Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Feb. 25

The latest:

  • Finance Minister Travis Toews is set to deliver the Alberta goverment’s 2021 budget on Thursday afternoon. CBC News will have full coverage. Amid the pandemic, the provincial debt has reached $100 billion and the deficit was forecast at $21 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2020-21 fiscal year. 
  • Alberta Health Services tweeted on Thursday that its online booking tool has stabilized since the government website crashed on the first day that all Albertans 75 and older could book COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • AHS says more than 2,000 seniors got their shots on Wednesday, thousands more will get one on Thursday, and a more than 92,000 more have made future appointments.
  • AHS phone lines were jammed and the online site crashed by 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday as the province moved to the next stage of its immunization rollout.
  • Albertans born in 1946 or earlier were able to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine appointment starting Wednesday at 8 a.m. MT.  Appointments are supposed to be booked online or by calling 811.
  • Appointments are to be booked at 58 sites around the province, between 8:20 a.m. and 3:40 p.m., seven days a week. The government has said that those hours will be extended as more doses arrive. More than 230,000 seniors will be eligible. 
  • Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that vaccinations for those 75 and older will soon be available at 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer as well as at the AHS sites. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
  • Cases in Alberta’s long-term care homes have plummeted by 92 per cent following vaccinations.
  • Premier Jason Kenney said all residents in long-term care and designated supportive living have now received their second shot of the vaccine.
  • Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw will not be providing a live update until March 1.
  • Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that family doctors and their clinical staff will be included in Phase 2 of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. That’s expected to take place between April and September.
     
  • Alberta’s R-value has increased to 1.03, meaning that more than one person on average contracts COVID-19 from each positive case. An R-value above 1.0 indicates exponential growth. Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the R-value is much higher, at 1.13. 
  • The testing positivity rate is 4.6 per cent, up from 4.4 per cent the previous day. However some regions, like northern Alberta, are seeing testing positivity rates as high as 10 per cent.
  • Alberta reported 430 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, compared with 267 new cases reported the previous day.
  • There were 4,545 active cases, up from 4,516 the previous day.
  • Thirteen more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 1,866.
  • There were 307 people in hospital, including 56 in intensive care as of Wednesday.
  • The province has confirmed a total of 323 cases of people infected with a coronavirus variant — 316 of the strain first identified in the U.K. and seven of the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Hinshaw says the province will wait until after March 1 to make a decision on moving to Stage 2 of reopening because the R-value and positivity rate have increased while new cases have plateaued rather than continued a downward trend. 
  • Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry announced Tuesday morning that the city’s state of local emergency has been extended for another 90 days. 
  • A total of 235 schools, or around 10 per cent of all schools in the province, are experiencing outbreaks.

See the detailed regional breakdown:

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,564, down from 1,612 reported on Tuesday (48,482 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 925, down from 930 (51,469 recovered).
  • North zone: 942, up from 875 (10,443 recovered).
  • South zone: 353, up from 350 (5,973 recovered). 
  • Central zone: 759, up from 745 (9,161 recovered).
  • Unknown: 2, down from 4 (94 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

(CBC)

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:


Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine booking system ‘stabilized’ after website crashes, AHS says

Alberta Health Services says its online tool to reserve COVID-19 vaccinations is working properly, a day after tens of thousands of people spent hours trying to book online or on the phone, only to be disconnected or booted off by a system overwhelmed as it opened up to all people born in 1946 or earlier.

About 230,000 more seniors age 75 and older were eligible for the vaccine when bookings opened up Wednesday at 8 a.m. Seniors who are residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities have already received them.

Mary House, 80, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary on Feb. 24. (Alberta Health Services)

But many people who called Health Link at 811 reported not being able to get through on the lines at all, or being disconnected — often repeatedly — after making it part way through the booking process, while the AHS website repeatedly went down or booted people out mid-registration. 

By evening, the website had started to show a message letting people know how many people were ahead of them in line and how long the wait would be. At about 7 p.m., users were being told they faced waits of an hour or more with about 10,000 people ahead of them in the queue.


AHS drops legal action against central Alberta cafe that contravened COVID-19 orders

Alberta Health Services has discontinued legal action against a central Alberta cafe owner who operated for weeks in defiance of public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

With restrictions on in-person dining now lifted, AHS is no longer pursuing compliance against the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, a hamlet 70 kilometres northeast of Red Deer. 

The Whistle Stop has been at the centre of a high-profile legal battle over enforcement and a public debate over the strains that pandemic-related health orders have placed on small business. 

Cafe owner Christopher Scott had been issued a court order after he refused to close the restaurant’s dining room, contravening a ban on in-person dining introduced in December as cases across the province soared.

For more, see: AHS drops legal action against central Alberta cafe that contravened COVID-19 orders


Optimism, relief as Alberta’s long-term care centres see significant drop in COVID-19 cases

After months of worrying about the risk of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, Nicole Bugeaud is finally feeling some relief.

Bugeaud’s sister, Dominique, has Down Syndrome and lives at Centre de Santé Saint-Thomas, a supportive living facility in Edmonton.

Nicole Bugeaud is feeling a sense of relief now that her sister, who lives in St. Thomas Manor a supportive living facility in Edmonton, has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Francois Joly/CBC News)

The past year has been a rollercoaster for Nicole and her family, but now that her sister has received both doses of the vaccine, she says things are getting better.

“It was a difficult year in the sense that things were evolving very quickly, cases were erupting everywhere, protocols were put in place limiting visitations,” Bugeaud said.

“Trying to explain to her that what was going on wasn’t easy. But in the last couple of months, things have gone better. Cases have gone down, two-shot vaccinations were completed for all residents and things seem to be calming down a lot more.”


Alberta to hold off on making decision on Stage 2 reopening until March

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said as the R-value and the positivity rate have increased and new cases have plateaued — rather than continuing a downward trend, as hoped — the province will wait until after March 1 to make a decision on moving to Stage 2 of reopening. 

That’s so the province can take extra time to evaluate what those numbers mean, Hinshaw said, and whether the increases are significant. 

“In terms of what’s concerning or not concerning, we want to see our case counts either being stable or going down. Because when cases start to grow, if that’s sustained over time, then we can get into a situation like we were in in the fall,” she said during Monday’s update. 

“And that’s why we need to take the full three weeks, to be able to look very closely at where those numbers are coming from. Are there patterns? Are there things that we can do to be able to target particular locations? And give us that chance to fully evaluate whether this is a few-day fluctuation or whether this is a longer trend that is concerning.”

Alberta’s R-value has grown to 1.03, meaning that more than one person on average contracts COVID-19 from each positive case. Outside of Calgary and Edmonton, the R-value is much higher at 1.13. 


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.


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