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


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

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‘Cause for optimism’: Calgary businesses welcome removal of COVID-19 testing requirements for travel

Travellers move between gates with an Air Canada plane in the background at the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, January 18, 2022.
Travellers move between gates with an Air Canada plane in the background at the Calgary International Airport on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Vaccinated travellers no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada starting April 1, a decision welcomed by Calgary’s business community as the local economy struggles to recover from the pandemic.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos officially announced the change on Thursday at the tail-end of the Omicron wave in Canada, as new reported cases of COVID-19 have declined since mid-January.

Incoming tourists will still need to be vaccinated to visit Canada, and all inbound travellers must also upload their details to the ArriveCan app. Vaccinated people could also still be subject to random molecular tests when they arrive at Canadian airports.

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Alberta reports 619 new cases, six deaths

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers released by Alberta Health:

  • The province is reporting 619 new COVID-19 cases since yesterday, through 2,729 tests completed.
  • There are 967 people in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of 22 since yesterday. There are 67 people in ICU, a decrease of three since yesterday.
  • There were another six COVID-related deaths reported to Alberta Health Services, bringing the total to 4,019 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 704 deaths reported in Alberta since Jan. 1.
  • There are 6,552 recorded active infections in the province. In the Calgary zone, there are a reported 2,303 active cases.
  • Alberta’s two-dose vaccination rate for the population age 12 and over is 86.6 per cent.

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Omicron’s reduced severity will make living with COVID ‘easier’: study

A pedestrian walks through a blade of light in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic, March 10, 2022.
A pedestrian walks through a blade of light in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic, March 10, 2022. Photo by Peter J Thompson/National Post

A massive studying involving more than 1.5 million COVID infections in England provides “clear evidence” Omicron is less deadly than Delta, British scientists are reporting — evidence they say bolsters the case for dropping COVID restrictions.

After adjusting for age and other factors, people with Omicron had a 59 per cent lower risk of being admitted to hospital, and a 69 per cent lower risk of dying, compared to people infected with Delta.

The risk of hospitalization was significantly higher for the unvaccinated. But even among unvaccinated cases, the risk of ending up in hospital was 70 per cent lower, and the risk of death 80 per cent lower, if infected with Omicron compared to unvaccinated people infected with Delta, compelling evidence, the researchers said, that Omicron is intrinsically less severe than Delta.

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Vaccines were somewhat less effective at keeping people with breakthrough Omicron infections out of hospital compared to breakthrough Delta cases. But the risk of hospitalization was much higher for the unvaccinated, and the boosted were the most protected: Those vaccinated with three doses were 80 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital or die than the unvaccinated.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario likely to rise, but not by as much as January: experts

Paramedics transfer a patient out of their ambulance to the emergency department at Michael Garron Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, January 10, 2022.
Paramedics transfer a patient out of their ambulance to the emergency department at Michael Garron Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, January 10, 2022. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario’s expert science advisers say COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions will likely rise as more public health measures are lifted, but nowhere near the levels seen at the peak of the Omicron wave.

New modelling released today by Ontario’s science advisory table — ahead of mask mandates being lifted Monday in most settings — suggests that if there is a moderate increase in COVID-19 transmission, hospitalizations will likely rise, though they won’t exceed 1,000.

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There are currently 644 people in hospital with COVID-19, and a modelling graph suggests that there could be fewer than 900 hospitalization at a peak in early May — a far cry from the more than 4,000 people in hospital with COVID-19 in January.

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Omicron BA.2 subvariant becoming dominant in Canada, representing potential risk

A Canadian soldier helps a senior citizen with her meal on May 8, 2020, at the Grace Dart Long-Term Care Centre in Verdun, Quebec.
A Canadian soldier helps a senior citizen with her meal on May 8, 2020, at the Grace Dart Long-Term Care Centre in Verdun, Quebec. Photo by GENEVIEVE BEAULIEU /Canadian Armed Forces/AFP via Ge

The rise of the more-contagious Omicron subvariant in Canada could represent a threat to the elderly and others who are vulnerable, warns a leading expert on BA.2.

The concern comes as Ontario and other provinces are dropping pandemic restrictions and immunity from third doses of COVID-19 vaccine is waning for many of the most vulnerable. Ontario is offering fourth doses to long-term care and other vulnerable residents.

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The BA.2 subvariant, which is behind record case counts and deaths in some parts of the world, is on its way to becoming dominant in Ontario and across Canada. As of this week, about 50 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in the country are BA.2, squeezing out the original Omicron subvariant, BA.1, said Sarah Otto, a professor of evolutionary virology and mathematical modelling at the University of British Columbia. While cases of BA.1 are dropping across Canada, BA.2 cases are increasing slightly or remaining steady.

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B.C. experts have next-wave COVID-19 worries

Crowds of people wearing and not wearing masks on March 10 in Vancouver.
Crowds of people wearing and not wearing masks on March 10 in Vancouver. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

B.C.’s big danger with COVID-19 is that people will forget about the virus as restrictions ease, even as new waves surge in other countries, according to infectious disease experts.

“At the Canucks game last night, every five minutes I heard someone say, ‘thank God COVID’s gone,’” said Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre. “I think that is probably my biggest concern, is that people are thinking that way.”

B.C., he said, is likely to get a surge in new cases as restrictions are eased, but how well the disease can be kept in check will depend on how people stick to the basics — continuing to vaccinate people, washing hands, wearing masks in high-risk settings and staying home when sick.

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Canada lifting testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers

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Vaccinated travellers will no longer need to show a COVID-19 test to enter Canada beginning April 1, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos officially announced Thursday.

The change is being made at the tail end of the Omicron wave in Canada, as new reported cases of COVID-19 have declined since mid-January.

Duclos said the change is possible because of Canada’s high vaccination rates and fewer cases of the virus being detected at the border.

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Wednesday

Businesses eye recovery after two years of COVID survival

Geoff Allan, GM of Buzzard’s Bottlescrew Bills, and Ian Sinclair, head brewer, pose for a photo inside the restaurant near the brewing tanks ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. March 15, 2022.
Geoff Allan, GM of Buzzard’s Bottlescrew Bills, and Ian Sinclair, head brewer, pose for a photo inside the restaurant near the brewing tanks ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. March 15, 2022. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

After two years of lockdowns, restrictions and frustration, Bottlescrew Bill’s is ready to turn the page on the pandemic with an April opening of BSB Brewery.

The downtown bar has retired the 40-year-old Buzzard’s restaurant to clear room for a microbrewery expected to streamline operations and make better use of their space.

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“After that second lockdown, we were not twiddling our thumbs, we were desperately trying to stay alive like everyone else was,” said general manager Geoff Allan. “We had a lot of time to revisit what our business was going to look like, more time than I think we ever would have to plan for the future.”

The focus now is to fine-tune its brews — there are currently five styles — and then, in the next 18 months, consider bottling it for retail while keeping the bar filled.

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Wednesday

Police commission to meet Friday on Beltline protests

Counter-protesters and the weekly protesters clashed again on 17 Ave. and 5A St. S.W. resulting in police barricading the counter-protesters in Calgary on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Counter-protesters and the weekly protesters clashed again on 17 Ave. and 5A St. S.W. resulting in police barricading the counter-protesters in Calgary on Saturday, March 12, 2022. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

A special Calgary Police Commission meeting has been called for Friday to discuss how police plan to respond to expected protests in the city’s Beltline this weekend.

In a news release, police commission chair Shawn Cornett said the police oversight group has received hundreds of emails and phone calls from Calgarians about the protests.

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“We completely understand the impact this is having on the residents and businesses in the Beltline and want to make it end,” Cornett said.

“This is an unprecedented situation that is extremely complicated legally and from a policing perspective, but we need to find a way to stop the disruptions that are undermining many residents’ ability to enjoy their homes, businesses and community.”

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Wednesday

‘Invaders to our home’: Beltline residents, community members speak out against continued protests

Crowds continue to gather in Beltline on Saturday’s causing a disturbance to the many residents and businesses in the area. Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Crowds continue to gather in Beltline on Saturday’s causing a disturbance to the many residents and businesses in the area. Saturday, March 12, 2022. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Ruth Hartley is a senior who has lived in Calgary’s Beltline for 21 years, two blocks from Central Memorial Park.

Now, she’s planning on moving away from the inner-city neighbourhood, a decision based on sustained, weekly protests opposed to COVID-19 mandates that have taken over the community.

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“It’s every Saturday, for more than a year … The psychological stress of knowing this will happen once again, on Saturday, means my Fridays are hell,” Hartley said.

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Wednesday

Police charge protesters for driving through check stops during Coutts border blockade

The roadblock on Highway 4 outside of Milk River heading towards the Coutts border crossing on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
The roadblock on Highway 4 outside of Milk River heading towards the Coutts border crossing on Tuesday, February 8, 2022. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Alberta RCMP have charged two people for driving through police check stops during the Coutts border blockade in February.

Police say officers were monitoring traffic at a check stop when they noticed a large commercial vehicle pull off to the side of the road and stop around 11 a.m. on Feb. 14.

“After a short period of time, the vehicle accelerated and drove at officers who had to run out of the way to avoid getting hit,” the release reads.

James Edward Sowery, 36, of Flagstaff County was arrested and charged with assault with a weapon and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

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Sowery was released on an undertaking with conditions, and is scheduled to appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court on March 28.

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Wednesday

Alberta to reduce data reporting to once a week; net decrease of 12 deaths Wednesday

Health Minister Jason Copping.
Health Minister Jason Copping. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia, file

Alberta reported a net decrease of 12 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday as the province is set to reduce its data reporting to once a week.

Starting next Wednesday, data for the previous seven days will be made available to the public, Health Minister Jason Copping said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 update.

The province reported four additional deaths Wednesday. However, Alberta’s top doctor said Alberta Health’s most recent review of deaths found there were 16 previously reported deaths between Dec. 21 and Feb. 11 that did not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause.

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Wednesday

Alberta reports 593 new cases, four deaths

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers released by Alberta Health:

  • The province is reporting 593 new COVID-19 cases since yesterday, through 3,166 tests completed.
  • There are 989 people in hospital with COVID-19, a decrease of 12 since yesterday. There are 70 people in ICU, the same number reported yesterday.
  • There were another four COVID-related deaths reported to Alberta Health Services, bringing the total to 4,013 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 698 deaths reported in Alberta since Jan. 1. The decrease in the number of total deaths from yesterday is due to a review of a number of previous deaths, according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw. With updated numbers released today, there was a net decrease of 12 deaths in Alberta’s total.
  • There are 6,449 recorded active infections in the province. In the Calgary zone, there are a reported 2,214 active cases.
  • Alberta’s two-dose vaccination rate for the population age 12 and over is 86.6 per cent.

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Wednesday

Canada to lift pre-arrival COVID testing for vaccinated travellers

Passengers are pictured arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Passengers are pictured arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto. Photo by Carlos Osorio /REUTERS

Vaccinated travellers will no longer require a negative COVID-19 test to come to Canada as of April 1, according to a source in the federal government.

The source says an official announcement is expected later this week.

At the end of February, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced travellers coming to Canada would be able to present a negative rapid-antigen test at the border as an alternative to a more costly and time-consuming molecular test.

At the time, he said he would consider easing COVID-19 travel restrictions further if the epidemiological situation continued to improve, hospitalizations diminished and Canadians continued to get their booster shots.

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Wednesday

COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Alberta

Ambulances outside the emergency entrance at Foothills Medical Centre on March 10.
Ambulances outside the emergency entrance at Foothills Medical Centre on March 10. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

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