With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.
Canadian travellers have been able to fly freely to the United States since the start of the pandemic, but new U.S. travel rules announced Monday have some Canadians with two different COVID-19 vaccine doses worried they may soon be barred from entry.
Starting in early November, the U.S. will require foreign air passengers entering the country to be fully vaccinated. The problem is, the U.S. has yet to approve mixing COVID-19 vaccines.
“I’m really worried about this U.S. policy,” said Cathy Hiuser of Ancaster, Ont., who has one dose of COVIDSHIELD (a brand of AstraZeneca) and one dose of Pfizer. She has booked a trip to Maui, departing Nov. 7.
“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go across the border,” she said. “It’s a problem.”
At the same time as the U.S. introduces its vaccine requirement, the country will lift its travel ban on air passengers entering from a list of dozens of red-flagged countries.
“We’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
CBC News asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) if the millions of Canadians with mixed vaccines will still be allowed to fly to the country when the vaccine requirement kicks in. The CDC said it’s in the “regulatory process” phase in determining which vaccines will be accepted.
The agency also laid out its current policy: it considers people fully vaccinated when they have all recommended doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.
“At present CDC does not recognize mixed vaccines,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund.
But there are exceptions to the rule. The CDC says on its website that mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are acceptable in “exceptional situations,” such as when the vaccine used for the first dose was no longer available.
However, a combination of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine won’t meet the bar, a position adopted by cruise ships departing from U.S. ports.
“Guests whose two-shot regimen consists of 1 mRNA dose (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 AstraZeneca dose will not be considered vaccinated,” states Royal Caribbean cruise line on its website. “We continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.”
‘I started to cry’
Canada is one of several countries — including Germany, Italy, France and Thailand — that has doled out mixed vaccines to a number of its citizens. But there is no international consensus on the practice.
The CDC said the U.S. is conducting trials on the safety and effectiveness of mixed vaccines, and that the agency may update its vaccine recommendations once it has new data.
But that’s of little comfort to Canadians with mixed doses who’ve already made travel plans to the U.S., such as snowbirds and those who’ve booked winter vacations.
In May, Norma Chrobak of Orillia, Ont., booked a special family trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to celebrate her partner’s 75th birthday. The trip consists of a week-long chartered boat cruise in February — at a cost of $26,000.
The problem is, five out of the 10 family members set to go on the trip — including Chrobak and her partner — have a mix of AstraZeneca and Moderna.
“My heart just almost exploded in my chest,” said Chrobak when she learned about the coming U.S. vaccine requirement for travellers. “I started to cry.”
She has already paid a $12,500 deposit for the trip and is unsure at this point if she can get a refund if it must be cancelled.
The trip was supposed to be a surprise birthday gift for Chrobak’s partner. But she’s speaking publicly about it in the hopes the Canadian government will pressure the U.S. to accept mixed vaccines.
“Somebody’s got to take this bull by the horns,” she said. “There’s got to be something that can be done.”
WATCH | Travellers with mixed vaccines say they can’t board some cruises:
Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.
On Thursday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is in talks with the U.S. about its coming vaccine requirement for foreign air passengers.
“We have had quite a series of discussions with U.S. counterparts,” she said during a news conference. “We’ve basically been providing some technical support to help them make a decision on the mixed dose, particularly AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine.”
The waiting game
Lawyer Henry Chang, who specializes in Canadian and U.S. immigration law, said he’s optimistic the U.S. will soon change its position on mixed vaccines.
“My gut feeling is that they’re going to have to resolve it. If not right when the vaccine requirements come in, soon after, because there are going to be too many people complaining about this,” said Chang, who is with the law firm Dentons in Toronto.
If the U.S. doesn’t budge on mixed vaccines come November, some Canadians will still have options. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are each offering third vaccine doses to people in their province who require it for travel.
But that doesn’t help potential travellers such as Chrobak in Ontario, who must wait to find out the fate of her trip.
“Pretty much just feeling devastated, feeling like I have no control,” she said.
With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.
As Alberta grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19 at the start of another school year, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.
Four Alberta doctors are launching a lawsuit against Alberta Health Services and its president in opposition to the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff.
The plaintiffs include two rural family physicians, a Calgary anesthesiologist and a Calgary pediatric neurologist.
“Any medical procedure performed on a patient without their informed consent amounts to assault,” the statement of claim says.
Lorian Hardcastle, an associate professor in the faculty of law and Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, said the claims about assault and informed consent seem “frivolous.”
“This isn’t a case where someone is being forcibly vaccinated. They’re being told that they either vaccinate or don’t work there,” said Hardcastle.
Here are COVID-19 numbers released today by Alberta Health:
OTTAWA – The pandemic may have seen a rise in the use of credit and debit cards, along with payment options like Square, but Canadians aren’t giving up on cash.
In fact, the Bank of Canada, which prints bills, says there was $17 billion more dollars out in circulation last year than before the pandemic — suggesting Canadians are sitting on a hoard of cash.
Bank of Canada spokesperson Raewyn Passmore said Canadians still use and appreciate physical currency and they don’t see a big shift away from cash coming anytime soon.
“Cash remains popular among Canadians, and in the foreseeable future, the bank will continue to supply Canadians with bank notes they can use with the highest confidence.”
The Bank of Canada believes people were holding onto their money in 2020. The amount of money out in circulation was $83 billion before the pandemic, but that swelled to over $100 billion by the end of 2020.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he will not bring in additional COVID-19 measures because it ultimately takes away people’s personal freedoms.
Moe made the comment while delivering a state of the province address in Saskatoon to members of the city’s chamber of commerce.
Some medical experts and the Canadian Medical Association have been calling for restrictions on gathering sizes as hospitals continue to admit a high number of COVID-19 patients.
Alberta’s government says it plans to focus on jobs and diversifying the economy while keeping an eye on its COVID-19 response as the fall sitting of the legislature is set to start today.
There are between 18 and 20 bills the government hopes to pass before Christmas, including one that focuses on building infrastructure, and environmental legislation aimed at conservation and recreation.
NDP house leader Christina Gray told reporters at the legislature Friday the Opposition would be holding the government accountable for the health-care crisis.
The Canadian Armed Forces says it’s prepared to support Saskatchewan with up to six critical care nursing officers, who it says will be deployed to intensive care units.
The military also says it will provide medical air transport for in-province and out-of-province critical care patient transfers, as capacity allows, and may also supply a pair of Multipurpose Medical Assistance Teams to backfill the province’s nurses.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted late Friday the federal government had approved a request for pandemic aid in Saskatchewan, including military support.
Blair also noted that Ottawa is also in talks with the province to provide additional help from the Canadian Red Cross and other health resources.
British Columbia is lifting capacity restrictions on gatherings across much of the province today, though some say not everyone will be ready to party like it’s early 2020 while still wearing a mask.
Residents in swaths of the province will be allowed to attend events like hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers, but capacity will be capped at 50 per cent in areas where vaccination rates are low, including parts of the Fraser, Northern and Interior health regions.
Heidi Tworek, a professor who specializes in health communications at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, said employers, businesses expecting more customers and even individuals inviting someone over for dinner should expect a range of reactions because the lack of regular contact with people after nearly two years will have impacted some people’s mental health.
The majority of Canadian residents who received the federal Canada Recovery Benefit were continuous or repeat recipients of the now-ended aid program, an internal government analysis reveals.
The assessment from Employment and Social Development Canada found that by early June, 1.5 million, or about 75 per cent of the 1.8 million unique recipients of the benefit, were continuous or repeat beneficiaries.
Among them were some 627,000 recipients who applied and received the benefit for months at a time, never once taking a break.
The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note to the top official at the department under the access to information law.
Experts who reviewed the document suggested the analysis hints at the level of need for the income-support program, which came to an end over the weekend.
A B.C. man has been ordered to quarantine for two weeks after a CBSA officer refused to accept the digital version of his B.C. Vaccine Card
New Westminister resident Charles Wangersky recently returned to Vancouver airport with his wife and adult son after a trip to Florida for a family funeral. Wangersky said the border agent gave his son an order to self-quarantine as he didn’t have a scanner to read his QR code.
“There was a great deal of back and forth, trying to find his records with his personal care number, but in the end, they left him with a form to quarantine for two weeks,” said Wangersky. “Basically, he’s supposed to have absolutely no contact with anyone, until his two weeks are up.”
OTTAWA — Jennifer Hubert jumped at the opportunity to get her COVID-19 vaccine, but she’s not looking forward to having to make the decision about whether to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.
She recognizes the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands her son is at a much lower risk for serious illness than older adults.
“To me it’s not a clear benefit,” she said.
While many parents were overjoyed at the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more trepidatious, and public health officials said they are going to have a much more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they did with adults.
While 82 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and up are already fully vaccinated, a recent survey by Angus Reid shows only 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available.
WASHINGTON — Vaccines for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 will likely be available in the first half of November, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, predicting a timetable that could see many kids getting fully vaccinated before the end of the year.
“If all goes well, and we get the regulatory approval and the recommendation from the CDC, it’s entirely possible if not very likely that vaccines will be available for children from 5 to 11 within the first week or two of November,” Fauci said in an interview with ABC’s This Week.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on Oct. 26.
Several Calgary-area restaurants have been reprimanded by Alberta Health Services for not following provincial health orders.
Closure notices posted online show Purple Perk, located at 2212 4 St. S.W. in central Calgary, has had its food handling permit suspended until the business is able to show it has implemented the provincial restrictions exemption program and follow orders from the chief medical officer of health around masking and social distancing. The suspension will be reviewed on Nov. 2.
Meanwhile, Olifunt Bistro in Carstairs has been forced to close its indoor dining area only after customers were observed not being checked for proof of vaccination and staff were seen not wearing masks, according to a closure order dated on Oct. 21.
A closure order and permit suspension remain active against Without Papers Pizza on 9th Avenue S.E. after the restaurant was found to not be following public health orders earlier this month. The restaurant has been vocal on social media about its opposition to the province’s vaccination requirements for certain businesses.
Alberta officials are hopeful to receive an initial supply of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government soon, but there is still no timeline on when the doses will arrive.
Premier Jason Kenney said three weeks ago his government had requested an inventory of the single-shot vaccine from Ottawa in a bid to bolster sluggish immunization rates in some areas of rural Alberta. Kenney projected those shots could be available in the first week of October.
Alberta Health said Friday the province has requested up to 20,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as Janssen.
The deadline for British Columbia health-care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is today.
The provincial health officer’s order covers doctors, nurses, students, residents, contractors, volunteers and all other health-care professionals.
Premier John Horgan says he’s hopeful that the small number of workers who are resistant to getting vaccinated will get the information they need to get their shots.
Those who don’t have their first dose of vaccine by the deadline can’t work unless they have a recognized exemption.
The order says unvaccinated workers who get their first shot before Nov. 15 can resume working seven days after the first dose, but they must wear personal protective equipment and take other precautions until they get their second shot.
The Health Ministry says 94 per cent of B.C. health workers were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 24, three per cent were unvaccinated and two per cent had one dose.
Overall, B.C. has reached an 89.6 per cent vaccination rate for first shots among eligible residents age 12 and up and 84.4 per cent have received their second dose.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, the lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team, will provide an update on COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin on Monday unveiled plans to develop a commercial space station called “Orbital Reef” with Boeing, aiming to launch the spacecraft in the second half of this decade.
The venture will be built in partnership with Sierra Space, the spaceflight wing of defence contractor Sierra Nevada Corp, and will be backed by Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University.
Orbital Reef will be operated as a “mixed use business park,” and plans to provide the infrastructure needed to scale economic activity and open new markets in space, Blue Origin and Sierra Space said.
“Seasoned space agencies, high-tech consortia, sovereign nations without space programs, media and travel companies, funded entrepreneurs and sponsored inventors, and future-minded investors all have a place on Orbital Reef,” the companies said in a statement.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/NASA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NASA</a> plans on retiring the <a href=”https://twitter.com/Space_Station?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@space_station</a> at the end of the decade, but there’s still important work that needs to be done! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/OrbitalReef?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#OrbitalReef</a> – <a href=”https://twitter.com/SierraSpaceCo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SierraSpaceCo</a>’s new space station, will be operational in the second half of this decade, ready for research! <a href=”https://t.co/d3LQIRneQh”>https://t.co/d3LQIRneQh</a> <a href=”https://t.co/2PalPlB9jn”>pic.twitter.com/2PalPlB9jn</a>
Sierra in April announced plans to offer the first free-flying commercial space station.
In July, Blue Origin had a successful debut space tourism flight, with Bezos and three others aboard. Earlier this month, 90-year-old Canadian actor William Shatner — Captain James Kirk of Star Trek fame — became the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by Blue Origin.
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