What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Sunday, Sept. 13

The latest:

  • No new numbers will be released by the province this weekend. Numbers from Saturday and Sunday will be released on Monday.
  • An outbreak at Harmony Beef in Balzac has now seen 94 cases, 71 of which are recovered.
  • To deal with delays, backlogs and rising demand for testing as schools reopen, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is looking for dozens of new employees to help with COVID-19 contact tracing and testing
  • Albertans can now sign up to be notified of test results by text message to reduce wait times, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday. According to the AHS screening site, it is the fastest way to receive results.
  • Three Alberta schools — Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary, St. Wilfrid Elementary in Calgary and Chinook School in Lethbridge — have reported outbreaks as of Thursday afternoon. 
  • The province announced the launch of an online map to help parents track COVID-19 outbreaks in schools across the province. Hinshaw said it will be updated each afternoon with information validated in the morning.
  • The province’s active case tally as of Friday stood at 1,444, a slight drop of 50 cases from Thursday’s total of 1,494.
  • The Calgary zone continued to see a drop in active cases, at 560, down from 594 on Thursday. Edmonton dropped from 596 on Thursday to 580 on Friday.
  • 111 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Alberta on Friday, and 41 people are being treated in hospitals, including six in ICU beds.
  • The total number of deaths in the province increased by one on Friday to reach 253. One death previously attributed to COVID-19 has since been determined not to be related.

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is looking for dozens of new employees to help with COVID-19 contact tracing and testing as the system struggles with delays and backlogs and demand grows amidst schools reopening. AHS says it’s added more than 500 staff to its contact tracing team alone since mid-July, and more than 200 are in training and set to start by the end of the month.

Calgary family physician Dr. Amy Tan says some of her COVID-19 patients have been impacted by delays.

“In at least least two cases in the last month, there has not been contact tracing well past the week mark of them being positive,” she said. “So that was concerning to hear that potentially people who were in contact with them were not being notified.”

In an effort to decrease wait times for COVID-19 test results, which have an estimated turnaround time of seven to 10 days, Albertans can now sign up to receive their result by text message. The new system will give people the ability to be notified as soon as the lab result is available, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday. According to the AHS website, is the fastest way to receive results.

“We are working hard to streamline every facet of the testing and notification process to reduce wait times across the province,” she said.

(CBC)

Three Alberta schools — Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary, St. Wilfrid Elementary in Calgary and Chinook School in Lethbridge — have reported outbreaks as of Thursday afternoon. According to AHS guidelines, an outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed cases at the same school within 14 days. Each school with an outbreak has reported two cases of the illness.

Hinshaw said a newly launched online map will list every school with an outbreak. It will be updated in the afternoon with information validated in the morning, and if an outbreak is declared later that day, the map won’t be updated until the following afternoon.

It will be used to track cases only when an infectious person has been present in school. But Hinshaw said, if needed in the future, the map would also list schools that have shifted into Scenario 2 or 3 to protect the health of students.

“Other numbers are not relevant to school transmission risk, and simply cause confusion and anxiety.”

As of Friday afternoon, 32 cases had been reported at 29 schools across the province, Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw said students and staff are being asked to isolate if they come into close contact with an infectious case, which means spending 15 minutes or more near that person. She says as of yet, no one has picked up an infection from a school. 

AHS said that a single case in a school population is not considered an outbreak, so no case-specific details will be shared.

Out of 23,000 test samples collected for a study between Dec. 1, 2019, and March 7, 2020, one individual who had returned from travel in the United States is Alberta’s only “retrospective” case of the illness, Hinshaw said.

Those tests, which were looking for other respiratory illnesses such as influenza, were used earlier this summer by Alberta Health Services and Alberta Precision Laboratories for a retrospective study that found only a single case, which was detected in a sample taken on Feb. 24.

That was less than two weeks before the province reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 5.

“The fact that we found only a single retrospective case and that it was detected not long before March 5 is positive news,” Hinshaw said.

The Calgary Board of Education released a how-to guide on what back to school will look like. Here’s a look from elementary to high school. 2:46

CBC News is following four families as they navigate the return to school in the midst of the global pandemic, tracing how the reopening impacts them before and during the return. Here’s the first installment: Getting ready for school.

CBC Calgary also wants to hear from Alberta’s parents, students and teachers in regards to how the process has gone so far.

Here’s the regional breakdown of active cases reported on Friday:

  • Calgary zone: 560, down from 594.
  • Edmonton zone: 580, down from 596.
  • North zone: 213, up from 215.
  • Central zone: 45, unchanged.
  • South zone: 38, up from 37.
  • Unknown: 8, up from 7.

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

(CBC)

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 8 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 136,141 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 120,075 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,211.

Many new immigrants say they are fearful of a growing backlog in the citizenship queue six months after the federal government cancelled citizenship tests due to the pandemic.

Applicants say they don’t know when in-person tests will continue and are calling on the federal government to hold those tests online or in-person while physically distanced. Before the pandemic, the citizenship process took an average of 12 months.

A surprisingly high proportion of COVID-19 cases in Ontario have been among women working in health care, according to a new report that experts say intensifies calls for better protection.The researchers linked provincial COVID-19 test results from more than 624,000 individuals in Ontario to federal data on 2.6 million immigrants and 549,000 refugees who arrived from 1985 to 2017.

Among all adult females in the study who tested positive for COVID-19, 36 per cent were employed as health-care workers. Of those, a further 45 per cent were immigrants and refugees, with those born in the Philippines, Jamaica and Nigeria accounting for the bulk of cases, the researchers reported on Wednesday.

The Bank of Canada says the economic recovery from COVID-19 will need help from policymakers, which is why the central bank is committing to keeping its benchmark interest rate at 0.25 per cent for as long as necessary.

Self-assessment and supports:

Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19, but testing is open to anyone, even without symptoms. 

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to 911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at 811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms, until the symptoms have disappeared. 

You can find Alberta Health Services’ latest coronavirus updates here.

The province also operates a confidential mental health support line at 1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at 1-866-332-2322, both available 24 hours a day. 

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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