COVID-19 live updates: Ten cases found on Norwegian Cruise ship; Omicron ‘quite infectious’; Canadian Christmas gatherings, what to expect

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

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With COVID-19 news changing every day, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information in and around Edmonton.

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What’s happening now

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Share your COVID-19 stories

As Alberta continues to navigate the unpredictable waves of COVID-19, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?
  • Are you someone who has decided to get vaccinated after previously being skeptical of the vaccines?
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    Send us your stories via email at edm-feedback@postmedia.com


8:30 a.m.

Ten COVID-19 cases found on Norwegian Cruise ship returning to New Orleans

Reuters

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The Norwegian Breakaway departed from New Orleans on Nov. 28 with more than 3,200 people aboard and stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico on its voyage, the Louisiana Department of Health said in a statement Saturday.
The Norwegian Breakaway departed from New Orleans on Nov. 28 with more than 3,200 people aboard and stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico on its voyage, the Louisiana Department of Health said in a statement Saturday.

A cruise ship set to dock in New Orleans with over 3,000 passengers has detected 10 cases of COVID-19 among its crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said late on Saturday.

The cruise ship Norwegian Breakaway, owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, departed New Orleans on a weeklong cruise on Nov. 28 and had stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the health agency said.

“NCL has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols,” the department said in a tweet.

The ship is set to reach New Orleans on Sunday morning, according to its itinerary.

Everyone on board will be tested for COVID-19 before leaving and will be provided with post-exposure and quarantine public health guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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People who test positive for COVID-19 will either travel to their homes or self-isolate according to CDC guidelines, the health agency said.

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Saturday

WHO chief scientist says Omicron COVID-19 variant ‘quite infectious’, must not panic

Reuters

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist told the Reuters Next conference on Friday that people should not panic over the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and said it was too early to say if vaccines would need to be reworked.

Soumya Swaminathan told the conference that the fast-spreading variant would have to become more transmissible to out-compete the Delta variant, which accounts for 99% of current transmissions.

“We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” she said.

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Saturday

Canada buying up to 1.5-million courses of Pfizer oral antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19

The Canadian Press

Canada is buying up to 1.5 million courses of oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19 in anticipation of them being approved by Health Canada.

The government has signed up for an initial one million courses of antiviral treatment from Pfizer, once Health Canada endorses their safety and efficacy. The company submitted a request for approval to the federal drug regulator earlier this week.

Canada has also purchased 500,000 courses of Merck’s oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, with the option to purchase another 500,000 once Health Canada approves the drug.

“Access to effective, easy-to-use treatments is critical to reducing the severity of COVID infections and will help save lives,” Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi said Friday.

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A stock of antiviral medications will complement vaccines in fighting the pandemic, she said.

“It’s just another tool in the tool box, but an important one,” she said.

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Saturday

What Christmas gatherings will look like across Canada for the vaccinated and unvaccinated

Tyler Dawson, National Post

Two Christmas trees are seen surrounded by holiday lights during the annual Legislature Light-Up hosted by Premier Jason Kenney in Edmonton, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The event kicks off Celebrate the Season at the Alberta Legislature.
Two Christmas trees are seen surrounded by holiday lights during the annual Legislature Light-Up hosted by Premier Jason Kenney in Edmonton, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The event kicks off Celebrate the Season at the Alberta Legislature. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Christmas is coming, but pandemic restrictions might make holiday merrymaking a little difficult.

Some provinces still have restrictions limiting in-person, indoor gatherings to those within the same household, or limiting the ability of the unvaccinated to gather inside.

Many of the rules were put in place during the third wave and remain in effect. Absent any changes over the next three weeks, many Canadians will be facing reduced Christmas parties, perhaps just with their direct households and a few others.

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The range is significant — some provinces have no restrictions on gatherings, others are heavily limited. In some jurisdictions, those who are unvaccinated quite simply will not be able to gather with anyone beyond the people they live with.

However, restrictions could still be lifted, or strengthened, depending on that happens with the new Omicron variant and hospitalization rates across the country.

So, the question is, depending where you live, will Christmas 2021 be stolen? Here’s what we know right now.

ALBERTA

During the third wave, Alberta brought back a number of restrictions. Premier Jason Kenney has hinted that they could be eased for Christmas, if pressure on intensive-care units decline.

But, as it stands, the rules in place across the province could cramp Albertans’ Christmas style.

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The unvaccinated are not allowed to attend private gatherings with those beyond their own household.

The vaccinated, if they’re having gatherings at a private residence, are limited to two households — the hosting house plus one visiting home — to a maximum of 10 vaccinated people. There aren’t any restrictions that apply to kids under 12.

But, if winter holds off in Alberta, up to 20 people could gather outdoors for turkey and stuffing, vaccinated or not.

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Saturday

Manitoba Heath says mother and three-year0old given COVID-19 vaccine by mistake

The Canadian Press

A file photo shows a nurse preparing a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine.
A file photo shows a nurse preparing a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by FRED TANNEAU /AFP via Getty Images

Manitoba Health says a mother and her three-year-old were each mistakenly given an adult dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine instead of a flu shot.

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The department says in a statement that the error happened Nov. 24 in Brandon, which is located in the Prairie Mountain Health region in western Manitoba.

Manitoba Health says the mother was told what happened after the fact and was given information about the risks, which it adds are low.

The department could not confirm if it was the first time someone was given a COVID-19 vaccine by mistake but did say medication errors do occur, although rarely.

The statement adds that the person who immunized the mother and daughter recognized and reported the error to a supervisor and no further action will be taken against that person.

Manitoba Health says staff from the health region have reached out to the family to discuss what happened as well as to provide an update on an investigation into the error.

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“Patient safety is a critical aspect of all health-care services in Manitoba. We are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure that our systems support our staff in preventing errors,” the department said in the statement Friday.

“In this case … our team reviewed the existing processes to make adjustments that would help avoid a similar error from occurring in the future.”

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Friday

Alberta reports 349 new cases of COVID-19, no new cases of Omicron variant Friday

Anna Junker

Friday

NACI strongly recommends boosters for those 50 and older

The Canadian Press

The new variant identified as B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and assigned the name Omicron.
The new variant identified as B.1.1.529 has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization and assigned the name Omicron. Getty Images

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization now strongly recommends booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines for people over the age of 50.

The committee has also strengthened its recommendation for several other groups, and now strongly suggests boosters for people who received a full series of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccine, those in or from First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities and front-line health workers.

NACI has also suggested a booster dose may be offered to people 18 to 49 years old at least six months after they receive their first two doses.

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The new recommendations come after an urgent request from the federal government on the role of COVID-19 vaccine boosters in fighting the new Omicron variant.

The new variant came to light late last week, and has sparked tougher border measures around the world.

The World Health Organization has warned the high number of mutations could signal that it is more transmissible than previous strains.

“We know that Canadians are asking increasingly about whether they should receive boosters, and that question is obviously of greater importance now with the new variant,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a press conference Tuesday.

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Friday

BioNTech CEO says it is possible to quickly adapt Pfizer vaccine for Omicron

Reuters

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A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer and Biontech logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021. The vaccine presents a “significant oppotunity” to make profits after the pandemic is over, executive says.
A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer and Biontech logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021. The vaccine presents a “significant oppotunity” to make profits after the pandemic is over, executive says. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Germany’s BioNTech should be able to adapt its coronavirus vaccine relatively quickly in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, its CEO Ugur Sahin told the Reuters Next conference on Friday.

BioNTech and Pfizer Inc together produced one of the first vaccines against COVID-19 and Sahin also said that vaccines should continue to provide protection against severe disease, despite mutations.

“This variant might be able to infect vaccinated people. We anticipate that infected people who have been vaccinated will still be protected against severe disease,” Sahin said.

The BioNTech chief executive also said that mutations in the virus meant it was more likely that annual vaccinations would become likely, as is the case with seasonal flu and that a new vaccine would be needed against COVID-19, although it was not yet clear when it would be required.

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Letter of the day

Captain Justin Trudeau ignores rising inflation tide. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Captain Justin Trudeau ignores rising inflation tide. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Closing Hawrelak Park shouldn’t be needed

Recently, it was reported that Hawrelak Park is to undergo much needed infrastructure work and would need to be closed for three years. How about have city council challenge administration to go ahead with the work but get it done in one winter season; sounds strange but we all know the saying, believe it and you can achieve it.

Recently, (2005) Stanford University rebuilt their classic football stadium between football seasons. Rogers Place was built in record time and on budget. We are able to shroud a 20-storey building for winter; why not a park?

Edmonton is home to companies and people who have built incredible structures in Edmonton and across the world. The list is endless; We have tremendous knowledge and skills to take on such a task. Our local talent has built the tallest tower west of Toronto, the Confederation Bridge; figured out unique ways to drill for oil; host international events. Surely our local people would be able to come together with a plan and process to get it done right and on time. Heck aren’t we are a City of Champions?

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John D. Stobbe, Edmonton


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

One new case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant identified in Alberta on Thursday

Anna Junker


Alberta reported one new case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant on Thursday, while more than 10 per cent of Albertans aged five to 11 have received their first dose of vaccine.

There are now a total of four cases of the new variant of concern in the province. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the latest case in a tweet, adding it was identified in a traveller who recently returned from Nigeria.

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As of end-of-day Wednesday, out of the 391,430 Albertans aged five to 11 years old who are eligible to receive a vaccine, 10.3 per cent have received their first dose. This is an increase of 1.7 per cent from the previous day.

Vaccine coverage for Albertans aged 12 and older is also steadily climbing. Of those eligible, 88.9 per cent have received at least one dose, while 84.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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Thursday

Confusion at Canadian Airports: Few details on COVID-19 testing rules for travellers

The Canadian Press

A traveller arrives for a mandatory hotel quarantine near Toronto’s Pearson Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, February 22, 2021.
A traveller arrives for a mandatory hotel quarantine near Toronto’s Pearson Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic, February 22, 2021. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Confusion has been growing at some Canadian airports that say they want more direction from the federal government since it changed COVID-19 testing rules for travellers.

As health officials from around the world warned about the new Omicron variant, Ottawa announced earlier this week that all air passengers entering Canada, except those from the United States, need to be tested upon arrival and isolate until they get their results.

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The rule also applies to those who are fully vaccinated against the virus.

But there have been few details on when testing will start.

Giovanni Taboylilson said he was tired and puzzled after arriving Thursday at Edmonton International Airport from Jamaica. He said he was told by airport officials during his layover in Toronto that new rules were kicking in at midnight

He said he was randomly selected for a test in Toronto, was told his results would be available in three days, and was allowed to continue to Edmonton.

“They stamped my passport and let me go through, so that’s what made no sense,” the 25-year-old DJ said after visiting his family in Jamaica for eight months.

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Thursday

What does Omicrion mean for Canada’s vaccinated majority?

Devika Desai, National Post

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SARS-CoV-2, also known as the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S.
SARS-CoV-2, also known as the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Photo by Reuters

News of the Omicron variant has many Canadians dreading yet another lockdown, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities remain on high alert in Canada since confirming at least seven cases of the variant as of Tuesday, but early data out of South Africa, which first reported the variant’s development, suggest that it has mostly targeted the unvaccinated.

So what does the Omicron variant mean for a Canadian population whose majority are vaccinated?

It’s too early to say for sure, but it’s possible a highly vaccinated population could reduce the variant’s transmissibility and the likelihood of severe illnesses and increased hospitalizations, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician at Trillium hospital in Mississauga, Ont.

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“It’s important to note that we can’t come to any strong conclusions about anything (right now),” Chakrabarti emphasized.

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Thursday

Speaker rules board exceeded it’s authority in imposing COVID vaccine mandate for Commons

The Canadian Press

Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota.
Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota. Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters/File

House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota says the chamber’s governing body overstepped its authority when it required anyone entering the Commons precinct to be fully vaccinated.

Rota has sided with the Conservatives in concluding that the all-party board of internal economy did not have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

He says only the House itself can make a decision to restrict access to the chamber and other parliamentary buildings.

However, Rota’s ruling changes nothing for MPs or anyone else wanting access to the precinct.

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Thursday

COVID-19 vaccine now mandatory to get euthanized in Germany

Lynn Chaya, National Post

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Carlos Osorio /Reuters

Amid rising COVID infections and the looming possibility of mandatory vaccination across Europe, the German Euthanasia Association Verein Sterbehilfe is ahead of the curve. In a statement made this week, the organization declared it will only euthanize those who have been vaccinated or recovered from the disease.

“Euthanasia and the preparatory examination of the voluntary responsibility of our members willing to die require human closeness,” they said. “Human closeness, however, is a prerequisite and breeding ground for coronavirus transmission. As of today, the 2G rule applies in our association, supplemented by situation-related measures, such as quick tests before encounters in closed rooms.”

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Balancing the protection of its members, employees and doctors is a “difficult task”, the statement says, but Dr. Martin Großmann, the head of the medical team, is on hand to advise.

Only 68 per cent of Germany’s population is vaccinated. On Dec. 1, The country recorded 446 deaths, its highest daily COVID death toll in nine months, along with a staggering 75,456 positive cases.

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Thursday

UFC President Dana White says he found out he had COVID and called Joe Rogan straight away

National Post Staff

Announcer Joe Rogan reacts during UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Announcer Joe Rogan reacts during UFC 249 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Dana White says he sought medical advice from Joe Rogan after he caught a breakthrough case of COVID-19 over Thanksgiving.

The UFC President told Jim Rome Podcast on Wednesday that he and his family contracted the virus while spending Thanksgiving holiday in Maine.

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“Somebody up there had it, and we get back, and we all tested positive for COVID. Literally the whole family and my family up in Maine, too,” he said , per the website MMA Fighting.

White, 52, said while finishing up his usual morning ritual of taking a cold plunge and steam on Sunday he realized his sense of smell was gone.

“I get out of the cold plunge, and I get in the steam, and I spray the eucalyptus, and I couldn’t smell anything,” White said. “So I open the bottle, I start sniffing the bottle of eucalyptus, and I’m like yeah, I got no smell. So you know what this means. I literally got out of the steam, picked up my phone and called Joe Rogan.”

White said he “could not feel better” thanks to his Rogan-approved prescription, which included a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies, vitamins and ivermectin, a drug first discovered in 1975 as a treatment for parasitic infections in livestock and pets and later used for humans to treat parasitic worms, head lice and rosacea.

A number of clinical trials have shown ivermectin to be ineffective in treating coronavirus. “People need to realize it doesn’t work and it’s not safe,” Dr. Davidson Hamer of Boston Medical Center recently told NBC 10.

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