COVID-19 Update: 339 new cases, six deaths | In-school transmission likely in two variant cases

Follow this story for COVID-19 news in Calgary throughout the day.

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With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.


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My COVID Story: How have you been impacted by coronavirus?

Postmedia is looking to speak with people who may have been impacted by COVID-19 here in Alberta. Are you quarantining due to being exposed to the variant? Have you received your vaccine, and if so did you feel any side effects? Send us an email at reply@calgaryherald.com to tell us your experience, or send us a message via this form.

Numbers reported by Alberta Health on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Viral video shows large group defying Alberta’s COVID-19 health guidelines at Edmonton restaurant

A video circulating online on Wednesday potentially shows COVID-19 restrictions being ignored at Earls Crossroads, 4250 Calgary Trail, as restrictions were relaxed this week. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

A video showing a large group defying Alberta’s COVID-19 health guidelines at an Edmonton restaurant has gone viral.

The roughly nine-second video, which was posted on Twitter on Wednesday, shows more than 10 people gathered around a table enjoying drinks.

Mark Hladik, chief restaurant officer with Earls Restaurants, confirmed in an email that there was a group of guests at their Crossroads location along Calgary Trail on Tuesday. He said the group gathered at one table for a brief period after initially being seated separated.



‘Our members are scared’: Union calls on employers to make outbreak-affected meat-processing plants safer

UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse uses a pole to hand out masks and information to workers entering the Cargill plant on May 4, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

The head of the union representing workers at two meat-processing plants with COVID-19 outbreaks is calling on employers to make their workplaces safer.

United Food & Commercial Workers Local 401 president Thomas Hesse said he had concerns about both the Cargill meat-processing plant in High River and the Olymel slaughterhouse in Red Deer after both sites reported outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

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“Our members are scared. One of the faults of these places is — certainly we’ve seen some improvements in PPE, some improvements in social distancing, the installation of plexiglass — but we’re still seeing excessive line speeds,” Hesse said from High River, where he visited the Cargill facility Wednesday.

“When the line speed is too fast, workers just bump into each other. There’s 2,000 people stuffed into this food-processing plant. If you saw 2,000 people at a wedding on the six o’clock news, you’d freak out.”

At the High River Cargill plant, Alberta Health said there have been 16 cases to date, with 12 remaining active. The site saw more than 950 cases last spring, becoming Canada’s largest outbreak, with three deaths linked to the workplace.

The largest issue at Olymel is the recent onboarding of new workers amid a rise in production, which Hesse alleges has led to a decline in adherence to public-health measures.
Hesse called for more consistent presence of occupational health and safety and Alberta Health Services inspectors in the plants.

— Jason Herring


Kenney announces one-time $1,200 payment to front-line workers

Premier Jason Kenney announces a new one-time bonus for front-line workers on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Photo by Screenshot /Government of Alberta

Premier Jason Kenney and Minister of Labour and Immigration Jason Copping have announced $465 million in funding to pay front-line workers a one-time bonus.

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The “critical worker benefit” of $1,200 will go to front-line workers who kept working through the pandemic.

The payment will go to roughly 380,000 critical workers in both the public and private sectors. The federal government put forward $347 million in funds while the province is paying $118 million.

“These workers are the ones who have sustained and maintained Alberta through the first and second waves at very considerable risk to themselves,” said Kenney.

He said the risk from the virus will continue until a majority of the population is vaccinated.

“We can and should reward those who face those risks,” said Kenney.

Eligible occupations include but are not limited to people in industries such as health care, social services, education, retail, warehousing, grocery stores and pharmacies.

To be eligible, private workers need to earn $25 an hour or less, and show that they worked at least 300 hours between Oct 12, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021.

Public workers will get the bonus automatically, while private sector workers will need their employers to apply for the bonus via a website portal.

Watch the live news conference here.

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Alberta reports first in-school transmission of COVID-19 variants

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Alberta has identified in-school transmission of variant COVID-19 cases for the first time, as two students in the same class have been diagnosed with one of the more contagious strains of the virus.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday that Alberta has detected 16 new variant cases overall in the province, including the new cases linked to a school setting. Alberta has now identified 120 total variant cases since mid-December, of which 113 have been the strain first detected in the U.K.


Kenney won’t condemn UCP MLAs who joined group opposing COVID-19 restrictions

Angela Pitt, MLA for Airdrie-East, and Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat. Photo by Postmedia files

Alberta premier Jason Kenney stood behind the rights of his caucus members to “speak their minds” after two MLAs joined a national group calling for an end to public-health restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The UCP leader made the remarks at a Wednesday press conference, the day after two of his party’s MLAs — Angela Pitt of Airdrie-East and Drew Barnes of Cypress-Medicine Hat — publicly signed on with the “End the Lockdowns National Caucus.”

Kenney said the current restrictions in place are necessary to defend Alberta’s health-care system but repeatedly declined to condemn his caucus members for joining the group that opposes those same measures.



339 new cases, six deaths; In-school transmission likely the source in two variant cases

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an update on COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday afternoon.

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  • 130,000 doses of vaccine; 37,000 fully immunized
  • 71% of residents of long-term care and designated supportive living have received both doses of vaccine
  • 339 new cases of COVID-19 on 10,873 tests; ~3.2% positivity rate
  • 421 in hospital; 77 in ICUs
  • Six additional deaths; 1,728 total
  • 5,706 active cases; 120,136 recovered
  • Active alerts or outbreaks in 303 schools; 867 cases in these schools since Jan. 11
  • 16 new variant cases, including two variant cases of where in-school transmission was likely the source
  • Seven classes in six schools where a variant case has attended while infectious

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You can watch the full update below.

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Alberta faith leaders once again call on religious community to follow COVID-19 public health measures

GraceLife Church in Parkland County defied Alberta government public gathering restrictions on the weekend and held a church service. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

Alberta faith leaders are once again calling on the religious community to follow COVID-19 public health measures after a pastor was charged by RCMP for violating orders.

On Tuesday, 27 faith leaders reissued an open letter originally released in December reiterating their commitment to put safety first. The release of the letter again comes after the pastor of GraceLife Church in Parkland County was charged on Sunday for the church being over capacity and failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements.


Calgary wellness company hosting free mental health awareness seminar

File photo: Former NHL player Bob Wilkie worked with 9- and 10-year-old hockey players during a clinic at the Joseph Kryczka Arena on Sept. 5, 2014. Photo by Colleen De Neve/Calgary Herald

As the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions drag on, one Calgarian, Bob Wilkie, founder of I Got Mind Inc., wanted to bring an accessible, informative and helpful workshop to the masses.

Wilkie founded his wellness organization in 2008. Having come from a sports background, the work and programming focus on promoting the importance of mental health in sports and has branched out to business and education as well.


City of Calgary to reopen some arenas and pools for bookings

The City of Calgary says it will open six ice sheets and four pools for bookings, in response to the provincial government’s relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Rinks at Max Bell Centre, Father David Bauer/Norma Bush arenas and Southland Leisure Centre will be open for “one-on-one training” starting Thursday, Feb. 11, the city said in a release.

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Also, four pools at these locations will open on Monday, Feb. 22:

  • Bob Bahan Aquatic & Fitness Centre – 4812 14th Ave. S.E.
  • Canyon Meadows Aquatic & Fitness Centre – 89 Canova Rd. S.W.
  • Killarney Aquatic & Recreation Centre – 1919 29th St. S.W.
  • Sir Winston Churchill Aquatic & Recreation Centre – 1520 Northmount Dr. N.W.

“Lessons, practices and conditioning activities for minor (under 18 years) sports and activities can be held for up to a maximum of 10 individuals including participants, coaches and trainers,” said the release.

No games, league play, public skating, public swimming or group exercise are allowed. All other indoor city-operated recreation amenities, including leisure centres, weight rooms and athletic fields remain closed at this time.


More death, more deficit: The dire consequences of Canada’s botched vaccine procurement

A soldier in PPE exits a Quebec long-term care home during Operation Laser, the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to the early stages of COVID-19. Photo by Department of National Defence

It is now clear that Canada is dramatically behind the rest of the developed world in immunizing its citizens against COVID-19.

One quarter of Israel is now fully vaccinated, and the U.K. has administered 13 million doses. But in Canada, procurement issues and late deliveries have effectively stalled our vaccination program after only one million doses; roughly the amount of shots that the United States administers every 16 hours.

It’s now estimated that Canada will not achieve widespread vaccine coverage until mid-2022, nearly six months after the same goal will have been met by the United States, the U.K. and the E.U.

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As WHO virus mission leaves Wuhan empty-handed, China claims propaganda win

Peter Ben Embarek, a member of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of COVID-19, and Liang Wannian, head of expert panel on COVID-19 response at China’s National Health Commission, attend the WHO-China joint study news conference at a hotel in Wuhan, China, Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Aly Song

World Health Organization officials declared Tuesday their mission to Wuhan to seek the origins of the coronavirus was inconclusive. In Beijing, the outcome was treated as something certain: vindication and triumph.

The WHO’s headline announcement — that it would rule out the possibility the virus accidentally leaked from a Wuhan lab — finally “put an American conspiracy theory to rest,” China’s Global Times newspaper said on Wednesday.

The WHO mission departs China this week with scant new public information about the pandemic’s origins — but it has given plenty of ammunition for a Chinese government that has long argued that the source was probably not its markets and certainly not its labs.


Two masks, snug fit reduces COVID-19 spread, U.S. study shows

A man wears a double mask as he visits Times Square in New York on Dec. 10, 2020. Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

Making sure a mask fits snugly on the face and use of two masks is likely to significantly reduce a person’s exposure to the coronavirus, laboratory experiments described by U.S. health officials on Wednesday showed.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January conducted experiments to see how well wearing a cloth mask over a three-ply medical procedure mask, and knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask and then tucking the excess material close to the face, protects against COVID-19.

They found that both these methods helped reduce the exposure to potentially infected aerosols by more than 90 per cent in laboratory simulations.

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COVID-19 developments from across Canada on Wednesday

A cleaner walks through the empty halls of one of the mass COVID-19 vaccination sites as the wait for more doses to arrive continues Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Montreal. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Quebec is reporting 989 new cases of COVID-19 today and 34 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including eight within the previous 24 hours. More than half of the new cases reported today were in Montreal. Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said today that some of the added restrictions the government is considering for spring break week include roadblocks on the boundary with Ontario.

Ontario is reporting 1,072 new cases today and 41 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says 393 of the new cases are in Toronto.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 25,230 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,123,563 doses given. There were 4,000 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,278,015 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 88 per cent of their available supply.

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has suspended in-class instruction for all kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in the St. John’s metro area. In a release today, the school board says the new measures will be in place until Feb. 26 on advice of public health officials as they work to contain community spread of COVID-19.

Manitoba is reporting 57 additional COVID-19 cases and six deaths. The provincial government recently announced that, due to the declining numbers, some restrictions will be loosened on Friday. Restaurants, gyms, tattoo parlours and many other facilities will be allowed to reopen under strict capacity limits.

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Most international travellers still exempt from new COVID hotel quarantine rules

A car waits to enter a checkpoint to enter Canada at the Canada-United States border crossing in Lansdowne, Ont., on Sept. 28, 2020. Photo by Lars Hagberg/Reuters

As controversy swirls about new federal requirements that international air travellers spend a mandatory three days in a government-designated hotel, it seems most arrivals in Canada will still not have to quarantine at all.

A long list of exemptions to the previous isolation order — from truck drivers to fishing crews and essential health workers — will remain in force, said Tammy Jarbeau, a Public Health Agency of Canada spokeswoman.

“The rules that were in place still stand, there are no changes,” she said Tuesday.

Border restrictions imposed in late March of last year have curbed travel into this country by about 90 per cent.


U of A leading study on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines on seniors, long-term care staff

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2021. Photo by Nathan Denette /The Canadian Press

The University of Alberta is leading a study to see how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is on seniors and staff at long-term care facilities.

The federal government announced Wednesday it would be spending $2 million to conduct two studies in British Columbia and in Alberta to better understand how the immune systems of elderly residents and long-term care staff respond to the virus and vaccination. The Alberta study is being led by researchers at the U of A and Alberta Health Services.

Dr. Xiaoli Pang, the principal investigator with the U of A, said the study will involve collecting blood samples and comparing them against people who have been previously infected with the virus. She said the investigation will provide valuable information in order to better protect a segment of the population that’s at a higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. The study is expected to take about 18 months.

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‘Time to start listening’: UCP MLAs Pitt, Barnes join group opposing COVID-19 restrictions

UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Angela Pitt. Photo by Postmedia Archives

Two UCP MLAs have joined a movement along with politicians from across Canada calling to end restrictions put in place by provincial governments in response to the spread of COVID-19, claiming lockdowns are more harmful than the virus itself.

Angela Pitt, MLA for Airdrie-East, and Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat, have signed on to the “End the Lockdowns National Caucus,” which was formed by the Liberty Coalition Canada organization.


Calgary zone has the most variant cases in Alberta

The Calgary area has the most variant cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, according to data released online by Alberta Health.

The province’s COVID-19 information site was updated on Tuesday night to include a breakdown of where cases of variants of concern — those first discovered in the U.K. and South Africa which are more transmissive — have been located in Alberta.

There have been 104 cases of variant strains so far reported in Alberta and the Calgary zone has reported over half — 57 — of the total variant cases in the province. Of those, 52 were the U.K. variant and five were the South African variant.

The Edmonton zone has recorded 34 cases of variants — 32 U.K. and two South African — so far, while the Central zone is the only other health zone in the province that has reported any variant cases with 13 of the U.K. variant.

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There have been no variant cases reported in the South or North zone.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted that while the increasing cases of variants are concerning, they still represent a small percentage of Alberta’s cases since the first one was reported at the end of December 2020.

“So far, variants are still very rare and we are working hard to keep it that way.”


Tuesday

Blood Tribe begins vaccination program

Chief Roy Fox addresses members of the Blood Tribe Nation via video on restrictive measures brought in to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Jan. 15, 2021. Photo by Screenshot

The Blood Tribe of southern Alberta, also known as the Kainaiwa, began vaccinating elders aged 65 and up on Tuesday.

Residents and staff of the Kainai Continuing Care Centre received doses last month.

In a press release, officials said they have secured 1,000 doses of the Moderna Vaccine, and they will be administered over three days this week, and three days next week. Vaccines will be administered by appointment only.

Blood Tribe leaders are asking all members to get vaccinated when possible, as there were still 26 confirmed active cases as of Monday.


Tuesday

Alberta reports 195 new COVID cases, fewest in four months; positivity rate falls to 2.8%

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Alberta has recorded fewer than 200 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day for the first time since early October, but the pandemic-related death toll continues to climb as the province reported 12 more fatalities on Tuesday.

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The latest data also comes as infections of the more contagious COVID-19 variant strains continue to rise, but Alberta’s top doctor says those cases remain rare in the province.


Tuesday

195 new cases, 12 deaths

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an update on the province’s COVID-19 situation.

  • 124,325 vaccines administered; 32,690 Albertans fully immunized
  • 195 new cases on 7,003 tests; ~3.2% positivity rate
  • 427 in hospital; 78 in ICUs
  • 12 additional deaths; 1,722 total
  • 5,831 active cases; 119,678 recovered
  • Active alerts or outbreaks in 315 schools; 866 cases in these schools since Jan. 11
  • In-school transmission has likely occurred in 77 schools; 115 cases of in-school transmission since Jan. 11
  • Before school returned, 131 cases per day in Albertans aged 5-19; last week, 58 new cases per day in that age group
  • One additional variant case identified; 104 total, 97 of the U.K. strain and seven of the strain first identified in South Africa
  • Variant cases have made up only 0.25% of all cases from Dec. 15 onwards, Hinshaw said

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