- Alberta reported an estimated 500 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, but the province says fewer people were tested on Christmas Day, so fewer tests were processed and reported on Dec. 26.
- The province reported a 7 per cent positivity rate.
- No new data related to hospitalizations, ICU numbers or deaths was released Sunday.
- The next in-person media availability is expected to be held Dec. 28.
- Alberta is making 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, the province announced last week. A household must host a maximum of only two people who live alone.
- Case numbers show Alberta’s school plan worked to slow COVID-19 spread, the province’s top doctor says.
- Alberta Health Services has begun the rollout of an additional 25,350 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech 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 reported an estimated 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 24, 900 on Dec. 25 and 500 on Dec. 26.
The 900 figure was the first time the new case count was below 1,000 since Nov. 17. No new hospitalization, ICU or death numbers were released.
The daily total announced on Sunday is the lowest Alberta has seen in weeks.
But Hinshaw explained on Twitter on Sunday morning that fewer people were tested on Christmas Day, meaning fewer tests were processed and reported Dec. 26.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Dec. 22 there will be a one-time exemption to the province’s gathering restrictions, allowing people who live alone to visit another household once between Dec. 23 and Dec. 28.
A household must only host a maximum of two people who live alone, not including minors.
The province also relaxed another rule — massage therapy will now be allowed for those who have a prescription, with precautions in place.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 23. No detailed numbers were made available after that date, but will be provided in future updates:
- Calgary zone: 6,470, down from 6,555 reported on Dec. 22 (29,722 recovered).
- Edmonton zone: 8,427, down from 8,644 (31,475 recovered).
- North zone: 1,092, down from 1,121 (5,089 recovered).
- South zone: 390, down from 412 (4,392 recovered).
- Central zone: 1,391, down from 1,462 (4,242 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.
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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