued at a very high level,” and the results of lockdowns in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region, which began Nov. 23, won’t be seen until next week.
Quebec reported 1,470 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday — a day after surpassing 1,500 daily cases for the first time — along with 30 new deaths.
The province has tightened the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season, including a maximum capacity of customers based on floor space available to customers.
Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said that many shopping venues already have such measures in place but those that don’t risk being fined up to $6,000 or closed altogether.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
In the evening, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack confirmed two cases were found in the community in the province’s northern health zone — the first time COVID-19 has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada. Those cases were not part of Wednesday’s numbers reported by public health.
New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case.
Prince Edward Island, which did not provide an update on Wednesday, is adding 55 new front-line positions to schools across the province to support students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Manitoba, students in grades 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday.
The announcement came as the province hit a record high of 351 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 51 in intensive care. Officials also reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths.
Saskatchewan reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.
WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:
In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all in Arviat.
Yukon reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.
The Northwest Territories did not report any new cases on Wednesday. There have been 15 confirmed cases in the territory since the start of the pandemic, none of which are considered still active.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 64.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 1.5 million.
In the Americas, U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approached, taxing an overwhelmed health-care system with U.S. political leadership in disarray.
The toll from COVID-19 reached its second-highest level ever on Wednesday with 2,811 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally of official data, one short of the record from April 15. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with record hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.
The sobering data came as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday warned that December, January and February were likely to be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the United States could start losing around 3,000 people — roughly the number that died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — each day over the next two months.
In Europe, coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Thursday, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.
Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.
The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.
The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.
Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
Over 2.1 million confirmed <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> cases on the African continent – with more than 1.8 million recoveries & 52,000 deaths cumulatively.<br><br>View country figures & more with the WHO African Region COVID-19 Dashboard: <a href=”https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd”>https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd</a> <a href=”https://t.co/LVRnRnypmn”>pic.twitter.com/LVRnRnypmn</a>
Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”
The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.
Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.
Vaccine priority list must be refined to match available doses: Tam – CBC.ca
Canada’s chief public health officer says the priority list of people who will get vaccinated first against COVID-19 has to be refined because the initial six million doses set to arrive in the first batch will not be enough to cover them all.
Health Canada is in the final stages of reviewing the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The regulator anticipates decisions on approving both before the end of December.
Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also being studied, with no suggestion yet of when those reviews might be done. Canada has contracts for three more vaccines in late-stage clinical trials but has not starting rolling reviews on any of them yet.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the variety of vaccines on Canada’s docket and the expectation that several will eventually be approved “means we will have more flexibility as time goes on, and more and more vaccines come on board.”
“We’re expecting that in the second quarter, depending on the approvals of the vaccines, we will have different amounts, but that is when the supply will become more and more plentiful,” she said Wednesday in a virtual speech at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference.
Most vaccine makers are just starting to ramp up production now. Initial production lots are much smaller, and are in high demand everywhere in the world.
At the moment, Canada is on track to get four million doses from Pfizer and two million from Moderna between January and March. With both vaccines needing two doses to be effective, that’s only enough to vaccinate three million people.
“So we have to do further refinements to these priority groups in order to know exactly how we’re going to sequence the delivery of the vaccines,” Tam said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said having to pare down the list is a massive Liberal government failure.
“There is no clear plan who is going to receive the vaccine,” he said Wednesday.
“The government has not provided these details.”
Provinces will ultimately decide
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued a preliminary priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine last month, with four subsets of people based on risk of serious illness or death, and risk of exposure or outbreaks.
The list included older Canadians, those with pre-existing conditions like liver and heart disease or diabetes, and people who live in the same household as those people. Long-term care workers, people who live in Indigenous communities, and front-line essential workers such as first responders or grocery store employees are also included.
But that list of people is far longer than three million. There are nearly seven million Canadians over the age of 65 alone.
Provincial governments will ultimately decide their own priorities but the national list is intended to guide those decisions.
Long-term care homes are widely expected to be the highest priority for both workers and residents. In the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Canada, more than eight in 10 people who died from COVID-19 were associated with long-term care.
The tragedy has continued in the second wave, with outbreaks in hundreds of facilities countrywide, and more residents dying every day. Ontario reported 35 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday and 22 of them were residents in long-term care.
More than 400,000 Canadians live in a long-term care setting or a retirement residence, according to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada.
Approving the vaccines is only the first step in what Tam called one of “the most complex operations ever taken in public health.” Getting it to provinces to administer and convincing Canadians to take it could prove to be even more difficult.
Tam appealed to the medical experts in the audience to help combat growing rhetoric that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t safe.
From a petition sponsored by Conservative MP Derek Sloan that warns these vaccines are “effectively human experimentation,” to a van driving around Ottawa with a digital display claiming the vaccine “will destroy your DNA” there is evidence of some campaigns to convince Canadians not to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes.
Tam said disinformation campaigns are not new but “because of the social media and its internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past.”
“So it is a significant aspect of the response that we have to deal with,” she said.
She said the Public Health Agency of Canada is developing a series of webinars about the vaccines, how the regulatory and approval process works, and how the different types of vaccines work, so medical professionals can become influencers in their communities.
WATCH | Vaccine won’t be available for children at first
Canada posts deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic since June as vaccine hopes rise – Global News
The new cases, which totaled 6,302, brought Canada’s caseload to 389,436. Health authorities also reported an increase of 114 deaths, though only 80 of those fatalities occurred in the past 24 hours.
The last time cases surpassed 110 was on June 4, which saw 139 deaths reported to have been caused by the virus.
Canada’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 12,325, while over 309,000 patients have since recovered and another 14.8 million tests have been administered so far.
As Canadian communities continue to grapple with surges in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Canada’s chief public health officer said the priority list of people to get the coronavirus vaccine would have to be refined further, due to the initial six million doses not being enough to inoculate them all.
Coronavirus: Tam says priority list for first COVID-19 vaccinations being refined
As of now, Canada is set to receive four million doses from Pfizer and two million from Moderna within the first quarter of 2021. The amount would only be enough to vaccinate three million people, however, as a person would need two doses of the vaccine in order for it to be effective.
Tam hinted that the variety and supply of doses was expected to increase soon due to Canada having contracts for three more vaccines that are in late-state clinical trials, having said that “means we will have more flexibility as time goes on, and more and more vaccines come on board.”
“We’re expecting that in the second quarter. Depending on the approvals of the vaccines, we will have different amounts, but that is when the supply will become more and more plentiful,” said Tam Wednesday during a virtual speech at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference.
Canada’s health minister also said on Wednesday that the country’s review of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was “expected to be completed soon” — comments that come shortly after news of the U.K. officially approving the vaccine.
“The news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved in the U.K. is encouraging. Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon,” said Patty Hadju.
“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready.”
Coronavirus: U.K.’s Johnson stresses global co-operation following approval of Pfizer vaccine
During the conference, Tam also revealed plans from the Public Health Agency of Canada to combat the increase in misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine using online webinars. According to her, the webinars would include several topics like the different types of vaccines available, how to run immunization clinics and guidance on how to use vaccines.
“Because of the social media and its internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past,” said Tam, who also noted the importance of Canadians knowing how vaccines are developed
The federal government also introduced a new COVID-19 spending bill Wednesday, just days after revealing the country’s economic update.
The bill, which would effectively determine how billions of dollars in new pandemic-related aid would be spent, would follow the measures proposed in Monday’s fall economic statement.
‘Take this seriously’: 23-year-old suffers stroke due to COVID-19
Several provinces across Canada also reported surges in new coronavirus cases Wednesday, with Ontario, Alberta and Quebec all reporting over 1,500 newly reported infections.
Ontario added the highest increase of 1,723 cases, pushing its total caseload to 119,922. Another 35 deaths were also reported by the province, which now has 656 people in hospital due to COVID-19.
Alberta added 1,685 more infections on Wednesday as well as 10 additional deaths. The new data also comes amid an announcement from Premier Jason Kenney that the province expects its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine to arrive by Jan 4.
“While we can’t control when these vaccines arrive in Alberta, we can make sure that when we get them, we’re ready to roll them out as quickly as we can,” said Kenny during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. To date, Alberta has seen a total of 61,169 virus cases and 561 deaths.
Quebec added another 43 deaths on Wednesday, of which only nine occurred within the past 24 hours. The fatalities bring the province’s death toll to 7,125, while health authorities reported an additional 1,514 cases Wednesday.
British Columbia added 830 cases as well, pushing the province’s caseload to 34,728. A total of 338 cases are considered “epi-linked,’ which are cases that show symptoms and were close contacts of confirmed infections, but were never tested.
Saskatchewan announced 237 cases and Manitoba another 277, bringing their total case figures to 8,982 and 17,384, respectively.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick added another six cases while Newfoundland and Labrador reported just one. Nova Scotia reported an increase of 17 cases Wednesday, pushing its total infections to 1,332.
The Yukon added one more cases on Wednesday, while Nunavut added another 11. The Northwest Territories did not report any additional cases.
Looking at widely praised coronavirus messages from around the world
Nunavut’s government also lifted its two-week lockdown on Wednesday everywhere except for the coastal town of Arviat, of which saw all 11 new cases reported by the province. To date, Nunavut has seen 193 cases of the novel coronavirus — the highest among Canada’s territories.
Cases of the coronavirus have since surpassed 64.4 million according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. A total of 1,491,000 people have also succumbed to the virus, with the United States, Brazil and India leading in both cases and deaths.
— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and The Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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