COVID-19 live updates: Albertans can book flu shot appointments online; U.S. will open land border Nov 8; Hinshaw says 14-year-old’s death not due to COVID-19

Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Edmonton

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COVID-19 news happens rapidly, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Edmonton.

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12:09 p.m.

Albertans can now book flu shot appointments online

Allison Pelech

https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/flu-shot-20110203.jpg
https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/calgaryherald/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/flu-shot-20110203.jpg PNimg

Albertans can now book their free influenza immunization appointments online.

Starting Monday, people can use https://bookvaccine.alberta.ca/vaccine/s/ to book a free flu vaccination appointment. If appointments are not available online in your area Albertans can phone their local pharmacy or doctor’s office to find out when influenza vaccinations will be available. You can also contact Health Link at 811 to book appointments. Pharmacies will be welcoming drop-ins starting Monday, Oct. 18.

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Albertans aged 65 and older are eligible to receive a high-dose flu vaccine while those aged six months to 64 years will receive the regular dose. Both formulations protect people from four common strains of the influenza virus.

In a Friday news release minister of health, Jason Copping says getting immunized has never been more important because Alberta hospitals are at capacity and straining to provide care for very sick people, including those with COVID-19.

“We must do all that we can to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbours from COVID-19,” copping says. “Getting immunized will help stop the spread of influenza, reduce flu-related visits to the emergency ward and help our health system provide care to those in need.”

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10:22 a.m.

U.S will open land borders to vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8: White House

Reuters

The Canada-U.S. border crossing is seen amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Lacolle, Que., on April 17, 2020.
The Canada-U.S. border crossing is seen amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Lacolle, Que., on April 17, 2020. Photo by Christinne Muschi /Reuters
The White House on Friday said it will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals effective Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that barred much of the world from the United States.

Restrictions on non-U.S. citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump and then extended to dozens of other countries, without any clear metrics for how and when to lift them.

Curbs on non-essential travelers at land borders with Mexico and Canada have been in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. airline, hotel and cruise industry stocks rose on the news, including American Airlines, up 1.9%; Marriott International Inc, up 2.2%; and Carnival Corp, up 1.3%.

The White House on Tuesday announced it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November. They are similar but not identical to requirements announced last month for international air travelers.

Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters last week the United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

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Thursday

Hinshaw says 14-year-old’s death not due to COVID-19, province will prioritize full review before reporting

Lisa Johnson

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on the province’s response to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, during a press conference in Edmonton, Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on the province’s response to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, during a press conference in Edmonton, Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Alberta’s top doctor is taking back the government’s previous report that a 14-year-old died of COVID-19, and says the province will no longer announce the deaths of children until a full review confirms COVID-19 as a cause.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw apologized to the family of the teen whose death was one of 33 COVID-19 fatalities reported over the long weekend and announced on Tuesday.

“The pain of losing a child is terrible enough without having that loss compounded by a public debate about the circumstances. I’m sorry if the way I spoke about that death made your grief worse,” Hinshaw said Thursday, adding that although the initial report included COVID-19 as a secondary cause of death, additional information shows COVID-19 was not a cause.

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Hinshaw said the province has been including all deaths in which COVID-19 is suspected as either a primary or secondary cause in order to accurately capture the impact the virus is having. That included cases with a recent diagnosis of COVID-19, even if the cause of death was still under investigation. Hinshaw said that has led to a “small number” of reported deaths being removed from or added to the official death toll throughout the pandemic.

There were 30 additional deaths reported Thursday, which occurred between Oct. 7 and Wednesday. The province reported 916 new cases, and 13,423 active cases. There were 1,016 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 231 in ICUs.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO, Alberta Health Services, said the pressure on hospitals is slowly easing, and ICUs across the province were operating at 76 per cent capacity as of Thursday morning.

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“We are grateful that the numbers appear to be falling, but we know that this trend can be reversed, easily, especially if we become complacent,” said Yiu.

The numbers represent a significant improvement from a month ago, when occupancy was approaching 90 per cent across the province, including added surge beds. Without additional surge beds, the province’s ICU capacity would be at 163 per cent.

“This is still a high number, because these admissions are preventable,” said Yiu, who added the potential impact of the Thanksgiving long weekend on case numbers remains an uncertainty.

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 342 schools across the province, and of those, eight schools are on outbreak status with 10 or more confirmed cases.

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Thursday

Registries, Edmonton Public Library printing QR codes at high rate

Kellen Taniguchi

The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.
The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Edmonton registries and libraries are printing QR codes at an increased rate with the scannable code being the only way for Albertans to access the province’s restrictions exemption program (REP) as of Nov. 15.

Albertans can go to any local registry to get their QR code printed for free as long as they know their health card number, date of birth and the month and year of one of their vaccine appointments, said Rikki McBride, CEO of the Association of Alberta Registry Agents.

McBride said registries across Alberta have printed off about 25,000 vaccine records from Sept. 20 until now. She added she expects registries to be busy leading up to Nov. 15 and there will probably be some repeat customers.

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“I would anticipate a lot of those folks who initially came in and got their vaccination record printed off will likely need to come in again if they got their vaccination record without a QR code to begin with,” said McBride.

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Letter of the day

William Shatner misses Spock during Blue Origin space flight. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
William Shatner misses Spock during Blue Origin space flight. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Kenney should have followed the science

Premier Kenney, it was outrageous when early in the pandemic, ignoring the scientists and experts, you told Albertans that COVID was nothing to worry about, that it was just like influenza.

It was outrageous when you and your ministers displayed your own contempt for the restrictions needed to protect people from COVID, as recommended by scientists and experts, by having at least one meeting where the rules did not apply to you. It was outrageous when in the face of worldwide evidence to the contrary you declared the pandemic over, ignoring science and medical advice, opening the door to the fourth wave that is devastating our province.

Your outrage at those who follow your example of disregarding science and medical evidence truly rings hollow. Thousands of Albertans have died on your watch. Too many of those deaths could have been prevented had you followed the advice of science and the experts. Ultimately, sir, those whose choices baffle and now outrage you are simply following your lead. Alberta is much worse off because of it.

Paula Bosse, Thorsby

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Letters Welcome

We invite you to write letters to the editor. A maximum of 150 words is preferred. Letters must carry a first and last name, or two initials and a last name, and include an address and daytime telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. We don’t publish letters addressed to others or sent to other publications. Email: letters@edmontonjournal.com


Thursday

Point Roberts leaders want COVID test exemption for Canadian visitors

The Canadian Press

COVID-19 testing requirements for Canadians driving home from the United States could only prolong the hardships for the tiny coastal town of Point Roberts, Wash., community leaders say.
COVID-19 testing requirements for Canadians driving home from the United States could only prolong the hardships for the tiny coastal town of Point Roberts, Wash., community leaders say. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

COVID-19 testing requirements for Canadians driving home from the United States could only prolong the hardships for the tiny coastal town of Point Roberts, Wash., community leaders say.

Brian Calder, president of the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce, said that before COVID-19, the community would see about 1.5 million visitors each year, but half of them often spent an hour or less in the town getting cheaper gas, buying groceries or checking on their cabins or boats.

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When the U.S. border reopens to vaccinated Canadians, there will be no testing requirement to go south, but Canada requires a negative COVID-19 test to return and Calder said that’s a problem for Point Roberts.

Point Roberts only offers testing on Wednesdays and Sundays, which he said would limit Canadian visitors.

He said he’s hoping the Canadian government lifts the testing regulation for the town.

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Wednesday

Alberta woman wants answers after mom dies at AgeCare facility stricken with COVID-19

Jason Herring

Elizabeth Hertz (right) sits with her mother Grace Ansley, who died last month at the AgeCare Midnapore long-term care home.
Elizabeth Hertz (right) sits with her mother Grace Ansley, who died last month at the AgeCare Midnapore long-term care home. Photo by Supplied by Elizabeth Hertz

A Bragg Creek resident is seeking answers after alleging a Calgary facility did not provide her mother with the basics of care at the end of her life.

Elizabeth Hertz said her 103-year-old mom, Grace Ansley, was transferred to AgeCare Midnapore from the Oilfields General Hospital on Aug. 9. Ansley died less than a month later on Sept. 6.

A COVID-19 outbreak put three units at the southeast Calgary facility on lockdown, including the one Ansley had moved into only the previous day. Ansley tested positive for the virus Aug. 24. Hertz said she was shocked to see her mother’s condition and the care provided by staff when she went to the facility for end-of-life visitations.

“She was neglected and she died earlier than she should have. There are so many issues,” Hertz said.

“I can see why they got COVID through the building there when I saw how they were behaving, and how they missed things. It was crazy. I just couldn’t see how they were going to keep it contained with what they were doing. My mom was sharing a room with a non-COVID resident, which I’ll never be able to get my head around.”

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Wednesday

Alberta revises triage protocol to exclude children

Ashley Joannou

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Calgary ICU team check a screen to help intubate a patient.
Calgary ICU team check a screen to help intubate a patient. Photo by supplied by AHS

Children needing Alberta hospitals are no longer at risk of being denied critical care if COVID-19 pushes the system to the point where doctors have to decide who gets the last of the ICU beds/

Alberta Health Services confirmed Wednesday that it has decided not to use pediatric triage should the province ever reach the point of having to activate its critical care triage protocol and decide who qualifies for care in the event that patients outnumber available ICU beds. “This is a shift in our approach, which was communicated to physicians and staff last week. This step is not a change in protocol, but a change in how we would implement the protocol should we ever need to use it. The protocol now only applies to adult patients,” spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in an email.

“This decision was made following ongoing discussions with our pediatric teams, who expressed understandable distress at potentially having to use pediatric triage. Any gain in ICU capacity from pediatric triage would be negligible.”

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