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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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Canada says U.S. ties could be undermined if Michigan shuts pipeline

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A day before Michigan’s deadline to close down a key crude oil pipeline, Canada on Tuesday issued its strongest remarks so far, saying the move could undermine relations with the United States, its closest ally and trading partner.

Enbridge Inc is preparing for a legal battle with Michigan and courting protests from environmental groups, betting it can ignore the state’s Wednesday deadline to shut down Line 5, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

The Canadian government said in a U.S. federal court filing that Michigan had no right to act unilaterally since a 1977 Canada-U.S. pipeline treaty guarantees the free flow of oil between the two nations.

“This case raises concerns regarding the efficacy of the historic framework upon which the U.S.-Canada relationship has been successfully managed for generations,” Ottawa said.

Michigan’s move “threatens to undermine important aspects of that cooperative international relationship”, it added.

The brief said Canada would suffer “massive and

potentially permanent disruption” from a shutdown. Line 5 brings 540,000 barrel-per-day of oil from western Canada to refineries and airports in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

In November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave Enbridge six months to shut down the pipeline that runs four miles (6.4 km) along the bottom of Lake Michigan-Huron, citing fears it could rupture.

The order needs a confirmatory order from a judge to enforce it, and Enbridge and Michigan are disputing whether the issue should be heard in state or U.S. federal court.

The sides are in court-ordered mediation, with the next session scheduled for May 18.

“We will not stop operating the pipeline unless we are ordered by a court or our regulator, which we view as highly unlikely,” Enbridge spokeswoman Tracie Kenyon said in a statement this week.

Joe Comartin, Canada‘s consul general in Detroit who is arguing on behalf of Ottawa, said litigation could drag on until at least 2024.

“I don’t see a court jumping the gun and ordering it closed … until the litigation and constitutional issues are resolved,” he said by phone.

Canada has been lobbying https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/frustrated-canada-presses-white-house-keep-great-lakes-oil-pipeline-open-2021-04-26 Washington officials to keep the pipeline open in what is likely to be an election year in Canada, but the White House has so far not weighed in.

Ontario estimates the city of Sarnia, across the border from Michigan, could lose 5,000 refinery and chemical plant jobs. Industry lobbyists say thousands of U.S. jobs are in danger.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups opposed to Line 5 say the potential job losses are exaggerated. They plan “Evict Enbridge” rallies in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We are very hopeful to hear from the governor that there will be accountability measures for operating that pipeline,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation.

Michigan is reviewing what it could do if Enbridge keeps operating past the deadline, said a spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General.

Canadian crude market forward prices suggest most traders do not expect Line 5 to shut in coming months, but the lack of certainty is concerning, said one Calgary-based market source.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)

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Enbridge vows to keep pipeline open, girds for legal fight with Michigan

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Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc is squaring off for a legal battle with Michigan and courting protests from environmental groups, betting it can ignore the U.S. state‘s Wednesday deadline to shut its oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

“We will not stop operating the pipeline unless we are ordered by a court or our regulator, which we view as highly unlikely,” Enbridge spokeswoman Tracie Kenyon said in a statement this week, ahead of Michigan’s deadline for shutting the line.

Line 5 is a link in Enbridge’s network to bring oil exports from western Canada to refineries and airports in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. In November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave Enbridge six months to shut down the 540,000 barrel-per-day pipeline that runs four miles along the bottom of Lake Michigan-Huron, citing fears it could rupture and spill.

The state’s order still needs a confirmatory order from a judge to enforce it, and Enbridge and Michigan are disputing whether the issue should be heard in state or U.S. federal court.

The sides are in court-ordered mediation, with the next session scheduled for May 18.

Joe Comartin, Canada‘s consul general in Detroit who is arguing on behalf of the country’s federal government, said litigation could drag on until at least 2024.

“I don’t see a court jumping the gun and ordering it closed … until the litigation and constitutional issues are resolved,” he said in an interview.

The Canadian government has been lobbying officials in Washington to keep the pipeline open in what is likely to be an election year in Canada, but the White House has so far not weighed in on the matter.

The Ontario government estimates that the city of Sarnia, just across the border from Michigan, could lose 5,000 refinery and chemical plant jobs. Industry lobbyists say thousands of jobs are also at risk in the United States.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups opposed to Line 5 say the potential job losses are exaggerated, and are planning “Evict Enbridge” rallies in Mackinaw City, Michigan, on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Past May 12, Enbridge will be operating illegally as per state laws. We are very hopeful to hear from the governor that there will be accountability measures for operating that pipeline,” said Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation.

Michigan is reviewing what remedies would be available to the state if Enbridge keeps operating past the deadline, said Lynsey Mukomel, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General.

Canadian crude market forward prices suggest most traders do not expect Line 5 to shut in coming months, but the lack of certainty is concerning, said one Calgary-based market source.

“We are looking at all our options and we will leave no stone unturned in defending Canada‘s energy security,” Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan told an emergency parliamentary debate on the pipeline last Thursday.

“We will be ready to intervene strategically at precisely the right moment,” he continued, without giving details.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio)

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U.S. State Dept approves potential sale of AEGIS Combat System to Canada

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The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale to Canada of 4 AEGIS Combat Systems made by Lockheed Martin in a deal valued at up to $1.7 billion, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The Pentagon said the sale of the powerful missile and radar systems to the NATO ally would “significantly improve” network-centric warfare capabilities for U.S. forces operating globally alongside Canada‘s.

AEGIS systems are primarily used aboard ships though they have been adapted for land use.

The package would include four shipsets worth of the AEGIS Combat System and three shipsets of the MK 41 Vertical Launch System as well as support equipment, spares and technical support, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Monday.

Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded.

 

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)

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