What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, Oct. 8

The latest:

  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been declared in two units at the Misericordia Community Hospital in west Edmonton, Alberta Health Services said Thursday.
  • Eight patients and two health-care workers have tested positive, AHS said in a news release. Another 29 health-care workers are in isolation.
  • Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is set to unveil additional voluntary measures designed to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases in Edmonton. Dr. Deena Hinshaw is expected to announce tighter restrictions on the sizes of gatherings in her 3:30 p.m. briefing today.
  • The Edmonton zone reported 1,085 cases on Wednesday, up from 1,063 on Tuesday.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

What you need to know today in Alberta:

Alberta’s economy continues to sputter and isn’t expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels until 2023, according to the latest forecast from ATB Financial. The forecast, however, does predict a return to growth in 2021 after a dismal year that has seen the economy contract by 7.1 per cent. 

Surging case numbers in the Edmonton zone are a big concern for Alberta public health officials. Of the 1,910 active cases reported in Alberta on Wednesday, 1,085 were in the Edmonton area. Dr. Hinshaw is expected to announce tighter restrictions on the sizes of gatherings this afternoon.

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.

On Tuesday, the City of Calgary issued some tips for navigating Halloween, 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 6:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 173,123 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 145,666 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.

Ontario could be “on the brink of disaster,” a Toronto epidemiologist said Wednesday, as officials continued to urge families to scrap Thanksgiving gatherings amid soaring COVID-19 cases.

This week, the province — and public health officials in the hot zones of Toronto and Ottawa — stressed the safest way to celebrate is with only members of your own household.

Should Ontarians not heed those warnings, some weekend gatherings could become super-spreading events once infected attendees return to their homes, schools and workplaces, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Toronto.

Ottawa is lifting COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions for a wider range of family members as of Thursday, which means some Canadians will soon be able to reunite with loved ones outside the country after being separated for months.

The changes, announced on Oct. 2, will allow for the entry of certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, including couples who have been dating for at least a year and their children, as well as grandchildren, siblings and grandparents.

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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