Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, March 26


The number of active COVID cases and dangerous variants continue to climb, largely because some people aren’t doing everything they can to prevent household spread and aren’t following the rules at work, fitness facilities, restaurants and social gatherings, Alberta’s top health official warned Thursday.

At least four in 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta acquired through household transmission, Hinshaw says

‘By wearing the mask and washing your hands often, you protect yourself,’ Helen Christopoulous, 78, told Alberta Health Services as she received her first COVID-19 vaccine. ‘I think people should be doing that.’ (Alberta Health Services)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is not expected to provide a live update on Friday. New case numbers will be posted online by the province, and will be published by CBC News.
  • At least four in 10 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta were acquired through household transmission, said Hinshaw on Thursday.
  • “The No. 1 riskiest activity is living in a household with someone who’s infectious,” Hinshaw said at a news conference.
  • She urged household members not to treat the spread as inevitable. Instead, anyone with symptoms should stay away from other people in the household and get tested as soon as possible, said Hinshaw, noting that free hotel rooms are available so people who need to can isolate outside the family home.
  • She also warned the province is seeing spread across multiple settings, with people letting their guards down and not following public health rules at restaurants, fitness centres, work or social gatherings — which are currently “against the rules,” she reminded people.
  • On Thursday, Alberta reported 764 new cases of COVID-19, as cases continue to climb from a low of 245 in mid-February and 692 on Wednesday. There were three more deaths

(Note the latest daily count of new cases in the above chart will usually vary slightly from the net new cases Alberta Health announces each day. For more on why, click here.)

  • Thursday’s tally brings the number of active cases in the province to 6,835, up from a low of just over 4,000 in February..
  • In total, Alberta has seen 144,311 cases with 135,500 recovered and 1,976 deaths.
  • There are 294 people in hospital with the disease, 55 of them in intensive care.
  • Another 14,062 coronavirus tests were reported Thursday, with a positivity rate of about 5.4 per cent.
  • Lethbridge is now considered a “hotspot” for COVID-19, with health officials  urging people to get tested after numbers spiked recently in the city, largely due to non-compliance with health measures.

The latest on more dangerous variants:

  • Alberta has been contending with rising hospitalization numbers and a surge in cases linked to variants of concern — trends that have delayed plans for further easing public health restrictions.
  • An additional 191 cases reported Thursday were determined to be caused by variants of concern — bringing the total identified in the province to 2,301, with 1,400 of them active.
  • Variants now account for 20.5 per cent of all active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the riskiest activity for spreading COVID-19 is living with someone who has it. Nearly half of all transmission in Alberta happens within the home. 1:35

  • Of those cases of variants of concern, 881 people have recovered while 20 have died.
  • Hospitals in Alberta are preparing for a third wave of the pandemic, driven by the more aggressive variants of the coronavirus. 
  • Variants of the virus behind COVID-19 double the risk of someone being admitted to intensive care — and increase the risk of death by roughly 60 per cent — according to a new analysis of recent Ontario data from the province’s science advisory table, multiple sources tell CBC News.
  • Almost all variant cases are the strain first identified in the U.K. (B117) and 20 are the strain first identified in South Africa (B1351).
  • Alberta has also identified five cases of the variant strain first identified in Brazil, known as P1.

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • On Wednesday, Hinshaw warned that additional public health restrictions could be necessary in Alberta if there’s a continued increase in variant cases — which along with increasing overall case numbers were the main factors cited by the government Monday when it postponed moving to Stage 3 of reopening.
  • Alberta has no plans to keep students home for an extra week during spring break, which was done after the winter holidays earlier this year, because the pandemic is not considered critical enough, Hinshaw said Thursday.
  • According to the provincial plan, to move to Step 3 there must be fewer than 300 people in hospital, and that total must be declining. As of late, hospitalizations have been rising.
  • Under the current restrictions, all indoor social gatherings are limited to household members only. 
  • People who live alone can have up to two close contacts:
    • These must be the same two contacts throughout the duration of the restriction.
    • If the close contacts do not live alone, visits cannot be held at their home.
    • Single parents who only live with their children under 18 are permitted to have up to two close contacts.
  • Outdoor social gatherings can have up to 10 people, but must follow all public health rules about masks and physical distancing. The rules are enforceable with $1,000 fines.
  • Retail stores and malls can have 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 also 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 host permitted performance activities, wedding ceremonies with up to 10 people, and funeral services with up to 20.
  • Rules for indoor fitness still require that gym visits must be scheduled or by appointment — no drop-ins allowed.
    • Low-intensity individual and group exercises are allowed without a trainer. Public health rules must be followed, including wearing masks and physical distancing.
    • High-intensity activities — without a mask — are allowed only for one-on-one workouts with a trainer. Trainers must still be masked.
    • No sports games, competitions, team practice or league play is allowed.
  • Registration will begin in April for swim and skate lessons with the City of Calgary, which will host a maximum of 10 people in each class to maintain physical distancing.

The latest on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

  • About 74 per cent of Albertans aged 75 and older — the demographic group most vulnerable to the disease — have received COVID-19 vaccinations, Alberta Health confirmed Thursday.
  • The Alberta government reported reaching a COVID-19 milestone on Wednesday, with more than half a million doses of vaccine administered in the province. 
  • As of Thursday, 532,171 doses of vaccine have been administered and 94,347 Albertans have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
  • That means 9.9 per cent of Albertans have now received at least one dose of vaccine.
  • The province told CBC News that 94,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine expected to arrive Wednesday had been delayed. They now expect to receive only 28,500 doses this week, and 65,900 doses on or around March 30.
  • The delay has impacted shipments to pharmacies and vaccine appointments. The province says any pharmacy which has had to adjust appointments will reach out to patients directly.
  • Alberta opened up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone eligible in Phase 2A on March 19 after starting the rollout on March 15. This means the following can book appointments:
    • Anyone born in 1956 or earlier.
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1971 or earlier. (Those living on-reserve or on-settlement should book through a local clinic.) 
  • Staff and residents of licensed seniors supportive living facilities not included in Phase 1. (They will receive a direct email from AHS with a unique link to go online and book their immunization appointments.)
  • How to book if you’re eligible:
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are still available at those pharmacies as well as at immunization sites operated by AHS across the province. 
  • The Alberta government laid out its plan on March 15 for Phase 2B of the vaccine rollout, which will be for people born 2005 to 1957 (ages 16 to 64) with certain high-risk underlying health issues like chronic conditions affecting certain organs and those suffering from cancer. For the full list of health conditions see here. It’s expected that the timeline will be between April and June, but it will depend on supply.
  • The government says Phase 2C of the rollout will include health-care professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and support staff. As well, designated support persons for those living in continuing care will also become eligible in the stage.

The latest on AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine:

  • As of March 10, Alberta began offering the AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine as an option for adults who do not have a severe chronic illness in a staggered rollout to Albertans born 1957 to 1971 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) persons born 1972 to 1976.
  • However, not everyone in those age ranges was immediately eligible: the province staggered the rollout starting with the oldest and expanding it a birth year or two at a time depending on vaccine supply.
  • The government says m​​​ore appointments and birth years will be added as more AstraZeneca supply becomes available.
  • The U.S. has announced plans to send 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada, which could arrive by the end of the month. Plans are still being worked out.
  • Healthy Albertans in those age ranges can also choose to wait until Phase 2D begins in May to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if they don’t want the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, AHS stressed that AstraZeneca has been proven to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and death in adults 18 to 64.

The latest on COVID-19 rapid testing:

  • Another two million free rapid testing kits are now being offered to public, private and not-for-profit employers and service providers, the Alberta government said Tuesday
  • The announcement follows the earlier rollout of more than 1.2 million kits to long-term care facilities, schools, outbreak sites, hospitals, homeless shelters and industries across the province.

Like this student pictured getting a rapid COVID test at a Montreal school, students and staff at two Calgary schools have been in a rapid-testing pilot project. It has so far yielded zero positive COVID-19 tests at one of them, while the other school would not reveal its testing results, but said its outbreak is now over. (CBC)

  • Any employer or service provider can apply for the free test kits, the news release said.
  • A COVID-19 rapid testing pilot project to screen students and staff without symptoms is taking place at two northeast Calgary schools:
    • Testing began March 18 at Rundle School for Grades K-6, which has yet to reveal if any positive results were detected by the pilot project.
    • Testing began March 22 at St. John XXIII School for Grades K-9, which reported Thursday that testing had detected zero cases of COVID-19.
  • Canadian energy giant Suncor will focus its COVID-19 rapid-testing efforts on hundreds of fly-in, fly-out workers that will be conducting planned maintenance in northern Alberta over the coming spring and summer.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 3,099, up from 2,910 (51,871 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,512, up from 1,455 (53,658 recovered).
  • North zone: 798, up from 788 (12,477 recovered).
  • South zone: 790, up from 784 (6,834 recovered).
  • Central zone: 611, up from 581 (10,477 recovered).
  • Unknown: 25, up from 16 (113 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:

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

With files from The Canadian Press

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