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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Dec. 29


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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Several provinces considering allowing COVID positive health workers to stay on job

A nurse tends to a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit of Humber River Hospital in Toronto on April 15, 2021.
A nurse tends to a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit of Humber River Hospital in Toronto on April 15, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File

Even as some provinces have reported record-high daily COVID-19 case counts, health experts are warning the real infection rate is likely much higher, pointing out that data has been clouded by holiday delays and with hospitals and testing centres reaching their limits.

After taking the holiday weekend off, a number of provincial and territorial governments are set to resume their COVID updates today.

Yesterday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube announced some health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to stay on the job. He said the move is necessary to keep the health-care system operational, and the decision would be made on a case-by-case basis under certain conditions.

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Manitoba and Ontario have said they are considering similar measures to avoid overwhelming their own health systems.

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B.C. teachers union wants delay of school restart as COVID-19 cases surge

An empty classroom at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver on March 23, 2020.
An empty classroom at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver on March 23, 2020. Photo by Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

The British Columbia Teachers Federation wants the province to delay the start of the winter term in public schools across B.C. as cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 mount.

Several social media messages posted by the BCTF and retweeted by union president Teri Mooring say provincial and district officials “need to do much more” if they intend to keep schools open in January.

The teachers federation says the highly transmissible Omicron variant has “changed the pandemic” and it says school safety measures must change, too.

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South Africa study suggests Omicron could displace Delta. Is this how the pandemic ends?

A technician wearing a full body suit enters a COVID-19 research laboratory at the African Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 15, 2021.
A technician wearing a full body suit enters a COVID-19 research laboratory at the African Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo by Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Research by South African scientists suggests that Omicron could displace the Delta variant of the coronavirus because infection with the new variant boosts immunity to the older one.

The study  only covered a small group of people and has not been peer-reviewed, but it found that people who were infected with Omicron, especially those who were vaccinated, developed enhanced immunity to the Delta variant.

The scientists said that if omicron could displace delta without causing severe disease it could have a major impact on the future of the pandemic.

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Hinshaw says 8,250 new COVID-19 cases over holidays ‘only the tip of the iceberg’

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

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Alberta is reporting unprecedented rates of COVID-19 infection over the Christmas holiday, but the province’s top doctor says those confirmed cases are “only the tip of the iceberg.”

The province tallied an estimated 8,250 new cases of the novel coronavirus since its last data update five days ago, a spike in cases brought on by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant. On those five days, test positivity rates have ranged from as low as 17 per cent to as high as 22 per cent. In Calgary and Edmonton, about one-third of people receiving a PCR test were positive for the virus.

“We have never before had a higher positivity rate than just over 13 per cent in any of our previous waves,” said Alberta chief medical officer health Dr. Deena Hinshaw at a Tuesday press conference.

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“This is one more data point that reinforces that Omicron is different from anything we have faced before.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney banks on strong economy in 2022 after tough COVID year

Video screen grab of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney during a COVID-19 update.
Video screen grab of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney during a COVID-19 update.

It was a speech that symbolized Alberta’s pandemic politics in 2021: Premier Jason Kenney’s boastful, bullhorn-loud, first-out-of-the-gate victory whoop over COVID-19 preceding a crushing hospital crisis.

In 2022, Kenney and his United Conservative government aim to forge ahead on the economy and catch up on the thousands of surgeries cancelled when hospitals were overwhelmed during the fourth wave of COVID-19 in the fall.

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Tuesday

Mandate to allow COVID-positive health-care staff to work possible, Kenney says

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

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A new Quebec mandate which will allow some COVID-positive health-care staff to keep working could eventually be in the cards for Alberta.

Premier Jason Kenney said during a Tuesday press conference the province isn’t ruling out any options for maintaining labour capacity for acute-care sites in the coming weeks.

“If we were under extreme stress with respect to the ability to provide care with a huge percentage of the health-care workforce on isolation, I can imagine a situation where health-care administrators in consultation with our public health authorities would do a risk assessment of where and when it’s appropriate to call people back to work,” Kenney said.

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Tuesday

So you want to get tested for COVID-19. Here’s what to do if you live in Alberta

Roy Li, a pharmacist at Market Drugs Medical Ltd. in downtown Edmonton, displays some COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits that were still available at the pharmacy on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.
Roy Li, a pharmacist at Market Drugs Medical Ltd. in downtown Edmonton, displays some COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits that were still available at the pharmacy on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

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After the highly infectious Omicron variant arrived in Alberta, and COVID-19 case counts climbed to heights last seen in the fall, the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, recommended most Albertans begin checking themselves for infection through the province’s rapid testing program rather than booking polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests through Alberta Health Services.

“Omicron is spreading farther and faster than anything we’ve ever seen before and no one in Canada will be able to maintain PCR testing for every community case with mild symptoms,” Hinshaw said Thursday. “With cases growing exponentially we must also begin to conserve testing capacity, reserving PCR testing for higher-risk groups.”

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Free rapid antigen tests are now available at pharmacies throughout the province, but with the kits in high demand, and some pharmacies unable to meet it, Albertans may be wondering what to do next, and whether or not they meet the new guidelines for booking a PCR test.

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Tuesday

Some Calgary restaurants close temporarily due to COVID cases

Tony Migliarese, owner of D.O.P Italian Joint, is one of many affected by the Omicron virus sweeping though the city’s hospitality sector in Calgary on Tuesday, December 28, 2021.
Tony Migliarese, owner of D.O.P Italian Joint, is one of many affected by the Omicron virus sweeping though the city’s hospitality sector in Calgary on Tuesday, December 28, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Several Calgary restaurants and bars are making the decision to shut down after staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Tony Migliarese has operated under health orders since opening both of his restaurants during the pandemic. This made it an easier decision to shut it down until the new year when two of his nine employees at D.O.P. tested positive for COVID.

“It’s different than the government closing you down. Here you can feel the health impacts, you can feel it on your staff,” said Migliarese. “In a weird way it has made it easier. You have to do it because you have to stay safe.”

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Tuesday

Flames New Year’s Eve game latest COVID casualty

Calgary Flames sniper Andrew Mangiapane during practice at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.
Calgary Flames sniper Andrew Mangiapane during practice at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday. Photo by AZIN GHAFFARI /Postmedia

The National Hockey League has postponed another game for the Calgary Flames and another one of their biggest draws of the year.

Friday’s New Year’s Eve clash against the Winnipeg Jets will be played at a later date, with the NHL citing “current attendance restrictions in certain Canadian cities.” Eight other games were also postponed for the same reason, indicating they will be rescheduled for dates later in the season “when such restrictions may be eased or lifted.”

The decision shouldn’t come as a surprise given the current state of COVID around the league. Nor should it be terribly shocking this game will be postponed with the climbing case count in Alberta as the Omicron variant runs rampant through the community.

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Tuesday

Alberta offers six-month tourism levy break for hotels again until March

The Westin windows lit up with a 12-storey heart during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.
The Westin windows lit up with a 12-storey heart during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. Photo by Fish Griwkowsky /Postmedia

The Alberta government is again offering up tourism levy cash to help hotels and motels hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic get through the winter.

Eligible hotels that saw a 40 per cent decline in room revenue compared with 2019 will be able to keep tourism levy amounts collected between Oct. 1 this year and March 31, 2022.

The government waived the four per cent levy for the accommodation sector starting in April 2020, but that ended in June 2021. By July, hotel associations were calling for additional support for an industry long in survival mode.

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Tuesday

Alberta Opposition wants answers on how UCP government handled pandemic

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The Opposition in Alberta hopes to build on a buoyant 2021 during which the New Democrats outpaced Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservatives in popularity polls and fundraising.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says the goal for 2022 is to provide ideas on how to build the economy while continuing to demand answers, data and accountability from the government on how it handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tuesday

CDC cuts isolation time for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to from 10 to five days

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President on December 27, 2021 in Washington, DC
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President on December 27, 2021 in Washington, DC Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

U.S. health authorities on Monday shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said the asymptomatic people after isolation should follow five days of wearing a mask when around others.

It also recommended a five-day quarantine for those exposed to the virus who are unvaccinated or are over six months out from their second mRNA dose or more than two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and not yet boosted. The quarantine period should be followed by strict mask use for an additional five days.

Read more.

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