COVID-19 weekly summary for Alberta; Nov. 30 - Dec. 6

Photo: United Nations COVID-19 Response


The following is an attempt at amalgamating the news of the past week as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. 

It was quite a busy week, so let's get right to it.

NOV. 30 


Monday brought us a story that has a familiar ring to it. Alberta once again broke COVID-19 records that day with 1,733 new cases, two more than the previous single-day record set Saturday, Nov. 28.


The new record would not even last until the end of the week.


For three days prior to this “grim milestone” (a phrase that is now becoming over used, which in itself should give you a sense of the situation in the Province) Alberta reported more than 5,000 new cases: 1,731 Nov. 28 and 1,608 on Sunday. 


That day also, Dr. David Zygun, medical director for the Edmonton zone, reported plans to increase the province’s ICU bed capacity for adults from 173 to 425 within weeks.


AHS said it had plans in place on Monday to use “unconventional ICU spaces” in order to accomplish this goal.


The province recently added 20 beds in the Edmonton area and 10 beds in Calgary recently just to keep up with demand.


We entered December the following day, which brought with it a message about Christmas from Alberta’s top doctor at her daily news conference on the pandemic. 


DEC. 1


Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Dec. 1 that the province saw a further 1,307 cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths, followed by a reminder to all that this Christmas would be much different than any in recent memory. 


Hinshaw said Albertans should plan not to gather and instead, move celebrations of the festive season online. 


Earlier, officials in the province noted that Dec. 15 would be a key date for deciding whether or not the restrictions on social gatherings put in place Nov. 24, would be eased for the Christmas season. It’s increasingly obvious to most that they will not. 


“If you are making holiday plans, it is best to assume you will be limiting contact with anyone outside your household as much as possible and that any larger get-together will likely need to be virtual,” Hinshaw said on Tuesday. 


It was also announced Tuesday that test positivity rates (the percentage of people who were tested whose result came back positive) sat at 8.4 per cent. 


This measure, along with what is called the “R Value” are two important sets of data that are used by officials in the province to take the temperature of the pandemic.


The R Value shows how many people are affected by a single positive case. For example, if the R Value is one, one person will infect one other person, who infects another person and so on. Premier Kenney said in order for restrictions to be eased, the province’s R value would need to be below one, ideally 0.8%.  


The province had announced that it would be publicly releasing the R Value starting Nov. 30, but by Tuesday it had yet to do so. 


Hinshaw noted Dec. 1 that it had been “at least” a month since the province had an R Value of one. 


DEC. 2


December 2, brought news of a vaccine doses reaching the province by Jan. 4. 


That day the province also confirmed another 1,685 cases. 


The press conference Wednesday saw Premier Jason Kenney announce a COVID-19 vaccine task force. 






“While we can’t control when the vaccines arrive in Alberta, we can make sure that when we get them, we’re ready to roll them out as quickly as we can,” he said. 


Municipal Affairs Deputy Minister Paul Wynnyk will head up the multidisciplinary team of public sector workers that will administer Alberta’s vaccine distribution. 


The vaccine will be rolled out in three phases. 


The first phase is planned to start in the new year and carry on through to March. In this phase the vaccine will be offered to those living and working in long-term care or supported living homes, healthcare workers and First Nations people living on-reserve. 


Phase 2 is planned to take place April - June and it is unclear as of yet which segment of the population will be offered the vaccine during this period. Kenney said it is up to Wynnyk and his team to determine this, however the goal is to have up to 30 per cent of the population vaccinated by the end of this phase. 


Phase 3 will begin in the fall of 2021, and it is expected that the vaccine will be offered to all remaining Albertans during this period. 


Kenney said during the Dec. 2 press conference that no Albertan will be forced to receive the vaccine, but that the province’s ability to control the virus relies on many receiving it. 


CBC also broke news Dec. 2 that the province has planned for more than a week to set up indoor field hospitals in the province with the help of the federal government and the Canadian Red Cross.


DEC. 3 


More news on this came Dec. 3, the same day the province announced 1,864 new cases, breaking Monday's single-day record high.


An internal government of Alberta document showed that the hospitals would hold up tp 750 patients but that the province had no firm idea yet how it was going to staff the facilities.


The “Butterdome” - a sports facility at the University of Alberta -  the University of Calgary’s Olympic Oval and the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton were potential locations for the hospitals according to the document. 


“These sites were selected because they have the largest potential patient capacity, allowing maximized use of staffing in one location,” the document states. 


The document shows the Butterdome had a patient capacity of 288,whiile the Olympic Oval and the Saville Sports Centre each have a capacity of 375.


Three options for securing the necessary infrastructure for the hospitals are indicated in the plan. The include: 


- Ordering a Red Cross “Health Emergency Response Unit” a temporary set up where 150 beds would be made available in as little as three days at a cost of $5.1 million per 100 beds, plus additional costs as needed. 


- Ordering a “Mobile Health Unit” from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Similar to the above, but instead provided by the federal government, it would open up 200 beds available for deployment over the course of three weeks. The cost would be about $7.5 million per 100 beds. 


- Have Alberta Health Services purchase the beds and other equipment and infrastructure. The timeline for this would be dependent on availability of the beds. Cost would be $1.4 million per 100 beds. 


A federal source told CBC News that the province would likely receive a total of four field hospitals - two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government. The source said there was no request to staff the hospitals and no request for military support, but indications came later that the province was considering asking the federal government for the military’s help.


Kenney rejected the idea that requesting these hospitals meant the province was in dire straits and instead called it “responsible planning on our part for a potential extreme scenario” - one which his critics say could have been avoided had more stringent lockdown measures been put in place earlier.


DEC. 4


On Dec. 4, the province’s test positivity rate had reached 10.5%, putting the health system under enormous strain. 


Once again Dr. Hinshaw took to the podium to announce this number as a “grim milestone.”


Alberta continued to lead the country in total active COVID cases, with 18,243 on Friday afternoon, 522 of which were in hospital care - a record high since the pandemic began. 


1,854 new cases were reported that day, yet a new record


Two more cases were reported to have been moved to the ICU, making a total of 99 patients in intensive care - also a record high since the pandemic began.


AHS president Dr. Verna Yiu said the health authority is preparing mobile units with the help of the Canadian Red Cross, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and public post-secondary institutions to reduce the strain on hospitals. 


A physician registry was relaunched in partnership with the college, meaning that doctors would enter their availability and willingness to provide care into this system and be redeployed to different locations across the province if required. 


A nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital reported to Global News that he and his colleagues had been told to prepare for a new way of caring for patients. This meant, that the nurse-to-patient ratios would change meaning individual nurses would be responsible for far more patients. 


Medicine Hat announced that its mandatory mask bylaw would go into effect on Friday.


Although there is not a province wide mask regulation, communities like Edmonton and Calgary have had a bylaw in effect since the spring. 


Dr. Yiu also spoke Friday about efforts to increase the province’s contract tracing efforts, saying it has become more and more difficult to keep up with demand. 


DEC. 5


Alberta reported 1,879 new cases on Saturday (a new record) along with six more deaths for a total of 596.


The province once again surpassed the number of active cases in Ontario, despite having less than three times the amount of people in that province. 


101 people were now in ICU care as of Dec. 5 and a total of 563 patients with COVID-19 were in hospital. 


DEC 6. 


Alberta reports 1,836 new cases today, for an active total of 19,484 in the province. 


An additional 19 people have died. 


601 people are in hospital, up from 596 and of those patients, 100 are in ICU which is one less than yesterday. 


A total of 23,435 test were conducted on Dec. 5 bringing the total number of tests since the pandemic began up to 2,371,092 since the pandemic began. 


"The most important action you can take right now is to stay home if you feel unwell, even if it's just a slight sore throat or runny nose," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Twitter. "Deciding to stay home when sick is a simple yet impactful decision that limits the spread of the virus." 


The next live update will be on December 7. 


Other COVID news: 


Alberta's COVID situation has a ripple effect on the Northwest Territories, as patients from the territory are receiving treatment in the province's hospitals. 

"At what point do we stop sending people to Alberta for testing? For whatever?" Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly asked members of the NWT's Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight this week. "I think we need to recognize that is a real possibility and it's going to happening literally weeks, because Alberta is not doing what they should be doing."

Click here for more. 

Also, a University of Ottawa Immunologist called out Alberta's COVID-19 response this week according to a report from CTV.  

And new research suggests restrictions will not be lifted anytime soon.

As always the latest COVID-19 information from the province can be found here

Mike Carter reporting for Yeg City
Write Mike at mikecarterwrites@gmail.com




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