Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, March 17

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The rising number of variant cases of COVID-19 in Alberta continues to be a concern for health officials in the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says, noting that 11 per cent of active cases in the province are linked to three variants of the virus.

Alberta’s COVID-19 response a race between variants and vaccinations, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says

The province reported 355 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, 62 of those related to variant strains, with 260 people in hospital with the disease and 44 of those in intensive care. (AHS)

The latest COVID-19 numbers:

  • The rising number of variant cases in Alberta continues to be a concern for health officials in the province, with Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, describing it Tuesday as a “race between the variants and the vaccines.”
  • “While we’ve prevented any significant spread in Alberta so far, the percentage of variants in our active cases is rising. The toll that variants have taken on the U.K., Italy and other countries are a cautionary tale that we must continue to take very seriously.”
  • The province reported 355 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and three new deaths.
  • There were 4,776 active cases across the province, a decrease of 35 from the day before.
  • An additional 62 variant cases were recorded, bringing the active number to 509.
  • 11 per cent of active COVID-19 cases in the province are linked to three variants of the virus.
  • There have been 1,047 variant cases since first reported and of those almost all — 1,028 — 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. There have not been additional cases since first reported.
  • The province reported 260 people were being treated in hospital for COVID-19, with 44 people in intensive care beds. 
  • 6,018 coronavirus tests were completed on Monday with a positivity rate of about 5.9 per cent.
  • Hinshaw is expected to give the next update on the provincial COVID-19 numbers on Wednesday afternoon. CBC Edmonton and Calgary will carry it live on the website and Facebook.

The latest on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines:

  • Phase 2A of Alberta’s COVID-19 immunization program with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines began March 15.
  • Who’s eligible in Group A:
    • Albertans born 1947 to 1956 (turning 65 to 74), no matter where they live.
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1971 or earlier (turning 50+), no matter where they live.
    • Staff and residents of licensed seniors supportive living facilities not included in Phase 1.
  • How to book if you’re eligible:
    • Participating pharmacies: Now booking all eligible ages, no matter the birth year.
    • Alberta Health Services (online or 811): Bookings open by birth year, with more years added each day:
      • March 16: Born 1947-48 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1962-63.
      • March 17 at 8 a.m.: Born 1949-51 and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born 1964-66.
    • Living on-reserve or on-settlement: Book through your local clinic.
    • Licensed seniors supportive living: Do not book, AHS will contact facilities directly.
  • More than 18,000 Albertans eligible under Phase 2A had booked appointments through AHS since it launched Monday morning, the province said Tuesday afternoon.
  • 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. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw calls the international toll of COVID-19 variants “a cautionary tale” but says Albertans can fight by following health precautions and getting vaccinated. 2:00

  • The Alberta government laid out its plan Monday 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.
  • Hinshaw also announced that 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 this 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.

The latest on AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield vaccine:

  • As of a week ago, on 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:
    • All Albertans born 1957 to 1971 (turning 50 to 64 this year).
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) persons born 1972 to 1986 (turning 35 to 49 this year).
    • However, not everyone in those age ranges were 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.
  • There were two new groups eligible to book as of Monday:
    • All Albertans born between 1957 and 1961.
    • All First Nations, Métis and Inuit born in 1972 and 1976.
  • The province received 58,500 doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford/Covishield in its first shipment of the vaccine. However, 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 m​​​ore appointments and birth years will be added as more AstraZeneca supply becomes available.
  • 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 reopening and restrictions:

  • Social gatherings are the top source of transmission of COVID-19 so 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 Stage 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.

Under Step 2 of the province’s relaunch plan, announced on March 8, gyms and fitness centres were allowed to reopen for “low-intensity” activities. (CBC)

  • 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. Masks must be worn.
  • 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.
  • 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 Tuesday by the province:

  • Calgary zone: 1,824, up from 1,779 (50,782 recovered).
  • Edmonton zone: 1,114, down from 1,160 (52,964 recovered).
  • North zone: 773, down from 818 (11,953 recovered).
  • South zone: 610, up from 588 (6,476 recovered).
  • Central zone: 448, down from 460 (10,134 recovered).
  • Unknown: 7, up from 6 (106 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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