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Jon Roe Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Photo by Government of Alberta 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.  Have you undergone a travel-related quarantine? Have you received your vaccine, and if so did you feel any side effects? Have you changed your life for the better because of the pandemic? 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 Friday, Feb. 26. Calgary pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccine

This map details all the Calgary pharmacies that are offering the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently the vaccine is open to all Albertans born in the year 1946 or earlier. Appointments are still necessary and can be booked by contacting the participating pharmacies. Details on booking your vaccine jab at a pharmacy can be found here.

Authority to enforce COVID-19 restrictions expires for some peace officers Peace officers and Calgary Police watch protesters gathered to rally against pandemic restrictions outside city hall on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Some Alberta peace officers are no longer able to enforce public-health orders introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Level 1 community peace officers and Level 2 Alberta peace officers no longer have the authority to enforce the orders as of Friday, according to a bulletin posted online by the Government of Alberta earlier this week.

Alberta introduced the ability for more peace officers across the province to enforce restrictions Nov. 27, when the province was dealing with an increase in complaints about non-compliance to rules amid the pandemic’s growing second wave.

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About half of eligible Alberta seniors now booked for COVID-19 vaccine John Lindsay receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Medicine Hat on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as part of the rollout to seniors 75 years and over in Alberta. Photo by Alberta Health Services

Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment system has bounced back after heavy demand stymied bookings at its launch, with about half of seniors newly eligible this week already slotted to get the jab.

The mass sign-ups for shots come as Health Canada regulators approved a third vaccine Friday from AstraZeneca that looks to further accelerate immunizations.

Read more.

Three people have now died in Olymel plant outbreak in Red Deer Google Streetview of the Olymel plant in Red Deer. Photo by Google

Two more people have died in relation to the Red Deer Olymel COVID-19 outbreak that has now grown to 500 cases.

Alberta Health reported the deaths Friday. One was a woman in her 60s who died Feb. 21; the other was a man in his 50s who died Feb. 24.

The union that represents employees at the pork slaughterhouse identified the man as Henry De Leon, a worker at the plant for more than 15 years after coming to Canada as a foreign worker from the Dominican Republic. They described him as a hard worker with a bright smile.

Read more.

356 new cases, three deaths

Alberta’s three newly reported #COVID19AB deaths are:
-A woman in her 60s linked to the Olymel Red Deer outbreak who died Feb. 21
-A man in his 50s linked to the Olymel Red Deer outbreak who died Feb. 24
-A man in his 70s from Central zone who died Feb. 24.

— Jason Herring (@jasonfherring) February 26, 2021 Advertisement

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Article content Doctors urge Alberta to hold off on easing COVID-19 restrictions next week Co-chair of the Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee Dr. Noel Gibney poses for a photo, in Edmonton Monday Jan. 18, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Two doctors who co-chair the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association’s pandemic committee made the plea in a statement released Friday.

“The health care system and the population, after having been stressed for so long, really can’t tolerate another surge before the end of our vaccination campaign,” said Dr. Noel Gibney and Dr. James Talbot, noting it will be months before all at-risk Albertans are inoculated.

Read more.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Alberta

Canada’s COVID models have been largely accurate, but worst cases have not materialized Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo: “What you do today certainly will have consequences down the road.” Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/File

Coronavirus modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada has a strong track record of predicting where the virus is going, a troublingly trend given the agency now predicts a potentially steep rise in cases.

Read more.

Tristin Hopper: Are all these COVID-19 border measures legal? The Quarantine Act explained A person looks out of a window at a quarantine hotel in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday. Photo by Carlos Osorio/Reuters

National Post columnist Tristin Hopper writes:

Whatever their efficacy in fighting off COVID-19, it’s clear that Canada’s current border controls are on a scale unprecedented in modern times. Since March 25, 2020, all travellers entering Canada have been required to undergo 14 days of mandatory self-isolation, subject to fines or even arrest in the case of non-compliance. And now, incoming air travellers face mandatory confinement to a hotel paired with mandatory testing.

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These policies would be inviting a cascade of Charter challenges under normal circumstances, but for now it’s all kosher due to them being a function of the Quarantine Act. Rewritten after the 2003 SARS pandemic, the act extends near-dictatorial powers to government during times of public health crisis. But the question is how long the Act can guide federal policy before inviting pushback.

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COVID cases are falling globally, but ‘it’s not over for anybody,’ WHO official cautions Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, speaks at a news conference on the novel coronavirus in February 2020. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters/File

According to a Feb. 23 WHO situation update, the number of global cases fell for the sixth consecutive week last week, an 11 per cent decline compared to the previous week.

The number of new deaths reported — 66,000 — also fell, by 20 percent week over week.

Read more.

Alberta and AMA reach tentative agreement after year of negotiations Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro. Photo by Courtesy Government of Alberta

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Paul Boucher, the president of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) announced a tentative agreement today.

The announcement comes more than a year after Shandro tore up the province’s contract with physicians beginning a bitter and often very public fight which escalated throughout 2020, even as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Shandro used his power to unilaterally implement changes to the way doctors are paid which many, particularly those in rural ridings, said made it nearly impossible for them to keep their offices open. Doctors have left the province or threatened to leave over the fight.

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Shandro eventually rolled back many of those changes during the pandemic.

Dr. Boucher said it could take 3 weeks before the tentative new agreement is put to a vote.

Read more.

Watch the livestream below starting at 1:30 p.m.

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Article content Canada announces partnership with India-based company to secure more AstraZeneca jabs A health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Widnes, Britain. Photo by Jason Cairnduff/Reuters/File

Canada’s vaccine rollout received a significant boost Friday with the approval of a third COVID-19 inoculation, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced another partnership with an India-based institute that will deliver two million additional doses of the newly authorized jab to Canadians by the spring.

Trudeau spoke on Friday hours after Health Canada announced it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca.

The new partnership also means Canada will receive two million doses of the CoviShield vaccine, which is the same as AstraZeneca’s product, through an agreement with Mississauga, Ont.’s Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India.

Read more.

Will Canada approve a first-dose-first strategy now that AstraZeneca has been approved? Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses with a vial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as he visits a vaccination centre at Cwmbran Stadium in Cwmbran, south Wales on Feb. 17, 2021. Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images

This week, buoyed by the apparent success of a “first dose first” vaccine rollout, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a plan to slowly unshackle England from COVID restrictions by the end of June.

The U.K.’s controversial strategy to space vaccine doses up to three months apart, rather than the originally approved three to four weeks, in order to give as many people at least one shot sooner could see every British adult offered a first dose of a COVID vaccine by the end of July — months sooner than Canada.

Now, an independent federal expert advisory panel is once again mulling dosing gaps in Canada: How far can you push it to give more people shots?

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“We are already at six weeks,” Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, said in a brief email exchange with the National Post before two days of meetings this week. “(The panel) will see what else can be recommended.”

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Trudeau says Canada will get 6.5 million vaccine doses by the end of March

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said with today’s approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Canada should now receive 6.5 million doses of various vaccines by the end of March.

He is also saying the country will get “tens of millions” more doses by the end of June.

Tune in above.

Think of others and get COVID shot, says Queen Elizabeth Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visits the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 20, 2019. Photo by GEOFF PUGH/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s 94-year-old Queen Elizabeth, who last month had her first COVID-19 vaccination dose, has encouraged the public to follow suit, saying it did not hurt and those who were wary should think of others.

The monarch and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, who is currently in hospital with a non-COVID infection, received their shots from a household doctor at the queen’s Windsor Castle residence, with their age putting them in the priority group for England’s coronavirus vaccine rollout.

“Once you’ve had a vaccine you have a feeling of you know, you’re protected which I think is very important and as far as I could make out it was quite harmless,” the queen said in a video call with health officials overseeing inoculations across the four nations of the United Kingdom.

Read more.

Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine A vial of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Lochee Health Centre in Dundee, Scotland. Photo by Andy Buchanan /Pool via Reuters

Health Canada has approved the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, the third to be given the green light for national use.

Details of the approval and when Canadians might see doses begin arriving are due at a technical briefing later this morning in Ottawa.

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Canada has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

It will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

Read more.

How effective is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine? What you need to know A health worker prepares to administer a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Widnes, Britain. Photo by Jason Cairnduff/Reuters/File

Health Canada has approved its third COVID-19 vaccine, authorizing the jab made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University after a lengthy review of clinical trial details.

AstraZeneca was the first to apply for approval in Canada last October and was greenlit earlier in many jurisdictions including the United Kingdom, Mexico, India, and the entire European Union.

But Health Canada sought further data from the company before authorizing the new vaccine on Friday.

Read more about the AstraZenneca vaccine here.

Thursday AHS asks people to wait in their vehicles until their appointment

We are adding additional staff and signage at sites to encourage people with appointments to wait in their vehicles until their appointment times. Each appointment is booked in 10-minute increments. This helps ensure we can maintain social distancing at all immunization clinics.

— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) February 25, 2021 Advertisement

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Article content Thursday Alberta Health Services announces upgrades to 811 system; over 100,000 Albertans booked vaccine appointments

More than 100,000 Albertans aged 75+ have booked their #covidvaccine appts. Karl Kuhnlein, 90, and his daughter-in-law, Betty Ann Lough, wore party hats to celebrate Karl’s vaccination today. Karl is looking forward to playing pool with friends again & seeing his grandchildren. pic.twitter.com/vY1ZZcOhKo

— Alberta Health Services (@AHS_media) February 25, 2021 Advertisement

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Alberta Heath Services says callers to 811 will now have a choice of booking a vaccine or speaking with a health professional.

The 811 service is usually to provide heath advice to Albertans, but is also being used to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

On the first day of booking, many Albertans said they had trouble getting through to 811.

AHS said the new options will help Albertans more quickly reach the service they need. Starting today, the system will be able to keep 350 callers in the queue as they wait to book their appointment.

Paired with its online booking system, AHS said it can now book 5,000 people per hour for their COVID-19 vaccination.

On Thursday afternoon, AHS tweeted that more than 100,000 Albertans aged 75 and over have booked their COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

This means that “well over half of Alberta’s 75-plus population is already vaccinated or booked to receive the vaccine,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a press release.

“This is a significant milestone for our province and it deserves to be celebrated,” Shandro said. “Many other provinces remain days or even weeks away from even getting started.”

He acknowledged that despite that progress, the booking system fell short of expectations. He said he’s directed AHS to add more servers, staff and phone lines for future phases of vaccine deployment.

Thursday 399 new cases, eight deaths

Alberta also reported 32 more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. There have been 348 total cases of that variant in the province. #COVID19AB

— Jon Roe (@theJonRoe) February 25, 2021 Advertisement

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Article content Thursday Budget 2021: Province earmarks more dollars for health care amid COVID-19 pandemic A health-care worker prepares to administer a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2020. Photo by Carlos Osorio/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Alberta’s UCP government has budgeted more cash for health care this year than in any of its previous budgets, but plans to go back to its cost-saving mandate when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Thursday’s budget shows spending on health care in Alberta in 2021-22 will be $23 billion – an increase of about $877 million from last year’s estimated total.

Another $1.25 billion will go to COVID-19 spending, including COVID-19 testing centres, contact tracing, PPE, vaccine deployment and acute care and continuing care.

Of its $23 billion in expenses, the Health Ministry plans to keep operating spending flat at $21.4 billion until 2023-24.

Read more.

Related: Read all of Postmedia’s coverage of Alberta’s Budget 2021

Thursday Budget 2021 maintains flat funding for K-12 education amid low enrolment Sanitizers are provided for the students and teachers in a classroom in Henry Wise Wood High School on Friday, August 28, 2020.

Despite pandemic fears resulting in low enrolment for K-12 schools in some jurisdictions, including Calgary, Alberta Education says it will maintain funding levels comparable to last year in Budget 2021.

A closer look at the numbers sees a slight bump in operating expenses from last year’s $8.32 billion operating budget to $8.34 billion this year.

But with COVID costs still expected to rise in schools where students under 16 years of age have not yet been approved for vaccination, stakeholders have said schools will need more support than ever as the pandemic continues to take hold into the next academic year.

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Thursday Budget 2021: Alberta boosts tourism funding by $22 million Visitors wait in long lineups outside The Spirit of Christmas shop on Banff Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 21. Photo by Marie Conboy/ Postmedia

The Alberta government will invest an additional $22 million this year into the province’s tourism industry in an effort to help the sector recover from a year of devastating, COVID-related financial losses.

The Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation budget commits $66 million over three years, part of its goal to develop and implement a strategy to double tourism in the province by 2030. The industry has been marked as a key growth sector for Alberta’s economic recovery plan, but is heavily reliant on worldwide vaccine distribution and travel restrictions.

Read more.

Thursday Budget 2021: No new funding announced for agencies addressing opioid crisis during COVID-19 pandemic Jason Luan, Alberta Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia/File

Alberta’s budget offers no new targeted funding for organizations on the frontline of the province’s deepening opioid crisis.

Budget estimates for mental health and addictions released Thursday maintain the province’s original plan of $140 million over four years, first announced in 2019.

This multi-year commitment is being used to increase access to services, expand existing programs and establish publicly-funded treatment spaces and associated recovery communities. Forty million is dedicated solely to addressing the fatal opioid crisis.

This plan was put in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and spiking opioid overdose fatalities, with a record-setting 997 deaths recorded in Alberta between January and November last year.

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Thursday Tempers flare, frustration continues but seniors’ vaccinations pick up steam Mary House, 80, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Alyssa Zaderey in Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Photo by Alberta Health Services

While some mayhem persisted for seniors booking COVID-19 vaccination shots Thursday, many of those eligible across the province managed to grab an appointment into the second day of trying.

By 2 p.m. Thursday, more than 100,000 of the 230,000 eligible seniors aged 75 or older living in the community had booked appointments for both doses, though many won’t get their second shots until well into April.

And 2,000 of those had already been vaccinated with their first dose on Wednesday, just hours after bookings opened with considerable disarray on the Alberta Health Services online site and Alberta Health Link phone line.

Read more.

Thursday Nelson: Rogue church has abandoned community bonds at its peril GraceLife Church in Parkland County defied Alberta government public gathering restrictions and held church services. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

Columnist Chris Nelson writes:

Once people start cherry-picking which rules and laws they’ll obey and which they’ll leave behind in the handy dumpster of convenience, then it’s game over for civil society.

Therefore, if folk decide to deliberately flout certain community regulations or standards because they deem them bothersome and annoying, then they should be prepared to accept living in the potentially lawless state their very actions encourage.

Read more.

Thursday Grey Eagle planning new outdoor drive-in event centre The Grey Eagle Drive-in, set to open May 1, will feature a large stage with LED screens and surround sound. It will host live concerts, graduations, weddings and other performances. jpg

Responding to the year-long pandemic that closed down most indoor event facilities, a new drive-in is opening to house concerts, graduations, theatre and other live performances.

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The Grey Eagle Drive-In will open May 1 on the west side of the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, off Glenmore Trail and Strathcona Street S.W.

Read more.

Thursday Calgary bar gets second warning from AHS

A Calgary bar that was ordered to temporarily close in December for not following pandemic protocols got another warning this month.

Outlaws Taphouse and Bar located at #110 1830 52 St. S.E. was ordered to submit a written relaunch plan after a health inspector noted deficiencies at the establishment.

According to the AHS inspector’s report, a staff member was observed working the bar and providing table service without wearing a face mask.

The inspector also found that dine-in customer contact information had not been recorded for at least six days. Recording customer contact information is a requirement meant to help contact tracers find patrons who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Although not ordered to close, Outlaws has been given until Friday to submit another written relaunch document, to ensure all staff are masked and to record contact information from dine-in patrons.

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