Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, March 15


Phase 2A of Alberta’s COVID-19 immunization program began Monday, opening up to Albertans aged 65 to 74 and First Nations, Inuit and Métis people born in 1971 and earlier. However, Alberta Health Services said its online booking system was experiencing “intermittent issues” after the bookings opened up at 8 a.m.

AHS booking site has ‘intermittent issues’ as Alberta begins Phase 2A of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

A man with his nose and mouth covered bikes along a pathway in northeast Calgary on the weekend as the city experienced a burst of spring weather, with temperatures as high as 17 C on Sunday. (Colleen De Neve for CBC News)

The latest on vaccinations:

  • Phase 2A of Alberta’s COVID-19 immunization program with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines began Monday, opening up to Albertans aged 65 to 74 can now book using the Alberta Health Services (AHS) online tool or by calling Health Link at 811. 
  • However, AHS said its online  system was experiencing “intermittent issues” after bookings opened up at 8 a.m.

  • First Nations, Inuit and Métis people born in 1971 are also able to book their appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines by calling Health Link at 811.
  • Eligible Albertans can also try to book through 102 community pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the Alberta Blue Cross website.
  • Vaccinations for those 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) are still available at those pharmacies as well as at the 116 immunization sites operated by AHS across the province. 
  • AHS announced Monday it will open a large-scale vaccination centre at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre on April 5. The site will have 100 vaccination stations. There will be no drop-in appointments. 
  • As of Saturday, the province said 357,983 doses of vaccine had been administered, and 91,538 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.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, will deliver her next update Monday at 3:30 p.m. CBC News will cover it live on the website on on Facebook.

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • The province reported 388 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and six new deaths.
  • There were 4,697 active cases across the province, an increase of 103 from the day before.
  • The province reported 248 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 38 people in intensive care beds.
  • 8,343 coronavirus tests were completed with a positivity rate of about 4.55 per cent.
  • An additional 66 variant cases were recorded, bringing the total to 920. Of those variant cases, almost all — 902 — are the strain first identified in the U.K., and 16 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
  • On Sunday, Alberta also reported the first two cases of the variant strain first identified in Brazil, known as P.1.
  • Alberta’s R-value is 0.95. An R-value below 1.0 means the rate of transmission was decreasing during that period.

The latest on AstraZeneca/Covishield:

  • Meanwhile, AHS said Sunday that supply of AstraZeneca/Covishield was running low, after the province began to roll it out starting last Wednesday to Albertans aged 18 to 64 who do not have a severe chronic illness. 
  • Alberta received an initial allotment of 58,500 doses of Covishield/AstraZeneca, with more on the way.
  • More than 53,000 eligible Albertans had booked appointments by Sunday, meaning there were fewer than 5,000 doses remaining as of Sunday.
  • The initial doses are not available at pharmacies and must be booked through AHS.
  • There were two new groups eligible to book as of Saturday:
    • All Albertans born in 1961.
    • All First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1976.

The latest on expanded rapid testing:

  • The Alberta government is shipping 924,000 rapid tests to sites across the province to speed up screening for COVID-19, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. 
  • Rapid tests are intended to support screening programs to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Shandro said, and will help prevent outbreaks at a range of businesses and sectors:
    • 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL.
    • 267,000 to long-term care, designated-supportive living and hospice facilities.
    • 100,000 for a new pilot program offering rapid tests in two Calgary schoolsIt’s expected that one Calgary Board of Education school and one Calgary Catholic School District school will participate in the pilot.
    • 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres and other health-care sites.
    • 76,000 to WestJet.
    • 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province.

A Tropical Medicine University virology lab researcher works in Brazil in early March to develop a test that will detect the P.1 variant of the new coronavirus. The variant, which was first found in Manaus, Brazil, appears to be more contagious than other COVID-19 strains. (Andre Penner/The Associated Press)

  • The tests will be used at Cargill’s High River meatpacking plant — which had the largest outbreak in Canada tied to a single site — over the next several months and the government said discussions are underway to provide tests to other meat-processing plants.
  • Mobile testing will also be used to help with the outbreak at the Olymel pork-processing plant in Red Deer.

The latest on reopening and restrictions:

  • A southeast Calgary church that has previously been fined for defying COVID-19 safety regulations has been handed two more public health order violation tickets. Two tickets for court summons were issued to Fairview Baptist Church by community peace officers on March 8 related to physical distancing and gathering over capacity, the city said Thursday.
  • 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 are now 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 were 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.
  • The province says any decisions on moving to Step 3 of the reopening will be made on March 22 at the earliest.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 1,738, up from 1,695 (50,559 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,154, up from 1,147 (52,770 recovered).
  • North zone: 797, up from 791 (11,825 recovered).
  • South zone: 545, up from 499 (6,433 recovered).
  • Central zone: 452, up from 451 (10,090 recovered).
  • Unknown: 11, unchanged (104 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:

Despite some European countries temporarily halting use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after 30 cases of blood clots, experts maintain it is still safe to use in Canada. 2:01

  • 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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