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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Dec. 30


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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In New Year’s message, governor general says Canadians can be hopeful amid pandemic

Mary Simon speaks during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.
Mary Simon speaks during an announcement at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The governor general says Canadians can be hopeful as they ring in the new year, despite the ongoing crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her first New Year’s message since becoming vice-regal in July, Mary Simon says Canadians have shown resilience, compassion and adaptability despite a difficult year.

In the message — released in English, French and Inuktitut — Simon says Canadians have inspired her to continue to work and find better ways to help communities thrive.

Read more.


J&J booster slashes Omicron hospitalisations

Vials and syringes of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
Vials and syringes of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson Inc’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 84% effective at preventing hospitalization in South African healthcare workers who became infected as the Omicron variant spread, researchers said on Thursday.

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The real-world study, which has not been peer-reviewed, was based on a second dose of the J&J vaccine administered to 69,092 workers between Nov. 15 and Dec. 20.

Read more.


Wednesday

Alberta logs record-breaking 2,775 COVID-19 cases, 36 per cent positivity rate in Calgary

Steam and late afternoon winter light convey the cold of another frigid day in Calgary on Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
Steam and late afternoon winter light convey the cold of another frigid day in Calgary on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Alberta smashed COVID-19 case and test positivity records Wednesday amid an unprecedented surge in infections due to the ultra-contagious Omicron variant.

The province reported 2,775 new cases of the novel coronavirus in its first full data update since Dec. 22. It’s the highest count ever, after 2,484 cases tallied on Christmas Eve; before this week, the province had never surpassed 2,500 daily cases in any previous wave.

The new cases come from about 9,400 tests, representing a 30 per cent provincial test positivity rate which also ranks as a pandemic record. Positivity rates are highest in the Alberta Health Services Calgary zone, where 36 per cent of PCR tests processed returned positive.

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Wednesday

Alberta reports 2,775 new cases

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

  • There were 2,775 new COVID-19 cases reported across the province on Dec. 28.
  • Eleven deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported to AHS since the last data update on Dec. 22. The provincial total is now 3,310 since the start of the pandemic.
  • There are now 7,025 cases of the Omicron variant identified in Alberta, including 4,149 in the Calgary zone.
  • Hospitalizations have increased since the province’s last reporting on Dec. 22. There are 349 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 31 since the previous update. There are 57 people in ICU, an increase of seven in the same time.
  • There are 17,396 active COVID cases in the province.
  • There are 9,293 active cases in the Calgary zone.
  • There were 9,398 COVID tests conducted over the last day, with a seven-day average positivity rate of 20.5 per cent.

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Wednesday

Federal government silently ‘gave up’ on COVID Alert app months ago due to low uptake

A Canadian smartphone app released Friday, July 31, 2020 was meant to warn users if they’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive.
A Canadian smartphone app released Friday, July 31, 2020 was meant to warn users if they’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive. Photo by Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – The federal government quietly “gave up” on its COVID Alert contact tracing app and stopped supporting it months ago because of its “low” uptake, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Health Minister says.

“The federal government gave up on COVID alerts app some time ago, several months before Christmas,” Dr. John Haggie told reporters Wednesday in response to a question on whether the province had abandoned use of the application.

“In actual fact, they’ve stopped supporting it and they stopped updating their dashboard. The uptake was so low that the effort to maintain those sites was unreasonable given the fact it was yielding so little,” he added.

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His revelation comes as the country grapples with massive numbers of new COVID-19 infections led by the Omicron variant, the most transmissible one to date.

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Wednesday

COVID-19 concerns cancel world junior hockey championship in Alberta

Team Canada battles Team Austria on Tuesday.
Team Canada battles Team Austria on Tuesday. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

EDMONTON — The plug has been pulled on the world junior hockey championship due to concerns with COVID-19 and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

On Wednesday, more positive tests forced the forfeiture of two more games, and the International Ice Hockey Federation decided to cancel the entire tournament, four days into the event.

The decision to cancel the event was made after a Russian player tested positive, forcing the rest of the team into quarantine. As a result, Russia had to forfeit its game against Slovakia scheduled for Wednesday at the Peavey Mart Centrium in Red Deer.

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Earlier in the day, Czechia had to forfeit its game against Finland at Rogers Place in Edmonton after one of its players tested positive. Due to quarantine rules, teams had to go into isolation as close contacts if a player tests positive for the virus.

The United States was the first team to forfeit a game after two players — both goaltenders — tested positive, forcing the entire team into isolation. The United States was to play Switzerland in Red Deer on Tuesday.

Read more.


Wednesday

Parents anxiously await word on return-to-class plan as Omicron spreads

Coventry Hills School in northeast Calgary was forced to move to online learning last year because of staffing shortages caused by COVID-19.
Coventry Hills School in northeast Calgary was forced to move to online learning last year because of staffing shortages caused by COVID-19. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Advocate groups focused on keeping kids safe from COVID-19 while they are in school are calling for more supports for students as they get set to return to the classroom next week.

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Most schools in Alberta will be returning from the holidays next Tuesday or Wednesday. Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday that his government is looking at what other jurisdictions are doing to move forward. He also said an announcement on how schools will return to learning will be made later this week.

“It’s clearly our strong preference to maintain as much as possible in-classroom instruction. We think it’s very important for the mental and emotional well being of children and for their lifetime learning opportunities to maintain that stability,” said Kenney.

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Wednesday

Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics recruits for vaccine trial, secures funding for bringing jabs to developing world

Providence Therapeutics founder and chief executive Brad Sorenson is shown here on Monday, January 25, 2021.
Providence Therapeutics founder and chief executive Brad Sorenson is shown here on Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

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A Calgary-based company with a COVID-19 vaccine currently in clinical trials is turning its attention to vaccine access for the developing world.

Providence Therapeutics, a Canadian biotechnology company with offices in Calgary and Toronto, announced it had received nearly US$2.2 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this week. The funding will go toward raw materials for their mRNA vaccine development, with the eventual goal of providing shots to low- and middle-income countries that lag far behind the rest of the world in immunization rates against COVID-19.

That’s on top of a memorandum of understanding inked with Colombia’s health ministry Dec. 17 to produce up to 100 million doses of their vaccine in the South American country each year.

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Company CEO Brad Sorenson said Canada can be an exporter of vaccines to parts of the world that have faced inequitable vaccine supply, a problem he said must be resolved to stem the emergence of new variants that could prolong the pandemic.

“As we’ve seen with the Omicron variant, until we’re able to provide access and quality vaccines everywhere in the world, you’re always going to see these variants of concern arising,” Sorenson said.

Read more.


Wednesday

Fundraising campaign aims to get at least 15,000 masks to vulnerable Albertans

Albert Nobbs on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Nobbs is an organizer behind an effort to raise money and get 15,000 high-quality masks to vulnerable Albertans.
Albert Nobbs on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Nobbs is an organizer behind an effort to raise money and get 15,000 high-quality masks to vulnerable Albertans. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

The organizer of a fundraising campaign well on its way to getting 15,000 masks to vulnerable Albertans says the effort is about equity.

Albert Nobbs said Wednesday with a deadly cold snap still gripping most of the province, people experiencing houselessness, often clustering together to stay warm, can’t access good quality respirator masks to help stay safe from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

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“It’s simply unacceptable that this is the reality on the ground, and we need to do something about it,” Nobbs told Postmedia. As of press time, the Mask Equity Alberta project had already raised nearly $17,000 of its $25,000 goal through a GoFundMe campaign, and Nobbs said he expects the first shipment will begin going out the door by the second week of January.

He added he’s not surprised Albertans have stepped up with their support but he’s “overjoyed” and hopes they can keep the effort going beyond the original target.

Read more.


Wednesday

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.

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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.

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

Read more.

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


Wednesday

South Africa’s Omicron mortality data offers fresh hope as much smaller percentage of hospitalized patients die

The new South Africa study showed those admitted during the Omicron wave were discharged after an average of four days, compared to 8.8 days for previous waves.
The new South Africa study showed those admitted during the Omicron wave were discharged after an average of four days, compared to 8.8 days for previous waves. Photo by Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

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Omicron causes just a quarter of the deaths of hospitalized patients as previous waves, the first major mortality data into the new variant suggests.

Researchers at the University of Pretoria and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa studied patients admitted to a large hospital in the City of Tshwane, Gauteng Province, which was the original epicentre of the Omicron outbreak. They found that just 4.5 per cent of patients died during the Omicron wave compared to 21.3 per cent before the variant took hold.

The team said that if the findings were reproduced globally, there would be a “complete decoupling of case and death rates,” which would end the epidemic and usher in an endemic phase.

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Recent figures suggest that the case fatality rate has fallen in Britain to 0.12 (1 in 833) since Omicron emerged, from highs of 3.3 (1 in 30) last winter, although the death data will be lagged by several weeks.

Read more.


Wednesday

More than 80 cruise ships are being investigated for COVID outbreaks. So why are people still going aboard?

Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of The Seas arrives to its berthing spot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in June, 2021. The ship has been given a yellow flag for COVID outbreaks by the CDC. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of The Seas arrives to its berthing spot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in June, 2021. The ship has been given a yellow flag for COVID outbreaks by the CDC. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating more than 80 cruise ships for COVID-19 outbreaks under a new colour-coded system implemented by the cruise industry and the CDC to monitor and control outbreaks of the virus.

The cruise industry has responded to the pandemic with mitigation protocols — testing, vaccination mandates, enhanced ventilation, mask-wearing, physical distancing and other public health measures. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says more than 30 countries welcomed back cruise ships this year.

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But that was before the highly contagious Omicron variant arrived to rock the boat. So why are people still cruising?

“It’s probably just as safe as going to the local grocery store,” said Kim Parker,  who recently sailed on the Royal Caribbean cruise with 55 infected passengers.

Read more.


Wednesday

COVID-19 developments across Canada on Wednesday

A long line of vehicles at a COVID-19 testing site in Winnipeg on Dec. 23, 2021.
A long line of vehicles at a COVID-19 testing site in Winnipeg on Dec. 23, 2021. Photo by Chris Procaylo/Postmedia

Manitoba is reporting another record for daily COVID-19 cases with 947 new infections. The previous record was recorded Tuesday with 825. The figures are likely vastly underestimated; health officials are working a backlog of about 10,700 tests that haven’t yet been screened for COVID-19.

Ontario is reporting 10,436 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths from the virus today. The daily infection tally broke the record set on Christmas day — 10,412 cases — for the most cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began in Ontario. Families still don’t know if kids will be learning in school or at home as the government mulls whether to reopen amid unprecedented levels of COVID-19 spread.

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Nunavut is extending its “circuit-breaker” lockdown as a rise in COVID-19 infections pushes the territory’s health-care system to a breaking point. The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said Wednesday the province has 74 cases in eight communities after counting zero cases on Dec. 21.

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

Quebec continues to break records in new daily COVID-19 cases. Health officials are reporting 13,149 new infections today and 10 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by 102 compared with the prior day, to 804.

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Wednesday

The pandemic changed how Canadians work — and how they want to work: poll

Empty city streets in the downtown core on weekday mornings have become a defining image of the pandemic.
Empty city streets in the downtown core on weekday mornings have become a defining image of the pandemic. Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

For those Canadians who were working from home, it was looking like September 2021 was going to mark the big return to the workplace, after several false starts.

A solid 50 per cent had never really left their workplaces — or if they had, it was only under lockdown orders or the worst crests of the pandemic’s various waves. And some of those who were working from home temporarily had already returned.

But a year on, a large portion of Canadians have found that work-from-home has become their new model.

Read more.


Wednesday

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.

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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.

Read more.


Wednesday

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.

Read more.

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