Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, March 11

The latest:

  • The next update from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is set for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CBC Edmonton and Calgary will carry it live on the websites and Facebook.
  • The province reported 399 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and two more deaths.
  • There were 4,463 active cases across the province, a decrease of seven from the day before.
  • The province reported 254 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 37 people in intensive care beds.
  • 10,414 coronavirus tests were completed with a positivity rate of 3.74 per cent.
  • An additional 47 variant cases were recorded, bringing the total to 734. Of those variant cases, almost all — 721 — are the strain first identified in the U.K., and 13 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • Alberta’s R-value is 0.95. An R-value below 1.0 means the rate of transmission was decreasing during that period.
  • Variants of concern now make up about nine per cent of active cases of COVID-19 in the province, a rise from three per cent in late January.
  • Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program moved to the next stage on Wednesday as the province widens the age-range of people eligible for a shot.
  • As of 8 a.m. on Thursday, the AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine could be booked by Albertans born in 1957 or 1958 through Alberta Health Services (either online or by calling 811) and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972 or 1973 by calling 811.
  • The province plans to offer the first 58,500 doses of that vaccine only to healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 64, with the rollout expanding by one birth year at a time depending on vaccine supply.
  • Alberta Health is recommending AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine for people aged 18 to 64  if they do not have a severe chronic illness. The initial doses of will not be available at pharmacies, the news release said.
  • AHS told CBC News on Thursday morning that over 21,000  Albertans had already booked AstraZeneca/Covishield  shots.
  • AHS recommends that Albertans book their appointment using the online booking tool wherever possible.

( Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

  • Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India, was recently approved by Health Canada and is considered equivalent to AstraZeneca, Alberta Health Services said Tuesday.
  • As of Wednesday, the province said 308,962 doses of vaccine had been administered, and 91,259 Albertans have been fully immunized with two doses.
  • If shipments arrive as scheduled, the province says all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are 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.
  • The Alberta government announced Monday that the province could step fully into Step 2 of reopening, as hospitalizations have remained below 450.
  • Retail stores and malls will be allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, and youth sports teams and activities are allowed to resume with up to 10 participants. Masks and physical distancing are still required.
  • Restrictions are also being eased for child, youth and adult performances, including singing, theatre and playing wind instruments, though participants must follow the same restrictions as for youth sports.
  • Banquet halls, community hall and hotels can now host permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 people, and funeral services with up to 20.

With COVID-19 case numbers continuing to fall in Alberta, the province has decided to loosen a few more restrictions under Step 2 of its reopening plan, says Health Minister Tyler Shandro. 1:16

  • The province says any decisions on the province moving to Step 3 of the reopening will be made on March 22 at the earliest.
  • GraceLife Church in Parkland County has been charged “as an entity” for exceeding allowable capacity at Sunday services in February, Parkland RCMP said Wednesday.

See which regions are being hit hardest

Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported Wednesday by the province:

  • Calgary zone: 1,623, up from 1,594 (50,055 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,156, down from 1,182 (52,445 recovered).
  • North zone: 836, down from 876 (11,533 recovered).
  • South zone: 396, up from 368 (6,329 recovered).
  • Central zone: 440, unchanged (9,926 recovered).
  • Unknown: 12, up from 10 (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

You can see active cases by local health area on the following interactive map. Scroll, zoom and click on the map for more information.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

Albertans who are fully immunized against COVID-19 still need to observe all the existing public health measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, health officials say.

So far, 308,962 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province and 91,259 Albertans have been fully immunized with two doses. 

More and more Albertans will become fully immunized in the weeks and months ahead.

For answers to questions people may have as it becomes increasingly tempting to throw caution (and masks) to the wind, see: The number of Albertans fully immunized against COVID-19 is growing. Now what?

Alberta reported 47 new cases of variants of concern in Wednesday’s case count, bringing the provincial total to 734 variant cases.

That means variants now make up nine per cent of active cases of COVID-19 in the province, a rise from three per cent in late January. 

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said variants of concern now represent nine per cent of all active cases of COVID-19 in the province. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said other jurisdictions have seen a much more rapid growth in variants in recent weeks.

“[Other jurisdictions have seen] variants of concern as a proportion of all COVID cases going from three to four per cent to well over half of all cases in just six weeks,” Hinshaw said.

“This means that our health measures — both the overall restrictions as well as the targeted measures for variant cases — are working to slow the growth, and if we continue to work together we can continue to limit the spread.”

The province reported 399 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and two more deaths.

For more, see: Alberta reports 399 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths

Starting Wednesday at 8 a.m., all Albertans turning 64 this year — those born in 1957 — could start booking their AstraZeneca vaccine through Alberta Health Service’s online booking portal or by calling Health Link at 811.

As well, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 49 (born in 1972) could book vaccines through Health Link only.

Alberta Health Services clarified over the noon hour that Albertans born in 1958-1971 would be the next group to be offered a chance to book in the coming days.

It said it would outline what age groups were next in coming days.

The province is expecting 58,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week and more doses next week..

More than 10,000 Albertans had booked shots by about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, AHS tweeted, saying call volumes to 811 had been high.

An Alberta Health Services worker gives a senior a vaccine shot. In Phase 1, Albertans born in 1946 or earlier can book an appointment online, call 811, or contact a participating pharmacy in Calgary, Edmonton or Red Deer. (Alberta Health Services)

“We continue to see high call volumes to Health Link 811 and recommend booking appointments using the online booking tool wherever possible,” AHS tweeted.

“We are asking only those born in 1957 to visit the booking tool today. You will need to provide proof of age at your immunization appointment.”

Pharmacies are not yet carrying the AstraZeneca vaccine — which will be given in two doses about 16 weeks apart.

Health Canada approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Serum Institute of India’s version — called Covishield — last month.

For more, see: 10,000 newly eligible Albertans book shots in hours as AstraZeneca vaccinations launch

GraceLife Church in Parkland County has been charged “as an entity” for exceeding allowable capacity at Sunday services in February, Parkland RCMP said Wednesday.

The church was charged for exceeding the 15 per cent allowable capacity for services on Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, contrary to Section 73(1) of the Public Health Act, RCMP said in a news release.

Legal counsel for the church was served March 4 with a summons to attend Stony Plain provincial court on May 5, police said.

The church was again over its allowable capacity at a service March 7, RCMP said.

RCMP were in attendance to help Alberta Health Services with its investigation into the church and its activities. Officers did not go inside the building, police said.

RCMP said they would offer no further comment on the charges announced Wednesday and said the investigation is continuing.

For more, see: GraceLife Church facing charges under Public Health Act

It was inevitable, the premier said.

Though there were only dozens of cases of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 reported in Canada, health officials were resigned that the pandemic would eventually spread into Alberta.

A news bulletin went out in the late afternoon March 5, with few details aside from confirmation that a presumptive case had been confirmed.

Less than an hour later, the province’s chief medical officer of health took to the podium.

“Uh, you all know, my name is Dr. Deena Hinshaw,” she said. “I’m here, as you know, to provide an update on COVID-19 in Alberta.”

Hinshaw went on to provide more details: the presumptive case was a woman in her 50s who had been on board the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of California.

Nearly a year later, Hinshaw needed to introduce herself to Albertans no longer — she had become a fixture when it came to her daily updates on cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks and deaths.

For more, see: These graphics show just how deeply COVID-19 has infiltrated Alberta

  • For the latest on what’s happening in the rest of Canada and around the world, see here.

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