What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Wednesday, Oct. 7

The latest:

  • In the biggest active outbreak in Alberta, at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, 10 people have died and 80 people have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 311 health-care workers have had to isolate at some point during the outbreak, as of Tuesday.
  • Another 143 COVID-19 cases were reported on Wednesday in Alberta, down from 276 on Tuesday. Tuesday’s case count represented the highest single day count since the peak of the pandemic in April.
  • That brings the province to a total of 1,910 active cases, up 10 from the previous day. At the peak in late April, there were nearly 3,000 active cases in the province.
  • The Edmonton zone reported 1,085 cases on Wednesday, up from 1,063 on Tuesday.
  • Dr, Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, warned on Monday that additional measures may be necessary to bring the transmission rate down in Edmonton. Hinshaw hosts her next news conference on Thursday.
  • There are now 319 cases at 149 schools of the more than 2,400 schools across the province, as of Tuesday.
  • A total of 69 schools are classified as having outbreaks, which means two or more cases, and 14 schools are now on the watch list. A watch is declared when there are five or more cases and the disease may have been transmitted within the school. 
  • One Calgary school, Ecole de la Rose sauvage, will move all students online after four cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by AHS.
  • The City of Calgary on Tuesday joined the province in saying it isn’t cancelling Halloween but issued a number of tips to help people mark the holiday safely.
  • Doctors and governments say the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to get the flu shot. The influenza vaccine won’t be available to the general public in Alberta until Oct. 19, but pharmacies say appointments to get the shot in the first two weeks are filling up fast.
  • Quebec has joined the COVID Alert app, leaving B.C. and Alberta as the only remaining provinces with no immediate plans to activate the digital tool. 

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Edmonton’s case numbers are the worst they’ve ever been and — without added caution — rates of community infection could rapidly escalate, warns an infectious diseases specialist.

The capital region is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and Dr. Lynora Saxinger — an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta — says Edmontonians should be concerned.

Grades 6 and 9 students in the Calgary Catholic School District will not be required to take part in provincial achievement tests this year after the province allowed school authorities the discretion to cancel them because of the pandemic.

And in the capital, Edmonton Public Schools will ask the province to suspend diploma exams for high school students in the 2020-21 academic year, the board agreed unanimously at a meeting Tuesday. 

Board trustees said requiring students to take the provincially-administered tests would add pressure to an already stressful learning environment in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hinshaw said Monday that one of the factors leading to the climbing numbers in Edmonton is that some people — 11 per cent of active cases — are attending work or social gatherings while symptomatic and awaiting test results.

“I want to be clear. If you are sick, you need to stay home,” she said. 

She asked people Thanksgiving dinners to be mindful and continue to take precautions, lest the celebratory time take a dangerous turn.

“This is not a normal Thanksgiving. I urge you to keep your gatherings limited only to your household and cohort members, no more. I ask that you keep gatherings as small as possible, eat outdoors if possible and don’t share serving spoons or dishes,” she said.

“If you are even slightly sick, don’t go to a Thanksgiving event and don’t host one at your home. The greatest tragedy would be for Thanksgiving dinner to turn into an opportunity for COVID to spread to our loved ones, potentially with severe consequences. Let’s celebrate all that we are thankful for by protecting each other, not taking chances.”

And if you’re wondering how to handle another holiday this year, Halloween, the City of Calgary issued some tips Tuesday, which echoed ones released by the province last week, on how to safely trick-or-treat, give out candy or celebrate the holiday in non-traditional ways.

You can find a roundup of tips and ideas for Halloween from the province, the city and creative members of the public here.

The influenza vaccine will first become available to the general public on Oct. 19. People can get it through their physician or at a pharmacy. Some pharmacies say they’re already getting booked up with appointments in the first week or two after it becomes available.Alberta Health Services will offer vaccines at clinics through pre-booked appointments for children under five and their family and household members. 

It’ll roll out first to high-risk Albertans, including those in long-term care and homeless people, starting Oct. 13. As well, for the first time, Alberta will offer a high-dose influenza vaccine for seniors in long-term care facilities.

Hinshaw assured Albertans last week that the province had ordered a record number of doses of the flu vaccine — 1.96 million doses, which is 20 per cent more than last year — because of the anticipated increase in demand due to COVID-19.

A total of 66 people are in hospital, and 13 are in intensive care, as of Wednesday. Labs have now performed 1,456,219 tests on 1,085,790 Albertans. 

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

  • Edmonton zone: 1,085, up by 22 from Tuesday.
  • Calgary zone: 620, down 25.
  • North zone: 90, down 9.
  • South zone: 78, up 17. 
  • Central zone: 30, up 4. 
  • Unknown: 7, up 1. 

(CBC)

A snapshot of the active cases by neighbourhood in Calgary as of Oct. 7. (CBC)

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

What you need to know today in Canada:

As of 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 173,008 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 145,554 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 9,541.

Contact tracing efforts are being ramped up in an effort to curb surging transmission rates in some of Canada’s COVID-19 hot spots, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising more federal support and Quebec becoming the latest province to join the COVID Alert app.

Despite highly publicized rebates from companies in the early days of the pandemic, rates for new car insurance policies have risen during COVID-19 and are set to increase even more soon, a new report suggests.

According to financial technology firm LowestRates.ca, the cost of car insurance climbed between April and June for most drivers in the market for a new policy in parts of the country where rates aren’t heavily regulated. 

Some Americans continue to defy the rules by making side trips when driving through Canada to or from Alaska, despite tough measures introduced in July to put a stop to it. 

In August, B.C. RCMP ticketed a half-dozen Americans in two separate incidents for going off-route during their treks. The tickets totalled $4,500 in fines and, in one case, RCMP escorted a family of five out of Canada. 

Canadians can now apply through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a new sick leave benefit and a new caregiver benefit for those forced to take time off work to care for a dependent because of the pandemic.

The benefits come after legislation creating them was rushed through the House of Commons last week. Bill C-4 replaced the now-defunct $500-per-week Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), which came to an end after helping almost nine million Canadians weather the impact of the pandemic.

Canadians have made more than 830,000 repayments of COVID-19 emergency aid benefits to which they were not entitled — a statistic some say reflects mass confusion over fast-tracked federal programs. 

The figures provided to CBC News by the Canada Revenue Agency include repayments from recipients of the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) and Canada emergency student benefit (CESB)

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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