The Alberta government is expected to announce Monday whether the province will move into Step 3 of its re-opening plan, which would allow indoor gatherings with restrictions, adult team sports and the reopening of churches, museums and movie theatres.
555 new COVID-19 cases reported in Alberta and highest single-day increase in variant cases
The latest on reopening and restrictions:
- The Alberta government is expected to announce Monday whether the cabinet COVID-19 committee has decided the province will move into the next phase of re-opening, Step 3.
- That would allow indoor gatherings with restrictions, adult teams sports and opening places like churches , museums and movie theatres.
- The key threshold set by the provincial government is 300 hospitalizations. As of Sunday Alberta had 282 people in hospital.
- However, Alberta reported 555 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday including 184 new cases of variants, the highest single day increase in variant cases yet recorded.
- As of Sunday evening Alberta had 1,581 reported cases of the B117 variant — the most of any province.
- Many experts says moving to the next step would be unwise under the circumstances.
- Until a decision is made to move to Step 3, all indoor social gatherings — public and private — remain prohibited throughout the province as they have been since Dec. 8. Outdoor social gatherings can have up to 10 people. The rules are enforceable with $1,000 fines.
- 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.
- Alberta moved to Step 2 of its reopening plan starting with a scaled-back approach to easing restrictions on March 1 and again on March 8.
- Retail stores and malls were allowed to increase their capacity to 25 per cent of fire code occupancy, and youth sports teams and activities were 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.
- Central Memorial High School in southwest Calgary will move all classes online until after spring break due to a large COVID-19 outbreak.
- While Alberta Health and the Calgary Board of Education would not say exactly how many cases are linked to the outbreak, the province confirmed there were more than 10 cases of COVID-19 linked to the school. A case involving one of the coronavirus variants of concern was identified at the school on March 8. On March 16, the cases had grown to two or more and Alberta Health Services initiated an investigation.
The latest COVID-19 numbers:
- On Sunday, Alberta reported 555 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 5,971 — an increase of 353 from the day before.
- Of the new cases, 184 involved the highly infectious variant strains of the virus, which now accounts for 15.2 per cent of all active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
- Hinshaw pointed to an explosion in cases in Lethbridge. Three weeks ago, on Feb. 25, Lethbridge had 196 active cases. On Sunday, the province reported Lethbridge reached 511 active cases.
- Hinshaw attributed the rise to family gatherings and faith gatherings.
- She recommended that Albertans remain vigilant in social distancing and masking, and put any spring break travel or party plans on hold.
- To date, 1,601 cases involving variants of concern have been identified. Of those, 678 people have recovered while 15 have died.
- Almost all variant cases are the strain first identified in the U.K. (B117), and 18 are the strain first identified in South Africa.
- Last week, Alberta also reported the first two cases of the variant strain first identified in Brazil, known as P.1.
- The province reported 282 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 47 people in intensive care beds.
- 11,405 coronavirus tests were completed Saturday with a positivity rate of about 5.6 per cent.
- To date, 134,000 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.
- Currently, 297 schools, about 12 per cent, are on alert or have outbreaks, with 1,241 cases in total:
- 212 schools are on alert, with 411 total cases.
- 85 schools have declared outbreaks, with a total of 830 cases.
- 214 schools say in-school transmission has likely occurred, with 113 reporting only one new case as a result.
- New numbers are expected to be released by the province around 3:30 p.m. Monday.
The latest on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:
- Alberta has opened up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone eligible in Phase 2A on Friday 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:
- About 459,856 doses of vaccines have been administered and 93,236 Albertans have been fully vaccinated as of March 20.
- The rate of vaccination is 10,399.5 doses per 100,000 population.
- 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.
- AHS announced Monday it would open a large-scale vaccination centre at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre on April 5. The site will have 100 vaccination stations and, at full capacity, it could deliver 5,000 shots per day, officials say. There will be no drop-in appointments. Free parking will be provided.
- If shipments arrive as scheduled, the province says all adults in the province will receive their first dose by the end of June.
- Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday that 259 pharmacies in 107 communities are now administering COVID-19 vaccine across the province. Participating pharmacies can administer about 66,000 doses per week, he said.
- Kenney said he expects over 500 pharmacies will be participating by next month, reiterating his promise to offer at least one dose to all Albertan adults by June.
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 province received only 58,500 doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield in its first shipment of the vaccine. As of Sunday afternoon, Hinshaw said more than 92 per cent of the province’s current supply of AstraZeneca-Oxford and Covishield vaccine doses had been booked.
- Given the dwindling supply, the province shut down online bookings, with limited appointments available only by calling Health Link at 811.
- The government says more appointments and birth years will be added as more AstraZeneca supply becomes available.
- The U.S. has announced plans 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:
- The Alberta government has announced it would ship nearly one million rapid COVID-19 tests to be used in hospitals, schools, long-term care facilities and private companies including Suncor, Syncrude, CNRL and WestJet.
- A COVID-19 rapid testing pilot project to screen students and staff without symptoms is beginning at two northeast Calgary schools:
- Testing began March 18 at Rundle School for Grades K-6.
- Testing begins March 22 at St. John XXIII School for Grades K-9.
- “By quickly identifying those who may have COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, we are hoping to learn if this type of testing would be an effective tool to manage outbreaks,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said on March 11.
- 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.
- The company, which is getting an additional 100,000 testing kits from the Alberta government, is prioritizing turnaround employees since they present an increased risk for bringing the novel coronavirus into the sites, Sylvie Tran, Suncor’s vice-president of environment, health and safety, said on March 16.
See which regions are being hit hardest:
Here is the detailed regional breakdown of active cases as reported Sunday by the province:
- Calgary zone: 2,465, up from 2,296 (51,345 recovered).
- Edmonton zone: 1,374, up from 1,310 (53,325 recovered).
- North zone: 778, up from 735 (12,277 recovered).
- South zone: 762, up from 724 (6,635 recovered).
- Central zone: 575, up from 534 (10,306 recovered).
- Unknown: 17, down from 19 (112 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