Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Sept. 9

Calgary·THE LATEST

The province will provide up to $36 million in new funding to improve wages for health-care workers and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals.

There are now 679 people being treated in hospital, up from 647 on Wednesday

Health-care workers attend to a COVID-19 patient in ICU at the Peter Lougheed Centre in this file photo. Alberta reported 1,510 new cases on Thursday, surpassing the 1,500 infection mark for the first time since May. (Leah Hennel/AHS)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • Alberta reported 9 more deaths from COVID on Thursday. A total of 2,434 Albertans have died of COVID. 
  • Alberta reported 1,510 new cases out of more than 13,796 tests on Thursday.
  • The positivity rate was 11 per cent.
  • The province is leading the country in daily new COVID cases and active cases. 
  • There were 15,977 active cases across Alberta.
  • By comparison, Ontario, a province with more than three times the population, has less than half the number of active cases.
  • There were 679 people being treated in hospital, 154 of whom were in intensive care beds. About 89 per cent of patients in ICU are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
  • The R-value, which represents the average number of people infected by each infected person, was 1.12 (with a confidence interval of 1.1 to 1.14) for Aug. 30 to Sept. 5.
  • 246,153 Albertans are considered to have recovered from COVID-19.​​​​
  • Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Thursday that Alberta will move patients out of acute-care hospital beds to make room for others sick with COVID-19.
  • The province will provide up to $36 million in new funding to improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals. About $22 million will be used to increase the pay of health-care aides working in contracted agencies.
  • A group of Alberta physicians is warning that the province’s health-care system is on the verge of collapse due to a staffing crisis, overwhelmed intensive care units and mixed messaging from the province.
  • They are asking the Alberta government to strengthen public health measures to fend off the province’s fourth wave of COVID-19 as case numbers and hospitalizations surge.
  • New COVID-19 cases in Alberta could climb to 6,000 per day by the beginning of October, with more than 1,500 hospitalizations and approaching 500 people in ICU, according to virus modelling released Sept. 1. 
  • That projection is part of an ongoing series of reports from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group — a project run by various academics working in epidemiology, mathematics and data analysis.  

The latest on restrictions and reopenings:

  • A dozen mayors in the Edmonton region are urging the provincial government to adopt both a vaccine passport and mandatory masking in schools. 
  • Some Alberta businesses are saying they’re becoming increasingly frustrated with the provincial government’s refusal so far to introduce a vaccine passport program.
  • A poll released Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute suggests 54 per cent of Alberta respondents agreed that mandatory proof of vaccination was a good idea.
  • The Alberta government has cancelled plans to end the mandatory 10-day quarantine requirement for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, Alberta Health confirmed in an email on Sunday.
  • Other measures that the provincial government had set to ramp down on Sept. 27 — including contact tracing and testing — will continue in their current form, Alberta Health spokesperson Chris Bourdeau said in an email on Sunday.
  • The decision to maintain the status quo comes several weeks after the Alberta government announced a six-week delay of measures that were originally set to take effect on Aug. 16. 
  • The first announcement, on July 28, would have made the 10-day isolation period a recommendation rather than a requirement. Testing would have been moved from screening centres to doctors’ offices. 
  • The measures were met with strong criticism from physicians and the public. 

WATCH: Premier Jason Kenney speaks about the new restrictions:

Large number of unvaccinated Albertans causing severe problems, says premier

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The delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading quickly in Alberta and causing an increase in severe illness, primarily among the unvaccinated, says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. 1:08

  • On Friday, Premier Jason Kenney announced that because of skyrocketing COVID-19 infection numbers and hospitalizations, the province is introducing new temporary restrictions and rules.
    • As of last Saturday (Sept. 4), masks once again became mandatory in all indoor public spaces and workplaces. Schools will not be required to implement masking. School boards can continue to set COVID-19 management policies as they deem appropriate.
    • Also, as of Sept. 4, restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, nightclubs and other licensed establishments are required to end alcohol service at 10 p.m.
    • The province strongly recommends unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to close contacts of only two cohort families up to a maximum of 10 people.
    • “This is essentially now a crisis of the unvaccinated,” Kenney said at the Friday news conference.
    • Employers are being encouraged to pause their plans to have staff return to work and instead continue with work-from-home measures. If employees are working on location, employees must mask for all indoor settings, except in work stations or where two-metre physical distancing or adequate physical barriers are in place.
  • Calgary reinstated a state of local emergency and passed a municipal mask bylaw on Friday.
  • The province also said Friday that the rise in COVID-19 cases and the demand it’s putting on hospital resources means AHS must act to free up additional ICU capacity.
  • AHS announced Wednesday it is postponing scheduled surgeries and procedures across all zones.
  • All patients who are affected will be contacted directly by AHS. 
  • All elective surgeries and most outpatient procedures in Calgary this week have been postponed as hospitals contend with surging COVID-19 cases and staff shortages. 
  • AHS said the move will allow it to redeploy staff to intensive care and critical care beds in the area. The province usually has a capacity of only 66 ICU beds in Calgary, but it has expanded that number to 95 to deal with an influx of patients with COVID-19. 
  • Patients whose surgeries have been cancelled will be contacted and their procedures will be rescheduled for “as soon as possible,” said AHS.
  • It said it will continue with urgent and emergent procedures, as well as prioritize cancer surgeries. 
  • Last week, Alberta had postponed as many as 60 per cent of surgeries in some zones, including 30 per cent of scheduled surgeries in Calgary.
  • The City of Calgary will require all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and is postponing mandatory return to work for city employees until Oct. 20.
  • The latest school restrictions and updates:
    • The Calgary Catholic School District says even though Alberta Health Services has ceased notifying schools when there is a positive case in their building and doing contact tracing, the board will continue to notify families of positive cases when they’re aware of them. The Calgary Board of Education, on the other hand, will not get the same kind of notifications.
    • The Calgary Board of Education reopened registration for its online learning option because of the continued uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Mask requirements remain in place for both Edmonton and Calgary public schools and Catholic schools.
    • Both Edmonton school districts intend to work with Alberta Health Services to offer pop-up vaccination clinics for older students.
  • The latest post-secondary restrictions and updates:
    • The Alberta University of the Arts has announced most of its classes are moving online starting Sept. 8 for the first two weeks of school, because of delays in getting a rapid testing program off the ground. President Daniel Doz said the move is temporary, and the Calgary university has every intention of bringing all classes back in person.
    • Students and staff at Calgary’s Mount Royal University are required to wear masks in all indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, labs, hallways and meeting/study rooms. MRU is working out details for a frequent rapid testing program for students who have not declared they are fully vaccinated.
    • At the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge, anyone not fully vaccinated will have to undergo regular rapid testing. Edmonton’s MacEwan University is also planning to implement rapid testing for students who are not vaccinated. The four schools are also requiring mask-wearing in public indoor areas where physical distancing is not possible.
    • A number of other post-secondary institutions are requiring masks in all indoor spaces, including SAIT and Bow Valley College in Calgary, and NAIT and Concordia University in Edmonton. 

The latest on vaccines:

  • Hinshaw said on Thursday that in the past four months, 84 per cent of all those who died from COVID-19 have not been fully immunized. 
  • The province announced Friday that Albertans will be given $100 to get a first or second dose of vaccine against COVID-19. The $100 incentive will be a debit card available starting Friday for people who register for it online. It will be available until Oct. 14.
  • 60.2 per cent of all Albertans (or 70.8 per cent of those eligible) have received two doses of a COVID vaccine, and 67 per cent of all Albertans (or 78.8 per cent of those eligible) have received at least one dose.
  • Those are still the lowest numbers in the country. Canada-wide, 67.5 per cent of the total population (or 77.3 per cent of those eligible) have received two doses of vaccine, and 73.8 per cent of the total population (or 84.4 per cent of those eligible) received at least one dose, according to the CBC’s vaccine tracker.
  • Alberta Health Services announced Tuesday it would require all employees and contracted health-care providers — including physicians — to be fully vaccinated.
  • The policy applies to AHS, Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest, CapitalCare and Covenant Health workers, members of medical and midwifery staffs, students, volunteers and anyone acting on their behalf. The latest an individual must receive their second dose is Oct. 16. 
  • The Alberta government is making a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine available for immunocompromised Albertans and for all seniors living in congregate care facilities.
  • In addition, mRNA doses — that’s Pfizer or Moderna — will be made available to Albertans travelling to a jurisdiction that does not accept visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca, Covishield, or mixed doses.
  • Alberta feed stores are receiving a deluge of callers asking to buy ivermectin because of misinformation that suggests the livestock dewormer can be used to treat COVID-19 in humans.
    • Different forms of ivermectin are used to treat parasites, such as intestinal worms or lice, in both animals and humans. But the livestock form of the drug should never be used on humans, and parasites are not the same as viruses. COVID-19 is caused by a virus. 
    • The largest study in favour of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment was retracted after concerns about data fabrication, plagiarism and ethical breaches. No clinical studies have proven whether ivermectin can slow or stop the novel coronavirus from growing in human cells.

See which regions are being hit hardest:

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

  • Calgary zone: 4,417.
  • Edmonton zone: 4,783.
  • South zone: 1,636.
  • North zone: 2,900.
  • Central zone: 2,212.
  • Unknown: 29.

The latest on hospital outbreaks:

The province says that as of Sept. 8 there are COVID-19 outbreaks at 15 AHS and Covenant Health acute care facilities:

  • North Zone
    • Beaverlodge Municipal Hospital.
    • Redwater Health Centre.
  • Edmonton Zone:
    • Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
    • Misericordia Community Hospital. 
    • Royal Alexandra Hospital.
    • Sturgeon Community Hospital.
    • University of Alberta Hospital.
    • Villa Caritas.
  • Central Zone:
    • Drumheller Health Centre.
    • Myron Thompson Health Centre.
    • Wainwright Health Centre.
  • South Zone:
    • Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.
    • Cardston Health Centre.
  • Calgary Zone:
    • Foothills Medical Centre.
    • Rockyview General Hospital.

The latest on school outbreaks:

There are ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at a number of schools across the province.

  • Three Calgary Board of Education schools have outbreaks: Cappy Smart School, Woods School and Niitsitapi Learning Centre. 
  • In a letter sent home to families from these schools, Alberta Health Services says a greater than 10 per cent absenteeism rate has been confirmed at the schools due to respiratory illness, and that AHS has initiated investigations.
  • Outbreaks have also been confirmed at École Notre-Dame des Monts in Canmore — which is a part of the Franco Sud board — as well as the Prairie Rose School Division’s Eagle Butte High School, which has reported 21 active cases.
  • Every school in the Medicine Hat Public School Division is reporting positive COVID-19 cases, superintendent Mark Davidson said in an online update Wednesday.

Here are the latest Alberta COVID-19 stories:

With files from The Canadian Press

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