Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, Feb. 22

The latest:

  • Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is expected to provide a live update at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. CBC Edmonton and Calgary will carry it live on the websites and Facebook.
  • Alberta reported 328 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, compared with 380 new cases reported on Saturday.
  • There were 4,758 active cases on Sunday, down from 4,803 the previous day.
  • The testing positivity rate is 4.4 per cent, down from 4.6 per cent the previous day. However some regions, like northern Alberta, are seeing testing positivity rates as high as 10 per cent.
  • Nine more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,827.
  • There were 321 people in hospital as of Sunday, including 53 in intensive care.
  • As of Sunday, the province has confirmed a total of 278 cases of people infected with a coronavirus variant — 271 of the strain first identified in the U.K. and seven of the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Roughly half of the cases that have been fully investigated have been found to be linked to travel. Hinshaw says that’s a concern because it means the other half are considered community acquired — and a third of them have an unknown source.
  • Starting Monday, most international air passengers will have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results. All travellers flying into Canada from abroad land in one of four cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal — and are responsible for booking their own rooms there even if they plan on travelling on to other destinations. Those with negative results on their arrival tests will be able to take connecting flights to their final destinations. As of last Friday, two hotels in Calgary  had been designated as approved as quarantine hotels: the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel, where the three-day quarantine stay for one person costs $1,272 plus tax, which includes food and security costs, and the Acclaim Hotel.
  • Migrant workers at the Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer have expressed dismay at rhetoric that seemed to frame the plant’s outbreak as a consequence of their actions while mitigating the realities of their work environment.
  • There were 445 cases linked to the Olymel outbreak, including one death, as of Sunday.
  • RCMP said in a news release that observations were made that the GraceLife Church in Parkland County west of Edmonton held service beyond the designated capacity on Sunday.
  • Pastor James Coates of the GraceLife Church was brought into custody last week after his arrest on two counts of contravening the Public Health Act and on one criminal charge for failing to comply with a condition of an undertaking.
  • Meanwhile in Calgary, Alberta Health Services confirmed that a public health inspector visited Fairview Baptist Church on Sunday for a conversation with church leadership about public health requirements. 
  • The Canadian military is defending its decision to send around 500 members to Fort Polk, La. — including members of the  Edmonton-based 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1CMBG) — this week to participate in a three-week long exercise with roughly 4,500 U.S. troops. One Edmonton soldier called it a “trivial exercise” that  needlessly puts troops at risk of COVID-19.  
  • Premier Jason Kenney announced on Friday all seniors aged 75 and older will be able to book appointments for COVID-19 vaccines beginning Wednesday.
  • Residents of lodges and other continuing care facilities have already begun getting the vaccine.
  • Kenney also said all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living have now received their second shot of the vaccine.
  • As of Sunday, Alberta had administered 169,441 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 66,357 Albertans fully immunized having received two doses.

(Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

See the detailed regional breakdown:

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as of Sunday.

  • Calgary zone: 1,669, down from 1,704 reported on Saturday (48,021 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,115, down from 1,192 (51,082 recovered).
  • North zone: 865, up from 818 (10,327 recovered).
  • South zone: 335, up from 324 (5,918 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 766, up from 758 (9,028 recovered).
  • Unknown: 8, up from 7 (102 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

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:


Alberta reports 328 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Alberta reported 328 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths on Sunday, as churches in Edmonton and Calgary continued to hold services that contravene public health orders.

There are now 4,758 active cases in the province — down slightly from 4,803 active cases recorded the previous day.

Currently, 321 people are in hospital with the illness, including 53 in intensive care unit beds, compared to 336 people in hospital recorded yesterday with 51 in intensive care unit beds. 

Since the pandemic began, 1,827 people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta.

Of the nine deaths recorded on Sunday, four were in the Calgary zone, three were in the Edmonton zone, one was in the Central zone and one was in the North zone. Two of the deaths were linked to outbreaks at continuing care facilities. The deaths occurred between Nov. 29 and Feb. 19. 

Provincial labs completed 7,541 tests for the disease on Saturday, down from 8,380 tests from the previous day, with a positivity rate of about 4.4 per cent, down from 4.6 per cent on Friday.

The ongoing vaccination program has now delivered 169,441 doses.


Edmonton and Calgary churches defy public health orders

An Edmonton-area church that has repeatedly flouted public health orders since December once again held a service this Sunday.

RCMP said in a news release that observations were made that the GraceLife Church in Parkland County west of Edmonton held service beyond the designated capacity. Restrictions call for attendance to be capped at 15 per cent of capacity and congregants to practise physical distancing and wear masks.

“The investigation continues into this situation with the intention of determining, through consultation with AHS, the next course of action for the RCMP,” the Sunday release said.

RCMP said in a news release that observations were made that the GraceLife Church in Parkland County west of Edmonton held service beyond the designated capacity.  (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Pastor James Coates was brought into custody last week after his arrest on two counts of contravening the Public Health Act and on one criminal charge for failing to comply with a condition of an undertaking.

This weekend, protestors gathered outside the Edmonton Remand Centre to call for the pastor’s release.

A judge’s order was issued compelling Coates to attend court on Feb. 24.

And in Calgary, Alberta Health Services confirmed that a public health inspector visited Fairview Baptist Church on Sunday for a conversation with church leadership about public health requirements. 

In January, Pastor Tim Stephens was fined $1,200 by Calgary bylaw officers for violating public health orders. But the church has continued to encourage congregants to break rules by holding gatherings larger than allowed capacity and not enforcing the wearing of masks.


Most air passengers entering Canada now under new travel rules

Beginning Monday, most air passengers entering Canada must comply with new travel measures, including a pricey hotel quarantine.

Most air passengers will now have to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results.

Passengers must pre-book their hotel stay before arriving in Canada.

On Friday, the federal government posted online a list of approved quarantine hotels. Eighteen are currently listed.

There is no option to book online, so travellers must call a dedicated phone line to reserve a room.

Once they get through on the phone line, passengers must reserve a room for three nights — even though they only have to stay for as long as it takes to get their test results.

Travellers who test negative can leave immediately and finish the rest of their 14-day quarantine at home. Those who need to take a connecting domestic flight can book it at this point and fly home.


Migrant workers at Red Deer slaughterhouse say they’ve been unfairly blamed

When the Olymel slaughterhouse in Red Deer, Alta., closed temporarily last week amid a growing outbreak of COVID-19 cases, many workers expressed relief.

But as news articles about the shutdown were posted online — some of which highlighted the facility’s migrant worker base — workers noticed a hurtful trend.

“There are some comments I read in the articles or the news, saying that they have to send back the foreigners to their own land,” said one worker, who CBC News agreed to keep anonymous. “It’s too painful on our part.”

A vehicle pulls out of the parking lot at the Olymel pork plant in Red Deer, Alta. The plant has temporarily shut down due to a growing COVID-19 outbreak that has surpassed 400 cases. (CBC)

There were 445 cases linked to the plant outbreak as of Sunday. Of those, 205 cases are active and one worker has died.

Last week, Olymel said it would temporarily shut down the plant due to the rapidly growing COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

Prior to the shutdown, workers said they were afraid to go back to work, fearing for their health and the health of their families, several of whom described negative effects on their mental wellbeing.

Since the shutdown, workers have expressed dismay at rhetoric that seemed to frame the outbreak as a consequence of their actions while mitigating the realities of their work environment.


Military to send troops to U.S. in its largest international exercise of pandemic

The Canadian military is defending its decision to send hundreds of troops to the U.S. for training, even as one Edmonton soldier called it a “trivial exercise” that needlessly puts troops at risk of COVID-19. 

Around 500 members of the Canadian military will travel to Fort Polk, Louisiana, this week to participate in a three-week long exercise with roughly 4,500 U.S. troops.

It’s the largest international training exercise the Canadian Army has taken part in since the beginning of the pandemic, a military spokesperson confirmed.

A new study led by the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ont. will examine how Canada’s veterans have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The commander of Edmonton-based 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1CMBG) called the exercise a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and a necessary step to ready the group for its next assignment. 

“There are certainly risks to doing anything in a COVID environment but in our mind the risk of not being trained if Canadians give us the call is worse,” said Col. Wade Rutland, commander of 1CMBG.

“We have plenty of force protection measures that are proven and are in place now that we’ll use to make sure that these soldiers, our allies and their families are protected.”


Cancer institute excluded from first phase

Documents obtained by CBC News show frustration at an Edmonton cancer centre due to its exclusion from Alberta’s first phase of vaccinations.

The memos detail the unsuccessful efforts from leadership at the Cross Cancer Institute to have Alberta Health Services make its health-care workers eligible for immunization during Phase 1.

AHS has decided not to include workers at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton during the first phase of vaccinations. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Dr. Charles Butts, the facility’s medical director, called an early February ruling by AHS against eligibility a “bad decision” in an internal email last week.

“I am sure that many of you will be as frustrated as I am with this decision,” he said in the email.

“It is taken from the perspective of acute care hospitals and ignores the critical nature of the CCI in delivery of cancer care for the northern half of the province.”


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