COVID-19 live updates: McDavid misses practice with “COVID-related” issue; Kenney, Hinshaw to provide update Tuesday afternoon; U.S. set global daily record of more than 1 million new cases Monday

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?
  • Have you changed your mind about sending your children back to school in person?
  • Have you enrolled your children in a private school due to COVID-19?
  • Are you a frontline health-care worker seeing new strains on the health system?
    Send us your stories via email at edm-feedback@postmedia.com


1:36 p.m.

Conner McDavid misses Edmonton Oilers practice with “COVID-related” issue, Rishaug reports

David Staples

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Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) controls the puck as St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (90) defends at Enterprise Center on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) controls the puck as St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly (90) defends at Enterprise Center on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Photo by Jeff Curry /USA Today Sports

This in from TSN’s Ryan Rishaug: “Full skate happening for Oilers, Connor McDavid not on the ice. Derek Ryan also absent. Tippett will address post-practice… Am told McDavid’s absence from practice is Covid related… Tippett confirms McDavid and Ryan both tested positive. They’re being tested again.”

And announcer Jack Michaels of the Oilers reports: “Connor McDavid & Derek Ryan being held out of practice as a precautionary measure.”

And Toronto hockey writer Ken Campbell: “Connor McDavid not at Oilers practice in Toronto. He and Derek Ryan have tested positive for COVID. Being tested against today. Status for game against the Leafs won’t be known until tomorrow.”

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10:35 a.m.

Kenney, Hinshaw to provide COVID-19 update Tuesday afternoon

Premier Jason Kenney announced additional public health restrictions on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, that cut capacity in half for large venues and events — including NHL games and the World Junior Championships that kicks off in Edmonton on Boxing Day.
Premier Jason Kenney announced additional public health restrictions on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, that cut capacity in half for large venues and events — including NHL games and the World Junior Championships that kicks off in Edmonton on Boxing Day. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Premier Jason Kenny will provide an update on COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon.

The Premier will be joined by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw for the appearance scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

Alberta’s top doctor is set to give a full COVID-19 update to share the latest data from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2 as the public grapples with unknowns, including testing accuracy to ensure schools and businesses are properly staffed but safe.

The province reported 2,775 new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 28 and most recently estimated 4,000 new cases, a pandemic high, on Dec. 30. Alberta also estimated a 30 per cent test positivity rate and 371 people in hospital.

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Tuesday

Biggest test yet at Beijing Olympics for China’s two homegrown vaccines

Reuters

Workers in PPE stand next to the Olympic rings inside the closed loop area near the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, in Beijing, China.
Workers in PPE stand next to the Olympic rings inside the closed loop area near the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, in Beijing, China. Photo by THOMAS PETER /Reuters

China’s meticulous plans to prevent an Olympics-seeded COVID-19 outbreak by sealing all participants inside a “closed loop” for the upcoming Winter Games will be tested by the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The country has reported only a handful of Omicron cases and has largely succeeded in containing COVID-19 since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan two years ago, thanks to a zero-tolerance policy that includes rigorous contact tracing, strict targeted lockdowns, and travel curbs that have drastically cut international arrivals.

But more than 2,000 international athletes are set to come to China for the Games that start Feb. 4, plus 25,000 other “stakeholders”, a large number from overseas. Organisers did not say how many of those people would be in the closed loop.

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Organisers believe their measures “can ensure the Winter Olympic Games and the Winter Paralympic Games can be held safely and on schedule,” Yan Jiarong, a spokesperson for the organising committee, told a news conference last Thursday.

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Tuesday

U.S. sets global daily record of more than 1 million COVID-19 cases on Monday

Bloomberg News

People line up to get tested for Covid-19 outside at a firehouse in Washington, DC on December 20, 2021.
People line up to get tested for Covid-19 outside at a firehouse in Washington, DC on December 20, 2021. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

More than 1 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Monday as a tsunami of omicron swamps every aspect of daily American life.

The highly mutated variant drove U.S. cases to a record, the most — by a large margin — that any country has ever reported. Monday’s number is almost double the previous record of about 590,000 set just four days ago in the United States.

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It is also more than twice the case count seen anywhere else at any time since the pandemic began more than two years ago.

The United States is among a handful of nations including Canada and Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland leading the surge in record-breaking case counts.

In the U.S., 16 states are at all-time case records, the New York Times reported , including those with high vaccination rates (at least 70 per cent fully immunized) such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

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Tuesday

‘We can’t job the whole planet every six months’

The Telegraph

An empty vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and some syringes are seen on a tray at the university hospital in Halle/Saale, eastern Germany.
An empty vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and some syringes are seen on a tray at the university hospital in Halle/Saale, eastern Germany. Photo by JENS SCHLUETER /AFP via Getty Images

Fourth COVID jabs should not be offered until there is more evidence they are effective, the head of Britain’s vaccine body warned, as he said giving boosters to the whole population every six months was “not sustainable”.

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In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that in future “we need to target the vulnerable” rather than giving boosters to all over-12s.

Sir Andrew said there was no point in trying to stop all infections, and that “at some point, society has to open up”.

He also suggested that “misinformation” about the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine spread by European leaders including France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel was “highly likely” to have cost lives in Africa.

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Tuesday

Novak Djokovic granted COVID vaccine exemption to defend Australian Open title

Reuters

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final at the 2021 French Open in Paris on June 11, 2021.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final at the 2021 French Open in Paris on June 11, 2021. Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT /AFP via Getty Images

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by announcing on Tuesday that he would compete at the season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

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The world number one, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram.

Organizers Tennis Australia (TA) had stipulated that all participants at the Grand Slam must be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

The panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

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TA said the 34-year-old Djokovic had applied for a medical exemption which was granted after a “rigorous review process” involving two separate independent panels of medical experts.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health,” TA said in a statement.

“They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) guidelines.”

It added the process included the redaction of personal information to ensure privacy for all applicants.

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Tuesday

After backlash, Quebec exempts dog-walkers from 10 p.m. curfew

The Canadian Press

A woman walks her dog moments before a COVID-19 8:00 p.m. curfew in Montreal in, January 2021.
A woman walks her dog moments before a COVID-19 8:00 p.m. curfew in Montreal in, January 2021. Photo by Paul Chiasson /The Canadian Press

Quebec reported 14,188 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 9 more deaths linked to the virus, as Canada’s public safety minister announced members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be mobilized to speed up the province’s vaccination efforts.

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Bill Blair made the announcement on Twitter Monday morning, saying the decision followed a request for aid from the province.

Meanwhile, Quebec updated its list of curfew exemptions to allow dog walking during hours when residents are otherwise expected to remain indoors.

The province said that between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., the hours covered by the most recent curfew imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, Quebecers can take their dogs out within a radius of no more than one kilometre from their permanent or temporary residence.

The new exemption, updated Sunday on a government portal, came in response to backlash from pet owners denouncing the lack of provision for dog walking when the curfew first took effect Dec. 31.

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Monday

Province to provide daily COVID-19 update on Tuesday, waiting on fresh supply of Pfizer vaccine

Kellen Taniguchi

A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021.
A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Illustration /REUTERS / FILES

Alberta’s top doctor is set to give a full COVID-19 update on Tuesday to share the latest data from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2 as the public grapples with unknowns, including testing accuracy to ensure schools and businesses are properly staffed but safe.

The province reported 2,775 new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 28 and most recently estimated 4,000 new cases, a pandemic high, on Dec. 30. Alberta also estimated a 30 per cent test positivity rate and 371 people in hospital.

Pfizer shortage in the province

While the government is encouraging Albertans to roll up their sleeves for a booster shot, the province is currently facing a shortage of Pfizer doses, said Lisa Glover, assistant director for Alberta Health in an email.

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She said more Pfizer vaccine supply is expected to arrive this month, but Albertans should take the vaccine readily available to them.

“Currently there is a large supply of Moderna in Alberta. All vaccines available in Alberta are safe and effective,” said Glover. “Albertans who are eligible for booster doses are encouraged to take the first mRNA vaccine available to them, rather than waiting for a preferred brand.”

Glover said pharmacies have been advised to only schedule appointments once they have confirmation of their incoming vaccine quantity to avoid having to cancel and reschedule appointments.

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Monday

U.S. FDA backs Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot for 12-15-year-olds

Reuters

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

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the use of a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, and narrowed the time for all booster shots by a month to five months after the primary doses.

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The agency also authorized a third shot for children aged 5 through 11 years who are immunocompromised.

The regulatory decisions come as schools reopen in much of the country, and as COVID-19 cases surge due to the Omicron variant of the virus, with health authorities warning that its high transmissibility could overwhelm many health systems.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to weigh in on the changes this week, according to the New York Times. The CDC was not immediately available for comment.

“Based on the FDA’s assessment of currently available data, a booster dose of the currently authorized vaccines may help provide better protection against both the Delta and Omicron variants,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

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Monday

Clarity needed amid back-to-school delay, says teachers’ union leader

Jason Herring, Calgary

A sign outside Mount View School announces the postponement of return to classes on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Alberta has delayed the start date to help schools deal with COVID-19 precautions due the Omicron surge.
A sign outside Mount View School announces the postponement of return to classes on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Alberta has delayed the start date to help schools deal with COVID-19 precautions due the Omicron surge. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Alberta school staff need clear direction as uncertainties mount ahead of next week’s scheduled return to classrooms, the head of the province’s teachers’ union says.

Jason Schilling said teachers are preparing for all possibilities in advance of the Jan. 10 start to the winter semester in kindergarten to Grade 10, with some getting ready for the potential that in-person classes will be cancelled in favour of online learning due to concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what is supposed to be happening this week. Teachers are at work, they’re working, they’re preparing for a couple of variables that could happen,” said Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

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“Those that are in buildings right now are preparing for the likelihood of what school will be like starting Jan. 10, if it might turn out that they’re going to be online, they need to make sure they’re ready to do that switch.”

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Monday

‘We need your help’: Alberta health-care workers brace for next wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations

Stephanie Babych, Calgary

Teams in a crowded Calgary intensive care unit tend to a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator in 2021.
Teams in a crowded Calgary intensive care unit tend to a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator in 2021. Photo by Supplied by Alberta Health Services

Alberta physicians are preparing for another wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations that are expected to be ushered in by the rapid transmission of the Omicron variant, while health-care worker morale remains low.

More than 1,100 Alberta physicians and health-care workers tuned in to a live stream Monday at noon, seeking answers about how they should be prepping as best they can for the anticipated surge in hospitalizations.

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The Alberta Medical Association (AMA), in partnership with Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Alberta College Of Family Physicians and the Primary Care Network, hosted the webinar in an effort to communicate the latest information on things like personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID testing and managing COVID in the community to prepare medical practices for the increasing number of patients.

The group of speakers discussed not only how to prevent as much community transmission as possible, but how health-care workers can keep positive cases safe at home through the primary care system so they aren’t having to overwhelm local offices and emergency rooms, explained AMA president Dr. Michelle Warren.

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Monday

Hospitalizations soar as Quebec reports 15,293 cases

Katelyn Thomas, Montreal Gazette

A patient is taken into a hospital by a paramedic in Montreal, December 29, 2021. Quebec is experiencing its third-highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. But this is despite a rate of new cases that is at least four times higher than anything yet seen.
A patient is taken into a hospital by a paramedic in Montreal, December 29, 2021. Quebec is experiencing its third-highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. But this is despite a rate of new cases that is at least four times higher than anything yet seen. Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

In a delayed update on Monday, Quebec reported another 15,293 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 651,328. Of them, 103,797 are active.

The province also reported another 165 hospitalizations, bringing the total to 1,396. Of the people in hospital, 181 are in intensive care — an increase of 19 from Sunday’s total.

Quebec reported another 15 deaths had been attributed to the virus, bringing the province’s death toll to 11,760.

The province reported that it analyzed 47,387 COVID-19 samples.

The positivity rate for COVID-19 in Quebec currently stands at 30.2 per cent, and there are 1,504 active outbreaks across the province.

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Monday

Schools, indoor dining shuttered as Ontario reintroduces COVID measures

Antonella Artuso, National Post

Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered Premier Doug Ford’s throne speech on Monday, an opportunity to present a renewed agenda eight months ahead of the next provincial election.
Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivered Premier Doug Ford’s throne speech on Monday, an opportunity to present a renewed agenda eight months ahead of the next provincial election. Photo by Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Ontario children will move to remote learning, restaurants will not be allowed to offer indoor dining and gyms will be closed, the Doug Ford government says.

“As part of the province’s response to the Omicron variant, starting January 5, students will pivot to remote learning with free emergency child care planned for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers,” a government statement released Monday says.

The province is being moved back into Step Two of the official Reopening Plan in response to rising Omicron cases and hospitalizations, Ford said in a Monday morning press conference.

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Letter of the day

Populations that used to ‘play’ now ‘panic’ amid latest Covid outbreak. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Populations that used to ‘play’ now ‘panic’ amid latest Covid outbreak. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Child care best not left to free market

Re. “Child-care deal underlines flaws in conservatism,” Danielle Smith, Dec. 24

Danielle compares her brand of conservatism with western liberal democracies like she is in a first-year political science open-book exam but has left a couple of books on the shelf. The promise of the nineteenth-century free market has eclipsed long ago.

We are living in a neo-liberial world that is undermining liberal democracies but she would like us all to think that that is just conservatism mixing with liberalism. Sorry Danielle, the free market is important but it can not come close to solving problems in society, in most cases it exasperates them (homelessness, child poverty, climate change and the opiate crises to name a few.)

Although I can agree that the free market does some things well, when it comes to the early education and care of the youngest and most vulnerable citizens of our province I would rather not leave that to the free market or shall I say the greed of the free market, especially if my tax dollars are doing the heavy lifting.

Corporate welfare is already at pandemic highs in this province, and they have been for years. Hardly what Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill envisioned, or even any conservative with blinders on would envision

Grant Hammond, Edmonton

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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


 Sunday

Wastewater data fills void as province relies less on PCR testing: researchers

Michael Rodriguez, Calgary

University of Calgary researchers check monitoring equipment as they track traces of COVID-19 in the wastewater system in Calgary on Wednesday, July 14, 2021.
University of Calgary researchers check monitoring equipment as they track traces of COVID-19 in the wastewater system in Calgary on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Scientists say testing what Calgarians flush down the toilet could fill the void left by diminished COVID-19 testing numbers in getting a sense of just how much of the virus is in Calgary.

As the Alberta government moves away from the widespread use of PCR tests — instead telling most people to get their COVID results from at-home rapid antigen tests, reserving PCR tests for at-risk groups — case numbers alone aren’t as accurate a reflection of the virus’s hold on the province as they were a month ago. Researchers testing wastewater say the data they’re collecting provides a fuller picture of how much of the virus is present and spreading within the population.

“If we can get a sample of wastewater that represents a large community, we can do a single PCR test . . . to cover a million people,” said University of Calgary researcher Casey Hubert, part of a joint project with the University of Alberta that is monitoring the wastewater of about 3.2 million Albertans — around three-quarters of the province’s total population.

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Sunday

Omicron surge leads Alberta courts to postpone some cases

Jonny Wakefield

The inside of an Edmonton courtroom.
The inside of an Edmonton courtroom. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia, file

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Faced with an expected post-holiday surge in COVID-19 infections, Alberta courts are postponing some in-person cases when proceedings resume Tuesday.

Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench and provincial court announced plans over the New Year’s weekend to limit attendance at courthouses by adjourning a variety of criminal, civil and family matters.

A Queen’s Bench notice said the measures are in response to the rise of the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant and the “ongoing risk” to justice system participants. The measures will apply for the next three weeks.

The move comes days after Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange extended winter break until Jan. 10 in response to Omicron. On Saturday, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Albertans should expect to come into contact with someone who is infectious with the variant whenever they leave their homes .

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Sunday

Calgary street preachers arrested after alleged protest outside Alberta health minister’s home

Michael Rodriguez, Calgary

Artur Pawlowski, the pastor of Calgary’s Street Church. Sunday, April 4, 2021.
Artur Pawlowski, the pastor of Calgary’s Street Church. Sunday, April 4, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

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Alberta’s premier is condemning a protest that took place outside the Calgary home of his health minister on New Year’s Day.

In a statement emailed to Postmedia, Premier Jason Kenney said while all Albertans have a right to protest peacefully, that right doesn’t extend to trespassing at private homes of public officials. The province confirmed a protest took place at Health Minister Jason Copping’s home on Saturday afternoon.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that fringe anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have tried to intimidate government officials in this manner,” Kenney said, referencing the public harassment of former health minister Tyler Shandro on Canada Day.

“I am sure that the vast majority of Albertans reject this kind of extremism.”

Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid Pawlowski, who gained notoriety last year as the heads of Calgary’s health order-defying Street Church, were arrested on Saturday evening after attending the protest.

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Sunday

‘Absolutely ridiculous’: Family doctor raises concerns over documenting patient COVID-19 rapid test

Jason Herring. Calgary

Nursing student Shauna Mondin performs a COVID-19 rapid test at Bow View Manor in Calgary on March 1, 2021.
Nursing student Shauna Mondin performs a COVID-19 rapid test at Bow View Manor in Calgary on March 1, 2021. Photo by Leah Hennel /Alberta Health Services

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It’s inappropriate for Alberta’s top doctor to ask family doctors to document patients’ positive COVID-19 rapid tests, says one Calgary physician raising concerns over the expectation amid restricted access to PCR testing.

Dr. Mukarram Zaidi said physicians have a legal obligation to ensure medical records are accurate and can be verified, something he said can’t be done with self-administered rapid tests.

“If a person just takes a photo of a rapid test and sends it in, what is the medicolegal proof the patient actually did that test?” said Zaidi, who has a practice in the southwest Calgary community of Signal Hill.

“We are now documenting that the patient was COVID positive, and it’s extra time we’re spending on something where we don’t even know if it’s true or not. What me and the other family doctors would like to see is more PCR testing.”

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Sunday

Amid protests, Kenney walks back ‘bat soup thing out of Wuhan’ comment

Jonny Wakefield

Alice Yang speaks as members of Edmonton’s Chinese communities gathered outside the Alberta Legislature to protest Premier Jason Kenney’s recent comments about the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.Taken on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 in Edmonton. In a year-end interview with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, Kenney made reference to “the next bat soup thing out of Wuhan.” Greg Southam-Postmedia
Alice Yang speaks as members of Edmonton’s Chinese communities gathered outside the Alberta Legislature to protest Premier Jason Kenney’s recent comments about the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.Taken on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 in Edmonton. In a year-end interview with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, Kenney made reference to “the next bat soup thing out of Wuhan.” Greg Southam-Postmedia Photo by Greg Southam /Greg Southam

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Premier Jason Kenney is walking back a recent remark about the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic after protests from Alberta’s Chinese communities.

In a year-end interview last week with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell , Kenney made reference to “the next bat soup thing out of Wuhan” as part of a longer response about new COVID variants.

Members of Edmonton and Calgary’s Chinese communities protested on New Year’s Day demanding an apology.

Alice Yang, a Grade 12 student and an organizer of the Edmonton event, said the comments inflame anti-Asian prejudice. The rally attracted around 40 participants.

“We believe that his comments were extremely racist and unfounded in any scientific theory, and not something a public figure should say,” she said. “This rally was made for the purpose of him to publicly apologize for his remarks.”

Such statements allow those with anti-Asian attitudes “to rationalize the racism that they feel, because they can go ‘yes, our premier would agree with me,’” she said.

In a statement Saturday, Kenney’s press secretary Justin Brattinga said the premier apologized for the remarks in a Dec. 24 interview with Life Calgary, a local Chinese publication.

“I do want to say that by the way, if anybody did take offence, that I apologize to them, if they took offence, certainly none was intended,” Brattinga quoted Kenney as saying.

“I’m sorry if people felt offended by what I said, that was not my intention. And I certainly want to thank the Chinese Canadian community in Alberta for the tremendous care that it has shown in being responsible during COVID.”

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Saturday

Labour and delivery services suspended at Fort Saskatchewan hospital due to staff shortages

Dustin Cook

The Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital’s labour and delivery unit has been closed temporarily but with no timeline for reopening due to staffing challenges.
The Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital’s labour and delivery unit has been closed temporarily but with no timeline for reopening due to staffing challenges. Photo by Supplied

The Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital’s labour and delivery unit has been closed temporarily due to staffing challenges.

A timeline for reopening hasn’t been specified and pregnant patients who planned on delivering at the hospital will need to speak with their midwife or physician to adjust their birth plan to deliver at the Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said in a Friday afternoon news release.

The emergency department at the Fort Saskatchewan hospital remains open for urgent and emergent care. Pregnant patients requiring non-emergency medical care are encouraged to call their family physician or obstetrician.

The reason for the staffing shortage wasn’t provided by AHS, but staffing at several hospitals has been impacted in recent days as COVID-19 case numbers surge across the province as a result of the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant.

In the North Zone, operating room services have been temporarily suspended at the Westlock Healthcare Centre and Slave Lake Healthcare Centre due to an unexpected lack of available physicians and an inability to secure locum coverage. Patients requiring C-sections and emergency surgeries are being assessed onsite and transferred by EMS to another site for surgery.

Services in Slave Lake were slated to resume Saturday morning with Westlock services resuming Monday morning at 7 a.m. Both health centre emergency departments remain open.

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Saturday

City of Edmonton bans outside food and drink from rec centres, indoor facilities in effort to combat rapid spread of Omicron variant

Dustin Cook

The arena entrance is seen to Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Outside food and drink is no longer permitted inside City of Edmonton facilities in effort to curb rapid spread of Omicron variant.
The arena entrance is seen to Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre in Edmonton, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Outside food and drink is no longer permitted inside City of Edmonton facilities in effort to curb rapid spread of Omicron variant. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

The City of Edmonton has banned the consumption of outside food or drink inside its facilities in response to the growing spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Eating and drinking is no longer permitted in any recreation centre, arena or attraction that doesn’t have an on-site food provider, the city said in a news release Friday afternoon.

Food or drink purchased inside the select facilities that do have canteens must be consumed only in designated areas, but these areas aren’t being provided in facilities without food providers. Water or sports drinks are permitted for those exercising at recreation centres.

These locations include the Terwillegar, Meadows, Commonwealth and Mill Woods recreation centres, the Muttart Conservatory, the Edmonton Valley Zoo, city-operated seniors centres and Culina on the Lake in Hawrelak Park.

In a subsequent statement to Postmedia, city spokesman Mark Torjusen said these new restrictions only apply to indoor spaces at these locations and that food can be consumed anywhere outdoors at the zoo and Hawrelak Park. The city said this additional measure is being taken to ensure masks are worn as much as possible in an effort to curb the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

“We need to remember the end goal with these measures is to ensure we all do our part to support Alberta’s health-care system and frontline staff in ensuring the system can continue to support people in their times of need through this pandemic,” the city said. “These efforts are being put in place to help facilities remain open. Everyone’s cooperation is greatly appreciated so that the city can continue to operate facilities safely.”

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