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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Dec. 17


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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Canada to lift travel ban on 10 African nations, boost border testing for COVID-19

Travellers move through the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.
Travellers move through the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Canada will lift a ban on travellers from 10 African nations that was imposed last month as part of a campaign to fight the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Friday.

Duclos also told reporters that Canada would once again require people returning home after foreign trips of less than 72 hours to produce a negative test. Tour operators say the measure is onerous and deters travel.

COVID-19 case numbers are rapidly increasing in Canada and the federal government has implored residents to avoid international trips.

Read more .


Is the official Omicron paranoia overblown? Frustration, fatigue overtake fear of ‘doomsday’ warnings

“The same rerun has been playing for 21 months. We’re living through a phenomenon that risk experts might call a boring apocalypse.“
“The same rerun has been playing for 21 months. We’re living through a phenomenon that risk experts might call a boring apocalypse.“ Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

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Omicron will likely usher in the worst wave of the pandemic yet, some scientists are warning. But have people grown frustrated, tired and even bored with the “doomsday” messaging?

The speed at which Omicron is spreading and the variant’s intimidating attack rate means people will need to cut their personal contacts by at least 50 per cent in order to buy time for more booster vaccines and “blunt” — and only blunt, and not “flatten” — the coming wave, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said Thursday.

“I believe we can do this without closing schools or shutting down businesses that have suffered during previous waves,” Brown said. “But it will take serious restrictions that reduce contacts.”

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One more Flames player added to NHL’s COVID protocol

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Only four Calgary Flames remain ready to play after the team added another player to the NHL’s COVID protocol.

Mikael Backlund and one member of the support staff are now quarantining.

More to come. ..


Alberta’s rapid test kit program gets off to rocky start

Catherine poses for a photo with his COVID -19 Antigen Test kit that he just picked up at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Kensington on Friday, December 17, 2021. The line-up continues inside the store and it takes an average of one hour for each person to get their kit. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
Catherine poses for a photo with his COVID -19 Antigen Test kit that he just picked up at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Kensington on Friday, December 17, 2021. The line-up continues inside the store and it takes an average of one hour for each person to get their kit. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

The roll-out of Alberta’s rapid test kit program is off to a slow and rocky start as people across Calgary are reporting long waits and long lines at their local pharmacies.

Premier Jason Kenney announced earlier this week that the province would be making rapid test kits available for people to take home at select pharmacies and health centres beginning Friday morning. More than 500,000 kits of five tests designed to be taken every 72 hours by symptomatic individuals would be handed out to Albertans on a first-come, first-serve basis. The kits are also expected to be expanded to more schools and vulnerable populations.

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However, a number of Calgarians lined up outside their local health centres early Friday morning to learn that test kits were either not delivered or tracking systems were not working properly.

Many on social media are reporting problems obtaining the kits. If you’re in line, we’d love to hear from you about your experience. Reach out by email at reply@calgaryherald.com, or tweet to the @calgaryherald Twitter account.


Thursday

Flames’ COVID-19 outbreak a warning to public: expert

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

Brad Treliving was asked earlier this week if he believed the Calgary Flames’ COVID-19 outbreak, which was confirmed to have the presence of the Omicron variant on Thursday, reminded him of March 2020 all over again.

“I don’t think anything is going to feel like that,” the Flames general manager said, referring to the shock of the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

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But on a larger scale — locally, provincially, across Canada, globally, and, of course, in the National Hockey League — his team’s current situation has become a microcosm of what could be in store with the new strain of the rapidly spreading virus.

The Flames have confirmed 30 positive cases of COVID-19 since Saturday, 18 of which are affecting players. The team received news the Omicron variant was present among some results on Thursday, contributing to the province’s 119 new cases — a figure that nearly doubled from the 60 reported on Wednesday. In the coming days, it is likely they’ll contribute more Omicron cases after lab results continue to arrive.

It’s the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL and, given the speed of the transmission of the newest strain of the virus, it’s a prime example and future predictor of events playing out in real time.

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And it should be a warning to the public.

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Thursday

Senators pass pandemic aid bill after MPs leave for winter break

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland virtually takes part in a news conference before tabling the government’s economic and fiscal update in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 14, 2021.
Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland virtually takes part in a news conference before tabling the government’s economic and fiscal update in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 14, 2021. Photo by Blair Gable /Reuters

OTTAWA — The Senate gave quick approval Thursday to a new round of pandemic aid after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland made a pre-Christmas plea to rubber-stamp the help and promised that benefits would flow quickly to businesses and workers in need.

Bill C-2 would provide targeted aid to businesses that are ordered closed and to workers sent home, as part of a local lockdown, as well as wage and rent subsidies to those still recovering from previous pandemic restrictions.

Freeland told senators the government created the measures in case there was another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and argued they’re needed even more now with the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

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Thursday

Alberta doctor calls for expansion of COVID-19 vaccine boosters as provincial Omicron cases nearly double

The COVID-19 testing site at the old Children’s Hospital in Calgary is shown on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
The COVID-19 testing site at the old Children’s Hospital in Calgary is shown on Wednesday, December 15, 2021. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

An Alberta ICU doctor says the provincial government should expand booster shot eligibility as quickly as possible as the number of Omicron COVID-19 variant cases in the province nearly doubled on Thursday.

Provincial data show there have been 119 cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant found in Alberta, up from the 60 cases that had been identified as of Wednesday. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter that the 59 new cases were from three days of samples: Dec. 12, Dec. 13 and Dec. 14.

“Our lab has shifted to a quicker testing process for the Omicron variant which means that today we are reporting a large number of Omicron cases coming from several days all at once,” tweeted Hinshaw.

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Thursday

Alberta reports 473 new cases, Omicron count nearly doubles to 119

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

  • There have been 473 new COVID-19 cases reported across the province over the last day.
  • Zero deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported to AHS over that period. The provincial total is now 3,285 since the start of the pandemic, one less than the day previous, as Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said one previously reported death was reported in error and not COVID-related.
  • There are now 119 cases of the Omicron variant identified in Alberta, including 82 in the Calgary zone.
  • Hospitalizations have decreased since yesterday’s reporting. There are 352 people in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of 10 since yesterday. There are 70 people in ICU, a decrease of one in the same time.
  • There are 4,212 active COVID cases in the province, an increase of 130 since yesterday. There are 1,876 active cases in the Calgary zone, an increase of 110 since yesterday.
  • There were 9,595 COVID tests conducted on Dec. 15, with a seven-day average positivity rate of 4.2 per cent.

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Thursday

‘It’s not a lockdown’: Ontario needs stronger public health measures to fight Omicron, experts say

A lengthy queue snakes though Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall as people wait to receive a free COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021.
A lengthy queue snakes though Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall as people wait to receive a free COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ontario must introduce stronger public health measures to blunt the impact of Omicron, which could soon cause 10,000 cases per day in “the hardest wave of the pandemic,” the province’s COVID-19 experts said Thursday.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s science table, said the highly contagious variant is already dominant in Ontario and an accelerated booster campaign doesn’t go far enough to keep the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed.

The province needs to implement “circuit breaker” measures that cut people’s contacts in half, Brown said.

“It’s not a lockdown, it’s not a stay-at-home order, but it does require a reduction in contacts,” he said today at a news conference.

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Thursday

Travellers nervous as Omicron cases surge, but pushing ahead with plans

Travellers move through the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.
Travellers move through the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Some travellers heading out of Canada on Thursday said they’re worried about surging COVID-19 cases, but are forging ahead with their plans despite the federal government warning against non-essential international travel.

Sanjay Mahar said he is heading to India from Toronto to see his family for the first time in years, having booked the trip a few months ago when case counts were low and vaccination rates high.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to avoid international travel as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has caused cases to spike in recent days.

“It was upsetting to hear the prime minister say that, but I understand the concern,” he said at Toronto Pearson Airport.

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Thursday

‘Situation is critical’: Quebec to announce more COVID measures amid most new cases in nearly a year

Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault. Photo by Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/File

Quebec will introduce new measures aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Premier Francois Legault said Thursday, as the province reported its most new COVID-19 cases in nearly a year.

“The situation is critical,” Legault wrote in a post on Twitter, adding that he will “announce significant measures due to the increase in COVID cases and the new Omicron variant.” Legault is scheduled to speak with reporters at 6 p.m.

Health officials in the province reported 2,736 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday — the highest number since Jan. 8 — and five additional deaths linked to the disease.

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Read more.


Thursday

Montreal Canadiens to play without fans at Bell Centre due to rising COVID cases

A view of an empty Bell Canada Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
A view of an empty Bell Canada Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers will play in an empty Bell Centre on Thursday night.

The Canadiens announced about two hours before puck drop Quebec public health officials had requested that no fans attend the game due to the “spiralling rise of COVID-19 cases in the region.”

The team says in a statement it accepted the request “in order to help ensure the safety and security of our fans and fellow citizens.”

Read more.


Thursday

Canada surpasses a grim milestone — its 30,000th COVID-19 death

A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past graffiti stating “How Much You Got Left?” outside of a TD Canada Trust location in Toronto during the pandemic.
A pedestrian wearing a mask walks past graffiti stating “How Much You Got Left?” outside of a TD Canada Trust location in Toronto during the pandemic. Photo by Peter J Thompson/ National Post

Canada has recorded its 30,000th COVID-19 death since the pandemic began in early 2020, surpassing a grim milestone just as the country braces for the potential fallout of surging infections driven by the Omicron variant.

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Ontario reported nine more COVID-19 deaths Thursday morning, pushing Canada’s total to just over 30,000 as Ottawa and some provinces tightened public health measures to stave off a more transmissible virus.

It took Canada nine months to reach 10,000 COVID-19 deaths last November, but the toll doubled to 20,000 just two months later in January 2021 — a leap that occurred before enough vaccines had been administered to have an impact. The country surpassed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths in May.

Read more .


Thursday

Avoid all non-essential travel, government now advising. What does that mean for my trip?

“The federal government being responsible for the international border is still considering layering on more protection,” Dr. Theresa Tam said.
“The federal government being responsible for the international border is still considering layering on more protection,” Dr. Theresa Tam said. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

OTTAWA – The return of the federal government’s advisory to avoid all non-essential travel may seem trivial to some at first, but it could have significant impacts on Canadians’ ability to travel insured and even get home.

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On Wednesday, the Liberal government reinstated its formal warning not to travel abroad for non-essential reasons as the world grapples with the rise of the new and rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

But what does that mean, tangibly, for travellers who already have tickets for a vacation in the sun or who have been considering it?

Read more .


Thursday

Three more cases for Calgary Flames in COVID-19 outbreak

Dillon Dube #29 of the Calgary Flames clears the puck from Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on December 02, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Dillon Dube #29 of the Calgary Flames clears the puck from Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on December 02, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Harry How /Getty Images

The Calgary Flames were supposed to open a five-game homestand Thursday at the Saddledome.

Instead, the players, coaches and staff continue to isolate at home, their schedule paused due to the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the NHL this season.

The team announced three more cases Thursday, bringing the total to 30. The latest to be added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol are forward Dillon Dube, defenceman Oliver Kylington and one member of the support staff. A grand total of 18 players have tested positive, leaving just five on the active roster.

Flames officials have confirmed that at least some of the cases are the Omicron variant.

Read more.

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