COVID-19 Update: Alberta to lower eligibility age for AstraZeneca | Many students shift online today | Cancer patients call for second dose

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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.  Have you undergone a travel-related quarantine? Have you received your vaccine, and if so did you feel any side effects? Have you changed your life for the better because of the pandemic? Send us an email at reply@calgaryherald.com to tell us your experience, or send us a message via this form.

Read our ongoing coverage of personal stories arising from the pandemic.


Online classes begin for many Calgary students amid rising COVID-19 rate

Bowness High School in northwest Calgary on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
Bowness High School in northwest Calgary on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Thousands of students in Calgary and in northern Alberta are shifting to online learning today because of rising COVID-19 infection rates.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said last week that Calgary students in grades 7 through 12 would make the move to remote classes. School divisions in Fort McMurray also announced Friday that students in those same grades would be learning from home.

LaGrange said soaring infection rates have put schools under “operational pressures,” sometimes resulting in severe staff shortages.

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Alberta expanding use of AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 and over on Tuesday

The mass-immunization site at the Telus Convention Centre on April 8, 2021.
The mass-immunization site at the Telus Convention Centre on April 8, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Alberta is lowering the minimum age requirement for the AstraZeneca vaccine from 55 years to 40 as early as Tuesday, the premier announced on social media Sunday evening.

Premier Jason Kenney’s Twitter post came several hours after Ontario’s government announced the same adjustment to eligibility for the vaccine. Both provinces had limited the AstraZeneca shot to those over 55 years after concerns of extremely rare blood clots led the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to recommend the vaccine not be offered to younger age groups.

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Hospitalizations continue to rise; ICU admissions now at 103

The Calgary South Health Campus on Monday, March 1, 2021.
The Calgary South Health Campus on Monday, March 1, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Alberta ICU admissions surpassed 100 for the first time since the end of January.

Intensive-care patients represent 23 per cent of Alberta’s 451 total hospitalizations, as 103 people are now receiving care in ICUs. And with another 1,516 cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday, including 800 variant cases, hospitalizations are expected to continue climbing.

Variant cases account for 54.5 per cent of the province’s active cases.

The total new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta logged on Sunday came from 15,343 tests for a positivity rate of 9.8 per cent.

Three additional deaths were reported, including a man in his 70s who was linked to an outbreak at Trinity Reformed Church in Lethbridge, a man in his 60s from the South zone and a man in his 70s from the Edmonton zone.


More COVID-19 outbreaks declared at Calgary daycares and preschools

Brightpath Childcare has reported a COVID-19 outbreak.
Brightpath Childcare has reported a COVID-19 outbreak. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

More child-care facilities are appearing on Alberta’s list of active COVID-19 outbreaks.

Within the City of Calgary alone, there are now seven daycares or preschools considered to have active outbreaks. One month prior, there were only two outbreaks at city child-care centres.

An outbreak is declared when there are five or more cases at one child-care location, and are declared over when four weeks have passed since the last case was identified.

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Sunday

Calgary mass-immunization site sees low turnout for AstraZeneca vaccinations

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA /AFP via Getty Images

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Thousands of appointments for AstraZeneca vaccinations went unfilled at Calgary’s downtown mass-immunization hub last week.

The vaccination clinic at the Telus Convention Centre can process up to 6,000 jabs per day. At its low point, on Thursday, only 211 AstraZeneca appointments were booked. Last Monday, the first day jabs were available at the site, there were 2,855 AstraZeneca appointments, but that number dropped to 756 on Tuesday, 428 on Wednesday and later 414 on Friday.

Comparatively, the convention centre had about 900 Pfizer appointments booked on Monday and Tuesday, and about 2,060 appointments each day from Wednesday through Friday.

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Sunday

One person arrested for mischief, obstruction at GraceLife Church

One person has been arrested for mischief and obstruction outside GraceLife Church in Parkland County.

On Sunday at about 10 a.m., Parkland RCMP identified a person outside the church as someone who was involved with the mischief and obstruction to the fence erected around the perimeter of the property on April 11.

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Sunday

Banff council declines bringing COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot to town

Banff will not pilot a municipality-wide COVID-19 rapid-testing program after the town’s council voted against the proposal 4–3 on April 12.

Mayor Karen Sorenson, who voted against the proposal, argued that while the program had merit, it carried a prohibitive cost and administration oversight, citing additional jurisdictional concerns.

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“I don’t necessarily think it’s the municipality’s job, and frankly, with credit to our local community, it’s not their job either,” Sorenson said.

The pilot testing project, brought forward by the Rapid Test and Trace Canada group and costing $363,000, would have lasted 90 days. It would have created capacity to test about 10 per cent of Banff’s population using rapid tests each day, with the goal of administering frequent voluntary tests and catching asymptomatic cases early.

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Sunday

Alberta cancer patients seek second COVID-19 vaccine dose within recommended window

Allan Kovacik, communication director for the Southern Alberta Myeloma Patient Society.
Allan Kovacik, communication director for the Southern Alberta Myeloma Patient Society. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Cancer patients in Alberta are calling on the provincial government to ensure they get their second dose of the vaccine in the manufacturer’s recommended timeframe, after studies suggest the first dose may do little for immunocompromised people.

Some patients, like Emi Bossio, say they’re putting off getting the vaccine altogether, even though they are now eligible.

“I’m totally eligible. I’ve been eligible since March 30th,” said Bossio, who has been fighting lung cancer since 2019.

Despite that, she’s waiting until she can be sure her second dose will be within the manufacturer’s recommended window.

Read more.


Sunday

Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference in Ottawa on April 16, 2021.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference in Ottawa on April 16, 2021. Photo by DAVE CHAN/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian provinces are working to send health-care workers and equipment to help Ontario as it battles record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.

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Trudeau said in a video update Sunday that health care workers employed by government departments such as national defence and immigration will be redeployed to Ontario, and the Greater Toronto area in particular.

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Sunday

Staff shortages, emotional toll weigh on health-care staff during Ontario’s third wave

ICU staff attend to a 47-year-old patient with COVID-19 at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.
ICU staff attend to a 47-year-old patient with COVID-19 at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — Nurse Manpreet Kainth knows every patient being treated under her team’s care in Humber River Hospital’s intensive care unit

Even with her 16 years of experience, the ever-growing workload and the daily scenes unfolding before her eyes – more acutely ill COVID-19 patients and young people fighting for their lives – weigh heavily on her.

There is no escaping that reality even when she’s home with her family, who she tries not to burden with her worries.

“Sometimes when I sleep, I just keep thinking,” she says during a short break after her team has intubated another COVID-19 patient struggling to breathe. “Those things are going through my mind and I just want to shut it down, just shut it off for a minute.”

Another worry that keeps her up at night is the ICU staffing crunch and her team’s high level of turnover at this stage of the third wave of the pandemic.

“The thing is, we are not only taking care of the patients,” she says. “We have to take care of our staff. Everybody’s burned out.”

Read more.


Sunday

B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

A customer receives a COVID-19 vaccination at a Calgary pharmacy on April 5, 2021.
A customer receives a COVID-19 vaccination at a Calgary pharmacy on April 5, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years and older to register for a COVID-19 vaccine over the next week.

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A Ministry of Health statement Sunday says more than 1.8 million people will now be invited to register for their COVID-19 vaccine through the province’s Get Vaccinated program.

The ministry says the registration program starts Monday with people 40 years and older asked to sign up first, with those 35 and older registering Tuesday.

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Sunday

South African variant may ‘break through’ Pfizer vaccine protection, but vaccine highly effective, Israeli study says

JERUSALEM — The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can break through the protection provided by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found. However, the variant’s prevalence in Israel is very low and the vaccine remains highly effective.

The study was released on the medRxiv pre-print site on April 9 and has not been peer-reviewed. It compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease.

Read more.

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