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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Dec. 16


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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What’s happening now

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Wednesday

Banff businesses sanctioned for shirking public health measures

Three entertainment businesses in Banff have been ordered to partially close after Alberta Health Services inspectors found people to be inside without proper masking.

High Rollers, Melissa’s Missteak Restaurant and Dancing Sasquatch were all ordered to close indoor dining and beverage services after 11 p.m. and to stop serving liquor after 10 p.m. until they are able to submit a written plan on how they will enforce public health measures that are in effect in Alberta and commit to enforcing those plans. High Rollers is also restricted from allowing adult group activities including bowling.

Orders of partial closures posted on the AHS website show health inspectors observed “very little to no masking” of people as they moved around within each establishment. The businesses were also cited for having customers not remain seated while eating and being unmasked and for not strongly enforcing the province’s restriction exemption program.

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Wednesday

Alberta’s tourism industry speaks out against ‘confusing’ travel rules as holiday season nears

Air travellers during the Christmas rush at the Calgary International Airport in Calgary on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
Air travellers during the Christmas rush at the Calgary International Airport in Calgary on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Alberta’s travel and tourism industry is reeling from the federal government’s new non-essential travel advisory, joining together in calls for more predictability on restrictions and supports for businesses.

The federal government warned Canadians against all non-essential travel outside the country on Wednesday in the face of the Omicron variant. The advisory stops short of a mandatory restriction, but ministers hinted at the possibility of more measures on the way. Representatives in the travel industry said people have found the changing travel requirements confusing without greater confirmation and predictability.

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Darren Reeder, executive director of Tourism Industry Association of Alberta (TIAA), said the government’s new four-week advisory is likely to create more uncertainty for travellers, right at the doorstep of one the busiest travel periods of the year.

“The knock-down effect of this decision will likely have a debilitating impact on the many tourism businesses that remain at the financial brink as we close out a very challenging 2021,” Reeder said in an emailed statement. “Overall, the tourism industry remains a long way off from recovering to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

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Wednesday

Anti-COVID vaccine dad loses battle with ex-wife over whether to get their children inoculated

A Lethbridge dad who fed his children “vaccine misinformation” has lost his battle to prevent them from getting jabbed.

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In a written ruling posted Wednesday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Johnna Kubik sided with the two children’s mother and said she could go ahead and get them inoculated.

The parents had joint decision-making for their kids, including decisions on their medical health, as part of their divorce agreement.

Kubik noted that until the pandemic both had ensured their children received all childhood immunizations and annual flu vaccinations.

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Wednesday

As Omicron threat looms, Alberta expands booster shots, loosens gathering restrictions

Premier Jason Kenney updates Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in Calgary on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
Premier Jason Kenney updates Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a press conference in Calgary on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Alberta is expanding its rollout of booster shots to combat the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which the province’s top doctor says could lead to a fifth wave that would risk overwhelming hospitals.

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At the same time, the province is relaxing restrictions for indoor gatherings ahead of Christmas, including easing rules for unvaccinated individuals.

The wide-ranging update from Premier Jason Kenney and health officials came the morning after premiers, including Kenney, joined a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss a national response to Omicron. Alberta has identified 60 cases of the variant as of Wednesday, an additional 10 cases from the previous day.

Omicron is significantly more transmissible than Delta, the COVID-19 strain currently dominant in Alberta. Kenney said early evidence suggests Omicron causes less severe illness than Delta, but senior World Health Organization officials have cautioned against characterizing disease caused by the virus as mild.

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Wednesday

Alberta reports 456 new COVID-19 cases, Omicron case count now at 60

Here are  updated COVID-19 numbers  released by Alberta Health Services this afternoon.

  • There have been 456 new COVID-19 cases reported across the province over the last day.
  • Three deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported to AHS over that period, bringing the total to 3,286 since the start of the pandemic.
  • There are now 60 cases of the Omicron variant identified in Alberta, including 34 in the Calgary zone.
  • Hospitalizations have decreased since yesterday’s reporting. There are 362 people in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of four since yesterday. There are 71 people in ICU, an increase of one in the same time.
  • There are 4,082 active COVID cases in the province, an increase of 66 since yesterday. There are 1,766 active cases in the Calgary zone, an increase of 75 since yesterday.
  • There were 10,100 COVID tests conducted on Dec. 14, with a seven-day average positivity rate of four per cent.

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Wednesday

Liberal, NDP MPs told to stay home, but Conservative caucus still free to leave the country

“Members of the Conservative caucus can continue to travel internationally,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s communications director said.
“Members of the Conservative caucus can continue to travel internationally,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s communications director said. Photo by Blair Gable/Reuters

OTTAWA — Conservative MPs will be free to travel internationally over the holidays while their Liberal and NDP counterparts have been told to stay home.

Politicians jet-setting to different vacation destinations drew much attention last year as federal and provincial governments told Canadians to forgo their travel and gathering plans to combat rising COVID-19 caseloads.

The federal Liberal government issued Wednesday a new advisory urging Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel because of the threat posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

A Liberal official said the governing party’s MPs have been informed that they are to abide by the public health advice and avoid non-essential international travel.

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NDP whip Rachel Blaney said her caucus has also been advised to avoid non-essential international travel, adding that “Canadians expect elected officials to lead by example by following the rules.”

But Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s office said there is no international travel ban in place and the advisory is meant only to help those who are vaccinated make informed decisions about their travel plans.

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Wednesday

Alberta to make 500,000 rapid COVID test kits available for free

Shauna Mondin, nursing student, gives COVID-19 rapid tests at Bow View manor in Calgary, Alberta on March 1, 2021. Premier Jason Kenney announced half a million rapid antigen tests will be made available for free to Albertans starting Dec. 17.
Shauna Mondin, nursing student, gives COVID-19 rapid tests at Bow View manor in Calgary, Alberta on March 1, 2021. Premier Jason Kenney announced half a million rapid antigen tests will be made available for free to Albertans starting Dec. 17. Photo by Leah Hennel /AHS

Albertans will soon be able to get a free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kit from hundreds of pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, and 140 AHS clinics in smaller communities provincewide.

In a Wednesday morning update, Premier Jason Kenney said more than 500,000 kits will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning Friday, with each kit including five tests. A list of AHS sites where the tests will be available is on the province’s rapid testing web page , and the approximately 600 participating pharmacies are expected to be revealed Friday.

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“This is especially welcome at this time of year, as we know more Albertans will be mixing and mingling throughout the Christmas season and often travelling for example from cities to hometowns,” said Kenney.

“Expanded rapid testing adds to our current public health measures and our ongoing work to ensure that Albertans are protected by the vaccine. But it does not replace either of these.”

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Calgary Flames COVID-19 outbreak has 17 more confirmed cases

The Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, was photographed on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. More Calgary Flames games were postponed while the team deals with a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Scotiabank Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, was photographed on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. More Calgary Flames games were postponed while the team deals with a COVID-19 outbreak. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

The Flames’ situation worsened Wednesday with news that the latest round of test results had revealed 17 more positives. That includes their leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, and their head coach, Darryl Sutter.

The Flames now have 16 players in COVID-19 protocol, the most of any NHL team at any point this season.

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Also added to the list on Wednesday were starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom, defencemen Rasmus Andersson and Erik Gudbranson and forwards Byron Froese, Trevor Lewis and Tyler Pitlick. They join nine teammates who had previously been identified — Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Milan Lucic, Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan, Brad Richardson, Adam Ruzicka, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov.

Put another way, there are only seven skaters on the Flames’ active roster who have not tested positive over the past 96 hours.

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Wednesday

AHS vaccine mandate: 1,650 employees put on unpaid leave while some offered rapid testing option

The Alberta Health Services building located on Southport Rd. S.W. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.
The Alberta Health Services building located on Southport Rd. S.W. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has placed about 1,650 full and part-time employees on unpaid leave as its vaccine mandate came into effect on Monday.

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However, Kerry Williamson, AHS spokesman, said temporary and targeted rapid COVID-19 testing has been implemented at 19 work locations and nine emergency medical services locations across Alberta with 175 staff members eligible for the testing option.

The targeted testing allows non-fully vaccinated AHS employees to work at health-care facilities where there has been low vaccine uptake.

“It is important to note that an affected work location is only the area of a site where there was a risk of service disruption, not the entire site,” said Williamson. “These numbers will continue to fluctuate as additional mitigation strategies are put into place.”

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Wednesday

Federal government advising against non-essential international travel

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

The Canadian government is warning against any non-essential travel to deal with the rising threat of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Liberal cabinet ministers announced Wednesday that Canadians should stay home for the holiday and travelling could not only expose them to the virus, but they would also be at risk of being stranded abroad.

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Wednesday

PM urges caution before Christmas as government mulls Omicron measures

Passengers proceed to enter Gate E in Calgary International Airport for flights to the United States on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Passengers proceed to enter Gate E in Calgary International Airport for flights to the United States on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says people will have to be careful as they finalize their Christmas plans this year, now that the highly transmissible Omicron variant is spreading through Canada.

The warning comes the morning after Trudeau met with his provincial and territorial counterparts to discuss potential measures to dampen the impact of the new variant.

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On the table were several options to limit international travel.

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Wednesday

Apple shuts down three stores in U.S., Canada after rise in COVID-19 cases

Apple Inc has temporarily closed three retail stores in Miami, Annapolis and Ottawa after a rise in COVID-19 cases and exposures among employees, the iPhone maker said on Wednesday.

Growing worries over the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant have derailed several companies’ plans for a return to normalcy.

Apple’s store closures come a day after the iPhone maker reinstated its policy requiring all customers at its stores in the U.S. to wear masks.

All the employees at the three stores will be tested before the stores are reopened, the company said.

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Through the pandemic, Apple has closed some stores for short periods of time around the world as coronavirus-related lockdowns were brought in and lifted.

COVID-19 cases are rising again in parts of Canada and the United States, with Canada’s government imploring its residents on Wednesday not to leave the country.

— Story by Reuters


Wednesday

Canada tries to tackle Omicron amid pandemic fatigue

Canadian provinces are trying to ramp up vaccination and hand out more rapid tests amid a rising wave of the coronavirus pandemic driven by the Omicron variant, but efforts to head off infections are complicated by public fatigue almost two years into the pandemic.

Case numbers are increasing as the country’s hospitals are still struggling to clear backlogs from months of postponed procedures. Many burnt-out staff are ill-equipped for another surge.

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Most people in Canada, like other wealthy countries, haven’t been infected with COVID-19. So if they lack vaccine protection they are especially vulnerable to Omicron, said Peter Jüni, director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

“What really worries me is that people are asleep at the steering wheel, internationally,” he said.

“They have wishful thinking it will be mild … This is not a realistic attitude.”

Read more.


Wednesday

South Africa, U.K. hit new record-high case counts as Omicron spreads

A man receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at Discovery vaccination site in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 15, 2021.
A man receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at Discovery vaccination site in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 15, 2021. Photo by LUCA SOLA /AFP via Getty Images

The Omicron variant is quickly taking over the Delta variant in at least two countries, leading to record-high case counts.

South Africa reported a record number of new daily COVID-19 infections today in a fourth wave believed to be largely caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 26,976 new cases in the past 24 hours, surpassing a peak of 26,485 in early July during a third wave driven by the then-dominant Delta strain.

The NICD also reported another 54 COVID-19 related deaths and an additional 620 hospital admissions.

Meanwhile the United Kingdom recorded its most daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic today as a senior British health chief said there could be a “staggering” rise over the next few days.

A further 78,610 COVID-19 infections were reported, about 10,000 more than the previous high reported in January.

More than 10,000 cases of Omicron have been recorded, with at least 10 people hospitalized. One person has died after contracting the variant, which is set to become the dominant strain in London.

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