COVID-19 Update: First real-world study shows Pfizer vaccine works | Hinshaw to provide 4 p.m. update | Canada to receive 640,000 doses this week

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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.


What’s happening now

  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw is scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update at 4 p.m. today.
  • Canada is poised to receive a record number of COVID-19 vaccine doses this week thanks to scheduled deliveries from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as the country looks to speed up its vaccination efforts.
  • A mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for most travellers landing at Canadian airports comes into effect today, along with a suite of measures meant to prevent contagious COVID-19 variants from entering the country.
  • The province reported 328 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths on Sunday.
  • Some front-line workers, including teachers and bus drivers, are questioning why they’ve been left out of the province’s vaccination plans.
  • Alberta will begin administering COVID-19 vaccine to seniors 75 and over and those living in congregate seniors’ care settings who have yet to receive the jab.
  • Despite already reaching the hospitalization benchmark for the next phase of reopening, Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that it’s not guaranteed the province will reopen March 1.
  • Canadian health officials said tough public measures should be maintained to prevent new variants of COVID-19 from triggering a third wave.
  • Lapses in compliance to some COVID-19 protocols were among the causes of the fall outbreak at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre that infected 95 and killed 12, according to internal Alberta Health Services emails.
  • WestJet has temporarily suspended service to four Canadian locations, including two in Alberta, because of reduced demand.

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.

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



Hinshaw to provide COVID-19 update at 4 p.m.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is expected to provide a COVID-19 update at 4 p.m. today. We will livestream it here.

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Alberta’s R-value creeps back above 1 as province logs 328 more cases

Transmission of COVID-19 in Alberta could be back on an upward trajectory, according to a key metric.

Alberta’s virus reproductive rate — also known as the R-value — is back above 1, according to Univeristy of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. David Fisman, who pegged the number at 1.09 Saturday.

The R-value indicates the rate of virus spread; a value of 1 means that each case leads to one more case, on average. A higher number means rate of transmission is increasing exponentially, while a lower number signals a decline.

The number is an estimate, calculated by epidemiologists by working backwards and factoring in metrics including case counts, hospitalizations and mortality.

Alberta logs 328 new cases Sunday, 380 Saturday

Alberta detected another 328 cases of the novel coronavirus Sunday from about 7,500 tests, representing a positivity rate of about 4.5 per cent.

The province’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate has seen a small uptick over the past week after gradually declining since the start of 2021. Alberta’s average positivity rate over the last week is now 4.4 per cent, up from a low of 3.7 per cent reached Feb. 10.

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Canada to receive 640K vaccine doses this week with Pfizer, Moderna deliveries

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

Canada is poised to receive a record number of COVID-19 vaccine doses this week thanks to scheduled deliveries from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as the country looks to speed up its vaccination efforts.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada says it expects more than 640,000 shots from the pharmaceutical giants this week, which would represent the largest number of deliveries in a single week.

The previous record was set last week when Pfizer and BioNTech delivered more than 400,000 doses of their vaccine following a month-long lull while they expanded a production plant in Europe.

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Medical schools across North America seeing flood of applications amid COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Sita Gourishankar, outside Edmonton’s University of Alberta Hospital on Feb. 16, 2021, says the faculty of medicine has seen an uptick in applications. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

COVID-19 has tested humanity, putting unseen stress and pressure on medical professionals in particular. Doctors, nurses and others on the frontline have been working long hours, fighting burnout and bearing witness to death, all while facing the risk of contracting the virus themselves.

While it’s not a stretch to imagine the pandemic scaring away those pondering a career in the health sectors, there are signs that COVID-19 is having the opposite effect.

Across North America, medical schools, including the University of Alberta, are seeing an unprecedented surge in applications for the 2021-22 academic year.

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COVID-19 developments across Canada on Monday

A man wearing a mask walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Quebec is reporting 805 new cases of COVID-19 today and 11 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including two in the past 24 hours. Health officials say hospitalizations rose by three, to 689, and 117 people were in intensive care, a drop of two.

Ontario says there are 1,058 new cases of COVID-19 in the province and 11 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said today 325 of the new cases are in Toronto and 215 are in Peel Region.

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Five patients and two staff members in one unit at Vancouver General Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting health officials to declare an outbreak in that section of the hospital.

Students or staff at five public schools in British Columbia have tested positive for the faster-spreading COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, according to health officials. A statement from the Fraser Health authority says it is working closely to manage exposures at four schools in Surrey and one in the Delta School District.


Stricter public health measures now in effect at Canadian borders, airports

Passengers arrive at the Calgary International Airport on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

A mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for most travellers landing at Canadian airports comes into effect today, along with a suite of measures meant to prevent contagious COVID-19 variants from entering the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are meant to keep everyone safe, not punish travellers.

Anyone flying into the country will be required to foot the bill for their hotel stays. They will also have to complete multiple COVID-19 tests in the days after they arrive in Canada.

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First real-world study suggests COVID-19 vaccine is working to stop spread of virus

The study found that the vaccine was 89.4 per cent effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infections. Photo by Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

The Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients in Israel becoming infected, providing the first real-world indication that the immunization will curb transmission of the coronavirus.

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If confirmed, the early results on lab-tested infections are encouraging because they indicate the vaccine may also prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

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British PM Johnson says vaccines against COVID variants are on the way

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament's Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson answering a question following a statement on the government's roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown in the House of Commons in London on February 22, 2021. - Johnson in a statement to parliament set out the government's plans to unwind England's third coronavirus lockdown, as a quickening UK-wide inoculation drive relieves pressure on overstretched hospitals. (Photo by - / various sources / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson answers a question on COVID-19 in the House of Commons in London on Feb. 22, 2021. Photo by Video/AFP via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday said he was confident that existing vaccines would give some protection against coronavirus variants, adding that work was underway by pharmaceutical companies to update their shots.

Britain has agreed a supply deal for 50 million doses of vaccines against new variants with Germany’s CureVac, and developers of other vaccines, such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot, are also looking to redesign their vaccine to give more specific protection against variants this year.

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Hospitalizations and deaths in Alberta

Foothills Hospital in Calgary on Sept. 21, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

GraceLife Church defies order to close, holds service with pastor in custody

Cars fill the GraceLife parking lot as the church holds a service on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Photo by Greg Southam-Postmedia

A Parkland County church continued to defy a public health closure order on Sunday, even as its pastor remains in custody, charged with breaking COVID-19 restrictions.

A steady steam of cars drove into GraceLife Church Sunday morning, packing the parking lot ahead of the 10:45 a.m. service. By approximately 10:30 a.m., drivers were being told the church had reached its fire code capacity and no one else was being allowed inside. Those who could not go inside were encouraged to watch the service online.

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From heroes to scapegoats: How Canada’s regional top doctors have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, left, and Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Don Craig/Government of B.C.; Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the top doctors from each province and territory have experienced periods of near-superhero status only to then be met with skepticism and public pressure as the months dragged on and their roles became muddled with political decisions.

But pressure, politics and the passing of time have tarnished some of that shine. Public health officials have been simultaneously criticized by some who feel restrictions are too harsh and others who feel they aren’t harsh enough. In the best cases, that has led to harder questions. In the worst, threats of violence.

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Women’s hockey players await exemption to province’s rules as season on ice

Team USA goalie Alex Rigby stops Team Canada's Blayre Turnbull in the first period of their game at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont. on Tuesday February 12, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network
Team Canada and Team USA compete in London, Ont., on Feb. 12, 2019. Photo by Derek Ruttan /London Free Press

Local women’s hockey players say they’re growing restless as they await word from the province on whether it will approve their application to be exempt from certain public health restrictions and allow them to train and practise together.

They say the lack of ice time during the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled momentum built toward advancing the women’s game, as well as their own development as athletes.

“We haven’t been on the ice since November. Obviously with everything going on in the world there are bigger issues than not being able to train and skate but for a lot of our girls, this is their livelihood and this is what they do for a living,” said Hanna Bunton.

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Australia begins mass COVID-19 vaccination program

Jane Malysiak, 84, becomes the first person in Australia to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Sydney on Feb. 21, 2021. Photo by STEVEN SAPHORE/AFP via Getty Images

SYDNEY — Australia on Monday began its mass COVID-19 vaccine program with frontline healthcare staff and senior citizens getting the first doses as the country looked set to report no local cases for the third straight day.

A group of 20 that included Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday received the first shots of the vaccine while the broader rollout started Monday morning with authorities expected to administer more than 60,000 doses by the end of the week.

“Today is a real milestone in our collective response to tackle COVID-19 and bring things as rapidly under control as we can,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television.

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Americans may still need masks to fight COVID in 2022, Fauci says

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, looks on after receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on Dec. 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo by PATRICK SEMANSKY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Americans may still need to wear masks in 2022 even as the country relaxes other restrictions to combat COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Sunday.

While daily infection rates are coming down dramatically, thousands of Americans still die every day from the virus, and less than 15 per cent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated against it.

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COVID-19 activity declining, but variants at ‘critical juncture,’ Tam says

Chief public health officer Theresa Tam prepares to give a COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa on Jan. 15, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada’s chief public health officer says the collective efforts to fight COVID-19 are paying off, even as the country sits at a ‘critical juncture’ in the fight against fast-spreading variants.

Dr. Theresa Tam says on Twitter that COVID-19 disease activity continues to decline and vaccination is heading in the right direction.

But she says Canadians need to maintain COVID-19 precautions to protect each other, especially as cases of more contagious variants are mounting across the country.

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