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Feb 19, 2021  •  1 hour ago  •  11 minute read The Foothills Hospital in Calgary was photographed on Sept. 21, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia Article content

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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Article content My COVID Story: How have you been impacted by coronavirus?

Postmedia is looking to speak with people who may have been impacted by COVID-19 here in Alberta. Are you quarantining due to being exposed to the variant? Have you received your vaccine, and if so did you feel any side effects? Send us an email at reply@calgaryherald.com to tell us your experience, or send us a message via this form.

Read our ongoing coverage of personal stories arising from the pandemic.

Numbers reported by Alberta Health on Thursday, Feb. 18. Poll: Staying active during the pandemic

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Article content Yesterday’s poll results:

Calgary needs extra help with ‘extremely difficult’ economic recovery ahead: Nenshi Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to reporters outside council chambers in City Hall. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is warning that Calgary won’t bounce back as easily as other cities post-COVID, and he wants the federal and provincial governments to hear that message.

Nenshi sent a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland Thursday outlining Calgary’s asks ahead of the next federal budget. The Liberal government hasn’t yet set a date for releasing the 2021 budget, but it’s expected in the weeks ahead.

“I am very, very, very worried that our post-pandemic recovery will be difficult — extremely difficult for too many people,” Nenshi said. “And we have the power to change that, and we’ve got to take that power.”

Read more.

‘Incredible gains’ made by Alberta’s contact tracing team, says health minister Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2020. Photo by Courtesy Government of Alberta

Alberta’s contact tracing team has made “significant gains” with an influx of new workers since a system failure in November, says Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

The provincial contact tracing system was overwhelmed in the final months of 2020 with a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases. Alberta Health Services (AHS) couldn’t keep up with the demand, forcing them to only notify contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases in high-priority settings.

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Lax adherence to COVID-19 precautions among causes of Foothills outbreaks, documents suggest Foothills Medical Centre. Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Lapses in compliance to some COVID-19 protocols were among the causes of the fall outbreak at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre that infected 95 and killed 12, according to internal Alberta Health Services emails.

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The emails, obtained by Postmedia through a Freedom of Information request, cite information provided by AHS Infection Prevention & Control on the origin of the outbreak.

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Conservatives vow battle for COVID vaccine contracts will go on despite Liberal filibuster Conservative MP John Barlow speaks at a virtual meeting of the House of Commons health committee on Friday, February 12, 2021. Photo by parlvu.parl.gc.ca

The Conservatives are pledging to keep fighting for the release of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine contracts – despite the Liberals filibustering a health committee meeting in a bid to keep them secret.

The Tories are expected to resume the battle to see the documents when the health committee resumes, which could be Friday.

Liberals have warned that releasing the contract details could antagonize the drug manufacturers and even harm vaccine supply to Canada.

Read more.

415 new cases, seven deaths Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided, from Edmonton on Tuesday, February 9, 2021, an update on COVID-19. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta on Thursday afternoon. She was joined by Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta Health Services vice-president, who provided an update on the province’s contact tracing capabilities.

More than 2,300 contact tracers across the province, Shandro said; they are continuing to hire and train, he added, to increase capacity further1,500 cases investigated per day155,532 doses of vaccine administered; more than 58,000 Albertans fully immunized415 new cases on 10,275 tests; 4.2% positivity rate362 in hospital; 55 in ICUsSeven deaths; 1,805 total4,887 active cases; 123,338 recoveredActive alerts or outbreaks in 250 schools; 854 cases in these schools since Jan. 11

Shandro says contact tracers reach all positive cases within 24 hours of tests results. He says they traced 1,003 cases on Jan. 12 alone. #COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 18, 2021 Advertisement

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“I want to stress this is a rare incident,” says Hinshaw. “I know that the actions of one individual are not representative of all Albertans or all people of faith.”

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 18, 2021 Advertisement

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Watch the full update below.

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Article content Eau Claire YMCA to permanently close, citing economic pressures YMCA Calgary has announced they will begin the process to permanently close the YMCA-owned Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA. Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

YMCA Calgary announced Thursday their Eau Claire location will not reopen following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

The non-profit said the financial and economic pressures led to the decision to permanently close the Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA. The decision was made by the YMCA’s board of directors following a consultation process.

The branch opened on Oct. 17, 1988 and has contributed to the vibrancy of Calgary’s core in the intervening 30-plus years, according to YMCA Calgary board chair Patricia White.

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Two people fined after falsifying negative COVID test to board flight while positive: Transport Canada

Transport Canada fined two people for falsifying their COVID-19 test results.

Transport Canada said they fined one individual $7,000 and the other $10,000 for “presenting a false or misleading COVID-19 test and for making a false declaration about their health status” after boarding a flight which landed at Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Jan. 23.

Both passengers had tested positive for COVID-19, Transport Canada said, and boarded the flight anyway.

A Transport Canada spokesperson said they wouldn’t provide further details about the individuals charged, but said both passengers were fined $5,000 for boarding an aircraft “while having made a false declaration of their health status, knowingly having tested positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period and thus putting other travellers and crew at risk.” Passenger one was fined $5,000 for presenting a false or misleading COVID-19 test while passenger two was only fined $2,000 for the same violation.

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The Government of Canada website which tracks COVID-19 exposures on domestic and international flights, cruise ships and trains only lists exposures dating back two weeks. However, a Feb. 4 snapshot of that page on the internet Wayback Machine, which archives older versions of websites, listed the Jan. 23 AeroMexico flight AM636 from Mexico City to Montreal as having a COVID-19 exposure with no rows specified.

New travel rules stipulate that travellers need to show proof of a “COVID-19 molecular test” within 72 hours of boarding flights to Canada. Violating the rules carries fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

Why some say vaccine passports will be ‘inevitable’ for people who get COVID vaccinations in Canada A health-care worker records a vaccination on an International Certificate of Vaccination at a hospital in Germany. Photo by Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 vaccine certificates similar to the “green” passes that will allow fully vaccinated Israelis in and out of gyms, pools, concert stadiums and other leisure venues are inevitable in Canada, say researchers studying the “feasibility and acceptability” of immunity passports in Canada.

Despite worries immunity passes could lead to a new class of vaccinated “elites” or “immunoprivileged,” it’s unfair to continue to force restrictions on people once fully vaccinated, they argue.

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Alberta government backtracks to include non-profit workers in $1,200 benefit Labour and Immigration Minister Jason Copping announces Alberta’s plan to recognize hundreds of thousands of critical workers who continue to support and provide services to Albertans during this pandemic at a news conference from Belmont Sobeys in northeast Edmonton on Feb. 10, 2021. Photo by supplied

Workers at some Alberta non-profits will get the $1,200 benefit intended for frontline workers who served in critical roles throughout the pandemic after the government took a sudden U-turn Thursday.

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When the Critical Worker Benefit application portal opened Wednesday evening, it specifically listed non-profit organizations as ineligible.

Labour Minister Jason Copping announced via Twitter Thursday afternoon that those providing services through non-profits who have provincial government grants or contracts could be eligible.

Read more.

Single dose of Pfizer vaccine may be almost as effective as two, experts say A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer and Biontech logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Reuters

A single jab of COVID-19 vaccine appears to be highly effective, which could allow better use of scarce supplies and see more people immunized, federal and Quebec health officials said on Thursday.

Health authorities in Ottawa said experts were looking at whether one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be almost as good as the recommended two.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, called the data in a new Canadian-authored study compelling.

Read more.

All Yukon residents will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination starting March 1

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver says all residents of the territory could be immunized against COVID-19 within a matter of weeks, now that an adequate supply of vaccine has been secured.

Silver says just over 16,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in Yukon on Feb. 28.

He says if the shipment arrives as scheduled, a public immunization clinic will open in Whitehorse on March 1.

Appointments for the general clinic are already being accepted and Silver says booster shots will be provided four to six weeks after residents get their first jab.

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WestJet temporarily suspends service to four Canadian airports A Westjet Boeing 737-700 aircraft lands at Edmonton International Airport in Nisku, Alberta. File photo. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

WestJet has temporarily suspended operations to four more Canadian cities due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel demand.

The Calgary-based airline announced Thursday it is halting flights to Lloydminster and Medicine Hat, Alberta, as well as St. John’s, Newfoundland, and London, Ontario until June 24.

Flights between St. John’s and Halifax will be suspended as of March 21, while service between London, Ont., and Toronto will cease on March 22. WestJet Link service from Calgary to Lloydminster will end on March 19, and Calgary to Medicine Hat discontinued as of March 21.

In a statement, WestJet CEO Ed Sims blamed the route suspensions on plummeting travel demand caused by domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

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Pfizer study deals new blow to South Africa’s vaccine hopes This file photo taken on April 27, 2016 shows the Pfizer company logo on the wall in front of Pfizers headquarters in New York. Photo by DON EMMERT / AFP

Scientists will meet on Thursday to advise South Africa’s government on its next steps after a study suggested the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce antibody protection from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by two-thirds.

The laboratory study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, dealt a new blow to the country hardest-hit by the pandemic on the African continent.

The government and its advisers must weigh whether to wait for vaccines that might be more effective against the more infectious 501Y.V2 variant, or try to vaccinate people quickly to avert further infections and deaths.

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Greg Perry cartoon for the Calgary Herald February 2021. jpg Wednesday GraceLife Church pastor remains in custody after holding another service violating COVID-19 public health orders GraceLife Church in Parkland County defied Alberta government public gathering restrictions on the weekend and held a church service. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

The pastor of a Parkland County church previously charged with violating Public Health Act orders remains in custody after turning himself in to police Tuesday, RCMP say.

On Sunday, RCMP and Alberta Health Services attended the GraceLife Church to “assess compliance in relation to conditions issued to the pastor on Feb. 7,” police said in a news release.

Pastor James Coates had previously been charged under the Public Health Act for being over capacity and failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements during church service. He was served an undertaking with conditions.

But on Sunday, police and AHS found Coates was not complying with his undertaking release conditions and the church was not in compliance with the public health order.

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On Tuesday, Coates turned himself in to police and he was charged with two counts in contravention of the Public Health Act and charged for failing to comply with a condition of his undertaking.

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Wednesday Alberta sees ‘small but significant’ rise in people refusing to participate with contact tracing, says top doctor Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

A “small but significant increase” of Albertans refusing to cooperate with contact tracers could push back the easing of restrictions, warns Alberta’s top doctor.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the provincial chief medical officer of health, said less than one per cent of confirmed cases didn’t answer the phone or return calls from contact tracers last year. That number swelled to 1.9 per cent in January and 1.3 per cent so far in February.

Read more.

Hospitalizations level off after steady decline The Rockyview General Hospital in southwest Calgary. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Wednesday More about Alberta’s vaccine rollout to be announced as early as Friday: Kenney Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

Premier Jason Kenney was asked about COVID-19 vaccines during the Wednesday afternoon press conference about the government’s additional supports for businesses.

He said that there might be an announcement as early as Friday about the vaccine rollout and who will be eligible next.

Kenney also said he was working with other provinces to coordinate on domestic production as a “plan B.”

“That made sense in principle, but it’s now clear to us the federal government was late to the table,” says Kenney, adding they didn’t add the same “political pressure” as other countries did around the world. #COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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Kenney says Alberta is working with other provinces to examine “all possible sources of domestic production.” He calls this a provincially-led plan b.#COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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Second part of the question is about vaccine rollout. Kenney says they will be releasing the priority list for the next phases of the vaccination distribution soon but “the issue is supply.” #COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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Wednesday Varcoe: New $120M aid program targets hardest-hit Alberta businesses — but is it enough? Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

Columnist Chris Varcoe writes:

Caught in the undercurrent of the second wave of COVID-19, thousands of Alberta entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

Many have been forced to close their doors. Others are facing public health restrictions and hemorrhaging cash.

On Wednesday, the UCP government will roll out a new $120-million program designed to keep them going, providing additional grants of up to $10,000 to eligible small and mid-sized businesses.

It should help.

Read more.

“On the fiscal front, the strategy is economic growth first and foremost… the focus of the budget will be protecting lives and livelihoods,” says Kenney. The budget is set to drop next week. #COVID19AB

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Kenney says there has been a “small number” of small businesses who have experienced a disproportionate share of the burden from COVID-19, like gyms or hospitality. #COVID19AB

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Related: Kenney announces new grant to replace program for small Alberta businesses hit by COVID-19

Watch the full announcement from Premier Jason Kenney and Jobs and Economy Minister Doug Schweitzer below.

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Article content Wednesday 277 new cases, seven deaths reported Wednesday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw gave her update on COVID-19 in the province Wednesday afternoon.

152,056 doses of vaccine administered; more than 56,500 Albertans fully immunized277 new cases on 7,456 tests; ~3.9% positivity rateActive alerts or outbreaks in 260 schools; 862 cases in these schools since Jan. 11370 in hospital; 60 in ICUsSeven additional deaths; 1,798 total deaths4,857 active cases; 122,960 recoveredHinshaw says more people are not cooperating with contact tracers in recent months1.3% of confirmed cases in February and 1.9% in January didn’t answer phone or return calls to contact tracers, up from 1% in DecemberFour new variant cases identified, all of the strain first identified in the U.K.; 225 total variant cases

“Contact tracing relies on cooperation. It is a partnership that benefits everyone,” says Hinshaw, adding that given how easily this virus passes on, even a handful of individuals not cooperating can lead to spread. #COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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Final question from me. I asked about benchmarks again, since specifics weren’t offered. She said it isn’t “a specific cut off but we need to look at trends.” Hinshaw said the R-value rising above one indicates growing cases, so that is one benchmark of sorts.

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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“Again, it’s not about a specific number. It’s about the change, the trajectory and the trends.” #COVID19AB

— Alanna Smith (@alanna_smithh) February 17, 2021 Advertisement

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