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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Nov. 5 – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will provide a live update at 3:30 p.m. 
  • Alberta reported 515 new cases of COVID-19 in its most recent update on Wednesday.
  • Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Alberta care homes has more than quadrupled from 102 to 418 in just one month. There are now 41 outbreaks in continuing care facilities around the province.
  • CBC Calgary will be hosting a virtual discussion and Q&A on Facebook at 1 p.m. that dives into spiking cases in Alberta with infectious disease expert Craig Jenne, health reporter Jennifer Lee and data journalist Robson Fletcher.
  • As of Wednesday, there were 6,230 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, an increase from 6,110 reported Tuesday. That number had jumped up on Tuesday from 5,172 last Friday. 
  • Alberta also reported five new deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 343.
  • Rockyview General Hospital now has an outbreak of COVID-19 in its general medicine unit.
  • COVID-19 outbreaks at eight major Alberta hospitals are putting pressure on a system that is already wrestling with a record number of novel coronavirus patients.

(CBC)

What you need to know today in Alberta

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will provide a live update at 3:30 p.m. 

After the province reported 2,268 new cases over four days on Tuesday — which is an average of 567 new cases per day — it has continued to see high numbers. On Wednesday, it reported 515 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 30,447. 

Hinshaw said Tuesday that it would soon become evident if recent public health measures like social gathering limits in Edmonton and Calgary are reducing the rate of transmission. If not, she said, it might be time to consider “other options.” 

Meanwhile, Alberta’s continuing care homes are bracing for another battle against COVID-19. The number of active cases in care homes has more than quadrupled, increasing from 102 to 418 cases, in just one month. There are now 41 outbreaks in continuing care facilities around the province.

“Dr. Hinshaw has been in communication with continuing care operators in Edmonton and Calgary recommending that they consider limiting visitors to the essential designated family/support people (and others in extenuating circumstances) while the transmission rates are high,” said Alberta Health representative Tom McMillan in a statement to CBC.

“In the rest of the province, she advised operators to consider the transmission in the area where visitors are coming from and ensure that all necessary precautions are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

CBC Calgary will be hosting a virtual discussion and Q&A on Facebook at 1 p.m. on Thursday with infectious disease expert Craig Jenne, health reporter Jennifer Lee and data journalist Robson Fletcher. Viewers are invited to ask the panel their COVID-19 questions as they discuss the rise of cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise across the province

A snapshot of the active COVID-19 cases by health district in Calgary as of Nov.3. (CBC)

Hinshaw stressed this week that COVID-19 is much more deadly than the seasonal flu. In the last four flu seasons, the peak deaths in a single year was 92. In just eight months, 343 people have died of COVID-19, despite what Hinshaw described as “extraordinary measures” to contain transmission. 

“We are at a critical juncture in this pandemic. I know this has been a tiring year, and one that’s taken a mental and physical toll on many. But we cannot give up. We must not give up. I believe one of the problems underlying pandemic fatigue is a sense of powerlessness, and for some, a loss of hope,” she said. 

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says that people who egregiously flout health orders during the pandemic should face consequences. 1:21

Alberta still has not adopted the federal contact tracing app, despite the provincial government saying it would do so in August. Hinshaw said the provincial app remains available but that no app is a magic bullet — reducing close contacts and following guidance remains the most effective strategy for reducing spread. 

Premier Jason Kenney warned Alberta Health Services may need to cancel elective surgeries, as it did in the spring, to make more room for potential COVID patients, should case numbers continue to escalate.

“We’re all fed up with this,” Kenney said Monday of the pandemic. “But now, more than ever, we need to take this seriously. And the single biggest thing people could do is just stop with the private parties and the social gatherings.”

Premier Jason Kenney is calling on all Albertans to listen to public health advice around COVID-19 and stop partying. 3:36

A new temporary measure, which caps attendance at 15 for events where people will be “mixing and mingling” like parties and baby showers, applies in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.

The province is also recommending voluntary measures in both cities: wearing non-medical masks in all indoor work settings, except where people are alone in an office or cubicle, or a barrier is in place, and limiting themselves to no more than three cohorts. 

There are currently outbreaks at three hospitals in Calgary and five in Edmonton. There is also one additional hospital in Calgary with units under watch. 

Dr. Laurie-Ann Baker, an ER doctor and associate zone medical director with Alberta Health Services (AHS), said their biggest focus right now is on the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, which has six cases on three units.

One person has died due to the outbreaks at the PLC. 

“We want to avoid hospitals and the community becoming overwhelmed,” she said.

Here’s the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Wednesday:

  • Edmonton zone: 2,642, up from 2,581 on Tuesday.
  • Calgary zone: 2,610, up from 2,532.
  • North zone: 400, down from 413.
  • South zone: 333, up from 317.
  • Central zone: 224, down from 235.
  • Unknown: 21, down from 32. 

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 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 249,216 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 205,647 as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,278.

Canada has quietly revised its guidelines on how COVID-19 spreads to include the risk of aerosol transmission, weeks after other countries and international health organizations acknowledged the airborne threat of the coronavirus.

“SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks,” the updated guidance said. 

“The droplets vary in size from large droplets that fall to the ground rapidly (within seconds or minutes) near the infected person, to smaller droplets, sometimes called aerosols, which linger in the air under some circumstances.”

Ontario reported 998 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Of those new cases, 350 were found in Toronto, 269 in Peel and 71 in York Region. The seven-day average for cases is now up to 982. Updated hospitalization data was not yet available, but as of Wednesday, the province had reported 367 hospitalizations, with 75 in ICU.

It is moving to a colour-coded system to communicate what regions are under what restrictions, saying the new system will be an “early warning system” and allow the province to scale public health measures based on what’s happening in a given region.

B.C’s health minister and a top public health official on Tuesday reminded people in the province to keep gatherings small, saying “much of the recent transmission” in the province has been connected to get-togethers.

Health officials in Saskatchewan are introducing a new measure requiring masks in public indoor spaces in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. The measure, which will be in place for 28 days before being reviewed, takes effect Friday.

In Manitoba, the Red Cross has been asked to provide staff to help care for residents at some long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Quebec reported an eight-day low of 871 new COVID-19 infections and 34 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including five recorded in the 24 hours prior. The Tuesday figures put the number of people in hospital in the province at 526, with 85 receiving intensive care.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is now recommending Canadians choose three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they prepare to spend more time indoors over the winter.

According to recently updated guidelines, two layers of the mask should be made of a tightly woven fabric, such as cotton or linen, and the middle layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric.

The Public Health website now includes instructions for making three-layer masks.

Self-assessment and supports:

With winter cold and influenza season approaching, 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 no longer available to anyone, but voluntary asymptomatic testing is available to:

  • School teachers and staff.
  • Health-care workers.
  • Staff and residents at long-term care and congregate living facilities.
  • Any Albertans experiencing homelessness.
  • Travellers requiring a test before departure.

Additional groups can also access asymptomatic testing if required.

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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Imperial Oil to lay off 200 workers following cost-cutting analysis – CBC.ca

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Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd. says it will lay off about 200 of its 6,000 employees as part of a cost-cutting initiative.

The company, which has been reluctant to reduce staff during the current and previous industry downturns, also confirms it has reduced the number of contractors it employs by about 450 since the start of the year.

Imperial committed in March to cut spending by $1 billion, including a $500 million reduction in capital spending plus $500 million in lower operating expenses.

Job cuts at other oil and gas companies

The job cuts are part of a trend by Calgary oil and gas companies who have been reporting reduced earnings on lower commodity prices due to demand destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cenovus Energy Inc. and Husky Energy Inc. have announced they will cut as many as one in four jobs, potentially more than 2,000 workers, if their merger announced in October is closed as expected early next year.

Suncor, meanwhile, has announced it will cut as many as 1,930 jobs over 18 months to reduce total staff by 10 to 15 per cent.

“Throughout the past year, the company responded aggressively to the challenging business environment by reducing capital and operating expenditures and adjusting project pacing,” Imperial said in a posting on its website, adding it has reassessed its current and future business plans.

“We recognize any job losses are difficult for individuals and their families who may be affected. Impacted employees will be provided with company support, including outplacement services.”

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Alberta withdraws from testing of national emergency public alert system – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
The majority of Canadians received an emergency alert Wednesday but the notifications did not appear on mobile devices, radios and televisions in Alberta.

The provincial government elected to opt-out of the testing of the national public alerting system, joining Nunavut as the lone holdouts.

In a statement to CTV News, the press secretary for Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs said the Government of Alberta has confidence in its own notification system.

“As Premier Kenney stated yesterday the province will use the Alberta Emergency Alert system to inform people of the new COVID-19 restrictions,” said Justin Marshall. “We opted out of the national alert test to avoid confusion with Alberta’s coming alert. As I’m sure you can understand, too frequent alerts can have the tendency of diminishing the importance.

“Alberta’s focus during this time is on keeping Albertans safe and informed of the measures in place. Nunavut also opted out of the national test today. We are confident that the alert system works for Alberta.”

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the testing of the national public alerting system is done “to ensure it operates as intended in the event of a life-threatening situation” and no action is required by alert recipients.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Toronto BBQ restaurant appears set to defy city order and reopen – CTV Toronto

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TORONTO —
Police have returned to an Etobicoke barbecue restaurant that was ordered to close indefinitely after openly flouting public health restrictions prohibiting on-site dining.

Dozens of officers showed up at the Queen Elizabeth Blvd. location of Adamson Barbecue on Wednesday morning after owner Adam Skelly vowed to reopen in contravention of the Toronto Public Health order.

The enhanced police presence comes one day after dozens of customers were seen eating inside and on picnic benches set up outside the restaurant in direct contravention of the lockdown order that went into place in Toronto at the start of the week.

The brazen flouting of rules eventually led to a decision by Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa to use her powers under the Health Protection and Promotions Act to order the business to close but by the time police showed up to shut it down it was after 4 p.m. and Skelly was already in the process of closing for the day.

In a post on the restaurant’s official Instagram page last night Skelly shared a animated image of him standing on a police cruiser and wielding a spatula along with the caption “Etobicoke. 11 a.m. to sold out. Dine-in.” He then showed up at the restaurant at around 10 a.m., replying “absolutely” when asked by CP24 whether he planned to reopen.

“I think you are going to find there will be people there really quickly to enforce the law (if he does reopen),” Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 earlier on Wednesday morning.

“And I would say that if he comes back a second day after being ordered the first day to close he is free to do that but so are the authorities free then to throw the book at him, which is exactly what they should do. It is not my decision but I hope they throw the book at him.”

Adam Skelly

Police and bylaw officer actually showed up at Adamson Barbecue shortly after it opened on Tuesday but did not close it down at the time, telling reporters that it wouldn’t be safe “to go in and physically remove everyone” due to the “sheer number of people” that showed up.

Staff Superintendent Mark Barkley, however, told reporters later in the day that it was a “mistake” not to act earlier in the day.

He said that if customers return to the restaurant today police will be “prepared to deal with people who refuse to leave the premises.”

“If he opens tomorrow we will be here,” he said. “We will have a presence and we will ensure compliance with the order.”

Adamson

Staff Superintendent Mark Barkley, however, told reporters later in the day that it was a “mistake” not to act at the time.

He said that if customers return to the restaurant today police will be “prepared to deal with people who refuse to leave the premises.”

“If he opens tomorrow we will be here,” he said. “We will have a presence and we will ensure compliance with the order.”

‘A bad apple spoiling it for everyone else’

The decision by Skelly to operate in contravention of provincial emergency orders was criticized by a number of officials, including Tory and Premier Doug Ford.

On Wednesday the Vice President of Central Canada for the lobby group Restaurants Canada James Rilett told CP24 that there is a “lot of frustration in the industry right now,” as most restauranteurs believe that they can operate safely.

But he said that what transpired at Adamson Barbecue one day prior was far from safe with little regard paid to even the most basic of precautions, like ensuring physical distancing in lineups and between tables.

“It is a really unfortunate situation. Restaurant have done so much to promote safety and to show that they can serve their customers safely and abide by the rules. Something like this just puts everyone in a bad light and unfortunately it is one of those situations where a bad apple really is spoiling it for everyone else,” he said.

Individuals who violate the province’s emergency orders could face fines of anywhere from $750 to $100,000.

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