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COVID-19 Update: Copping to provide update on vaccine rollout | US identifies first case of Omicron in California


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

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With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.

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Copping to provide update on Alberta’s vaccine rollout

Health Minister Jason Copping provides an update on COVID-19 and the ongoing work to protect public health at the McDougall Centre in Calgary on Thursday, September 30, 2021.
Health Minister Jason Copping provides an update on COVID-19 and the ongoing work to protect public health at the McDougall Centre in Calgary on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Health Minister Jason Copping is scheduled to provide an update on COVID-19 and the province’s vaccine rollout program at 3:30 p.m.

We will have a livestream of the press conference here:


Majority of Canadians unwilling to let unvaccinated friend or family member into their home: poll

Christmas gatherings may be tough to negotiate between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, says new poll.
Christmas gatherings may be tough to negotiate between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, says new poll. Photo by Getty Images/iStock Photo

With Christmas fast approaching, and family dinners and workplace parties, a majority of Canadians are unwilling to let an unvaccinated friend or family member into their home, according to new polling from Leger-ACS.

While the overwhelming majority of Canadians are vaccinated, with 75 per cent of the total population fully vaccinated, the poll says three-quarters of Canadians do know someone who’s unvaccinated.

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Fifty-seven per cent say they wouldn’t invite an unvaccinated person into their home, a rate that’s highest in British Columbia at 70 per cent, and lowest in Atlantic Canada at 50 per cent. Fifty-five per cent of Ontarians and Quebecers wouldn’t do so, nor would 59 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and 58 per cent of Albertans.

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‘Nerve-wracking’: U of C Dinos athletes among those stranded in South Africa after Omicron shutdown

International check-in counters stand empty as several airlines stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the Omicron variant, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 28, 2021.
International check-in counters stand empty as several airlines stopped flying out of South Africa, amidst the spread of the Omicron variant, at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 28, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/ Sumaya Hisham

Canada’s junior women’s field hockey team was leaving their practice in South Africa Nov. 25 when they learned of the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The team had arrived in the country early, eager to compete in the under-21 World Cup, which was set to begin Dec. 5. But that tournament was cancelled and flights in and out of South Africa were suspended due to global alarm over the new variant, stranding the team overseas.“A lot of people started crying … the team was really emotional, so we just kinda hugged and sat with the feeling for a little bit, and then we all just wanted to go home right away,” said Melanie Scholz Wednesday evening from Potchefstroom, about 120 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg.

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U.S. identifies first case of Omicron, as the race intensifies to trace the new COVID-19 variant

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant case, which was detected in California, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant case, which was detected in California, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The United States identified its first case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in California, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The person was a traveller who returned to the United States from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive seven days later and suffered mild symptoms, officials said.That patient was fully vaccinated but did not have a booster shot, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease official, who briefed reporters at the White House.Read more. 

Alberta government offering up to $81.2 million for vaccine manufacturing, research

Premier Jason Kenney during a news conference in Edmonton on Monday Nov. 29, 2021.
Premier Jason Kenney during a news conference in Edmonton on Monday Nov. 29, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

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The Alberta government is willing to pony up $81.2 million on four projects related to vaccine development and manufacturing but a portion of the money will be contingent on the federal government also contributing, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday.

Kenney said the province needs to create capacity for research, development and manufacturing vaccines particularly as variants of the COVID-19 virus emerge.

“The news last week of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a reminder that this disease continues to challenge the world,” he said.

“The best thing that we can do as a province in the long run, is to make sure that we have as much capacity as possible within our own borders to handle whatever may be thrown at us by this disease or similar diseases in the future.”

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With vaccination rate high, city will let state of local emergency expire Thursday

Calgary city hall on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
Calgary city hall on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The City of Calgary will let the current state of local emergency expire on Thursday because the powers it grants are no longer necessary, according to the city.

“There is still pressure on the health-care system, but it has eased,” said Sue Henry, chief of Calgary’s emergency management agency.

“We’ve got a very good vaccination rate and our mobile vaccination clinics are up and running in the community. So we don’t need any specific powers that are provided to us under the state of local emergency at this time.”

The current state of emergency has been in place since Sept. 3, marking the third time the city has enacted it during the pandemic. The declaration allows the city to write local orders to clarify or deal with local challenges and quickly secure supplies needed to run essential services.

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As Omicron looms, advocates want vaccines available in schools

Desks in a classroom at St. Marguerite School in New Brighton on Aug. 25, 2020.
Desks in a classroom at St. Marguerite School in New Brighton on Aug. 25, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

As concern rises around the new and potentially dangerous Omicron variant, school safety advocates are demanding the Alberta government step up vaccine efforts for children as data shows less than 20 per cent will receive first doses by year’s end.

After nearly a week of vaccine availability for the youngest demographic, only 26,844, or 6.9 per cent, of Alberta children have received their first dose of the COVID-19 immunization.

And while 57,200, or 14.7 per cent, are booked for appointments over the next four weeks, the totals combined still represent about 20 per cent of kids aged five to 11 getting their first doses by the end of December.

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COVID-19 developments across Canada on Tuesday

Kate Rhodes holds her mother’s hand as she gets her shot at a Humber River Hospital vaccination clinic in Toronto on Nov. 25, 2021.
Kate Rhodes holds her mother’s hand as she gets her shot at a Humber River Hospital vaccination clinic in Toronto on Nov. 25, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

A person who recently returned to British Columbia from Nigeria has been identified as the province’s first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says the emergence of the Omicron variant means the Liberal government must finally back international calls to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines . He said allowing developing countries, which have fewer resources to buy vaccines, to manufacture their own is one of the most important ways to tackle COVID.

Saskatchewan says 40 people who have recently travelled from southern Africa are quarantining following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, but there have been no confirmed cases in the province.

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Ontario reported three new deaths Tuesday, pushing the provincial total up to the grim milestone of 10,000 . COVID-19 has claimed the lives of Ontarians from all age groups and walks of life, but it has hit older residents hard, with about 5,900 people aged 80 and over dying due to the virus, according to Public Health Ontario data.

Premier Francois Legault says he would like to permit Quebec families to host up to 25 people for the Christmas holidays, but the opposition says the premier is sowing confusion and creating expectations.


Alberta not adopting federal messaging shift on airborne COVID-19 spread

People wearing masks walk through the Plus-15 in downtown Calgary on Sept. 8, 2021.
People wearing masks walk through the Plus-15 in downtown Calgary on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Alberta is updating its mask-use guidelines in the light of a recent messaging shift from Canada’s top doctor on the risk of airborne spread of COVID-19, but the province is otherwise continuing to use a year-old document which considers aerosol virus transmission to be a non-dominant form of spread.

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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in mid-November that respiratory aerosols — microscopic airborne particles which can carry SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 — can linger in air much like smoke , underlining the importance of mask use and ventilation in indoor spaces as virus mitigation measures.

When asked Monday how Alberta was adjusting its pandemic response to reflect the updated federal messaging, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta had released a document in November 2020 identifying risk factors of airborne spread which has been used in shaping the province’s public-health decisions.

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Alberta reports 238 new cases, six deaths

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Here are updated COVID-19 numbers released by Alberta Health Services on Tuesday:

  • Alberta is reporting 238 new cases Tuesday.
  • Six new COVID-related deaths have been reported to Alberta Health Services. There have been 123 deaths in November and 3,248 since the start of the pandemic.
  • There are 434 people in hospital with COVID-19, two more than reported Monday. There are 81 people in intensive care, four more than Monday.
  • There are now 4,545 active infections in Alberta, a drop of 305 from Monday. The Calgary zone has 1,761 active cases, down 86 from Monday.
  • There were 5,350 tests conducted Monday, with a 4.36% positivity rate (seven-day average).
  • Currently, 83.9% of Albertans age 12+ are fully vaccinated. Of children age 5-11, 6.9% have received their first shot (26,844 total doses).

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All travellers arriving by air, except from U.S., need COVID-19 test at airport

A Delta Airlines flight lands at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
A Delta Airlines flight lands at the Calgary International Airport on Thursday, November 18, 2021. Gavin Young/Postmedia

All air travellers entering Canada, except for those coming from the United States, will now need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport and isolate until they get their results, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the government will consult with provinces and territories Tuesday evening, before bringing in similar measures for travellers coming from the U.S.

The federal government is also expanding its border closure to foreign nationals who have recently travelled through three more African countries where officials first became aware of the new variant. The ban will now apply to Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria, in addition to the seven southern African countries announced last week.

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Omicron variant shows up in Alberta as federal government expands travel measures

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia

The new Omicron COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in Alberta after a person travelling back from Nigeria and the Netherlands tested positive.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed the single positive case during a news conference on Tuesday. The individual tested positive while asymptomatic, the medical officer of health said, and has not left quarantine since they returned from international travel about a week ago.

“As I mentioned yesterday, we anticipated the arrival of this variant in the province eventually based on what we have seen with previous strains of COVID-19,” Hinshaw said. “We are well prepared for this eventuality and have the necessary tools in place to monitor this case and any potential spread of the variants.”

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With vaccination rate high, city will let state of local emergency expire Thursday

Calgary City Hall was photographed on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
Calgary City Hall was photographed on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The City of Calgary will let the current state of local emergency expire on Thursday because the powers it grants are no longer necessary, according to the city.

“There is still pressure on the health-care system, but it has eased,” said Sue Henry, chief of Calgary’s emergency management agency.

“We’ve got a very good vaccination rate and our mobile vaccination clinics are up and running in the community. So we don’t need any specific powers that are provided to us under the state of local emergency at this time.”

Read more.


Moderna CEO warns COVID-19 shots less effective against Omicron — and stock markets are spooked

Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells after he warned that COVID-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.
Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells after he warned that COVID-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version. Photo by Tony Caldwell/Postmedia/Photo Illustration

Drugmaker Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday after he warned that COVID-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.

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Crude oil futures shed more than a dollar, the Australian currency hit a year low, and Nikkei gave up gains as Stéphane Bancel’s comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalizations, prolonging the pandemic.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna CEO Bancel  told the Financial Times in an interview.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to … are like ‘this is not going to be good’,” Bancel said.

Read more.


Alberta’s vaccine QR code now meets Canadian standards

After a delay with technical issues, Alberta’s COVID records website has now been updated with the new QR code to meet Canadian Standards.

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This record should be printed or screenshot as your proof of vaccination when travelling internationally and within Canada.

Businesses or venues will scan the QR code with an app to verify vaccination status. The province also points out that this does not store any personal information.


Monday

Alberta enhancing contact tracing for returning travellers in effort to curb transmission of Omicron variant

Premier Jason Kenney.
Premier Jason Kenney. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

More than 100 travellers who recently returned to Alberta from countries where the Omicron variant is spreading have been instructed to quarantine, as Premier Jason Kenney announced new measures meant to contain the variant of concern on Monday.

The eventual arrival of the Omicron variant to the province  is expected;  however, enhanced contact tracing and notification, PCR testing for close contacts and rapid testing for households and settings like schools are being introduced for cases of COVID-19 detected among returning international travellers in an effort to curb transmission.

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As well, for any Omicron cases among people who did not travel, Kenney said all close contacts will be investigated and asked about symptoms 14 days after exposure.

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Monday

With about 3,000 staff unvaccinated, AHS delays jab mandate, introduces rapid testing in some areas

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.
Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services. Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia

Alberta Health Services is delaying the implementation of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate and introducing a rapid testing program in areas where the vaccine requirement could cause staffing shortages.

The provincial government directed the health authority’s policy changes after about 3,000 AHS staff either did not provide proof of vaccination or decided not to get the shot ahead of the Nov. 30 deadline. That deadline has been extended to Dec. 13. It’s the second time AHS has pushed back its staff vaccine mandate, after  previously giving staff an extra month  to get their shots.

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Rapid testing will only be an option beginning Dec. 13 for unvaccinated employees in a “small number” of clinical workplaces where there would be a “significant risk of service disruption” if staff were put on a leave of absence.

AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said the health authority has done all it can to encourage unvaccinated staff to roll up their sleeves  since announcing the policy in late August.

She said rapid testing will only be available as a temporary alternative to immunization in a very limited scope of workplaces.

Read more.


Monday

Alberta human rights review rejects shopper’s mandatory masking complaint

Community Natural Foods was photographed on Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Community Natural Foods was photographed on Thursday, July 8, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Alberta’s human rights commission will not hear the case of a Calgary man who says a retailer’s mandatory masking policy discriminates against his physical disability and religious beliefs.

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David Pelletier argued Community Natural Foods infringed his rights by refusing him entry into a store without a mask last January.

An initial investigation of his complaint recommended it be dismissed; a decision that was upheld in a second review completed by commission chief Michael Gottheil.

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Monday

What is known so far about the Omicron variant, which has been found in Canada

A passenger walks through the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on Monday. Dutch health authorities said as of Nov. 29, the Omicron variant has been detected in 14 passengers arriving from South Africa.
A passenger walks through the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on Monday. Dutch health authorities said as of Nov. 29, the Omicron variant has been detected in 14 passengers arriving from South Africa. Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Canada’s first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant of concern were confirmed Sunday in Ottawa, and a third case was confirmed in Quebec on Monday.

The variant, which may be more transmissible, was first detected in South Africa, where it coincided with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Here’s what we know about it so far.

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Monday

Omicron variant likely in global circulation for ‘weeks if not months’ as Canada discovers more cases

International travellers wearing personal protective equipment arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Nov. 29, 2021, as Australia records its first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
International travellers wearing personal protective equipment arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Nov. 29, 2021, as Australia records its first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely already in circulation in Canada, health officials said Monday, as cases were reported in Quebec and Ontario, just as they have been across Europe and Africa, just days after the World Health Organization flagged the potentially dangerous new mutation.

After finding the first two North American cases in travellers from Nigeria, health officials in Ontario are anticipating imminent test results from four other people suspected of having this worrying new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. Quebec reported its first confirmed case Monday afternoon.

Read more.

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