COVID-19 Update: Canadian truckers to stay exempt from vaccination requirements | Kenney says Alberta won’t follow Quebec in levying fee on unvaccinated


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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Help us tell the COVID-19 story in Calgary

Just when it seemed like things were getting back to normal, Omicron has changed everything. We’d like to hear from you on this latest wave of the virus.

  • If you are a healthcare worker, how does Omicron compare with past COVID-19 waves?
  • How have you coped with testing requirements and rapid test kits?
  • Is your employer or school asking for a written doctor’s note in place of a provincial PCR test?
  • Are you having a difficult time proving you had COVID-19?

Contact us by sending an email to reply@calgaryherald.com or send your comments via this form .


Wednesday

Canadian truckers to stay exempt from COVID-19 vaccine requirements

A truck leaves the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge in Lansdowne, Ont., Sept. 28, 2020.
A truck leaves the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge in Lansdowne, Ont., Sept. 28, 2020. Photo by Lars Hagberg /Reuters

Canadian truckers will remain exempted from COVID-19 vaccine requirements at the international border, but unvaccinated drivers from the United States will be turned back starting Jan. 15, a spokesperson at the Canada Border Services Agency said on Wednesday.

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Canadian truck drivers arriving at the international border will also remain exempt from pre-arrival, arrival and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirements, Rebecca Purdy, the agency’s spokesperson, said.

The decision is a change in policy to the government’s decision from November, when it asked all truck drivers to be vaccinated by Jan. 15, and from earlier this week when it asked Canadian drivers to quarantine for 14 days.

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Wednesday

Kenney says Alberta won’t follow Quebec plan to levy fee on COVID-19 unvaccinated

Premier Jason Kenney.
Premier Jason Kenney. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta will not be following Quebec’s plan to impose a financial penalty on those who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Kenney says data shows the unvaccinated are proving to be a vastly greater burden on the hospital system than the vaccinated, but making them pay extra would not be fair.

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“If we go down that road, we are completely rubbishing the whole principle of universality of health care, which is why Alberta absolutely will not follow the decision of Quebec,” Kenney said Tuesday night in a Facebook town-hall meeting.

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Wednesday

More than 80 continuing-care homes in Calgary zone on provincial outbreak list

A caregiver is seen leaving the Carewest Royal Park community in the SW. Wednesday, January 12, 2022.
A caregiver is seen leaving the Carewest Royal Park community in the SW. Wednesday, January 12, 2022. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

More than 80 continuing-care homes in the Calgary region are currently in COVID-19 outbreak protocols as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across Alberta.

The provincial outbreak list showed 31 long-term care homes and 52 supportive-living facilities listed in the Calgary zone as of Tuesday. Outbreaks are publicly reported when there are two or more cases linked to a facility.

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Generations Calgary is among the long-term care centres on the list. Executive director Cindy Simpson said there are four staff members isolating, but there is no staffing shortage.

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Wednesday

Student with health issues kept home after CBE refuses HEPA filter amid Omicron surges

Emiko Watanabe, 6, poses with her brother Ryan, 8, in a recent family photo. Ryan is very high needs, with severe allergies. Their doctor says he needs a HEPA filter in the classroom.
Emiko Watanabe, 6, poses with her brother Ryan, 8, in a recent family photo. Ryan is very high needs, with severe allergies. Their doctor says he needs a HEPA filter in the classroom. Photo by family photo

The mother of a student with complex medical needs and at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 has been unable to convince public school officials to put a HEPA filter in his classroom.

And now, as cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant surge across the province and through school communities, Fuyo Watanabe is choosing to keep her son at home for fear he could become very sick.

“Families with disabled children, we’ve been doing all of this for a long time, using hand sanitizer, doing everything we can to make sure our kids don’t get sick,” she said.

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Wednesday

WCB says it will accept physician diagnosis in lieu of test result for COVID proof

Alberta Health Services staff conduct drive-through COVID-19 tests at the Richmond Road testing site in Calgary on December 30, 2021.
Alberta Health Services staff conduct drive-through COVID-19 tests at the Richmond Road testing site in Calgary on December 30, 2021. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Amid limited access to PCR testing for COVID-19 and shortages of free rapid test kits, the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board says it will accept a physician diagnosis in lieu of test results for workers who contract the virus on the job.

A spokesperson with the WCB said if impacted workers aren’t able to access a test or speak with a health-care practitioner, they will pay for PCR testing for the employee. That’s also something that can be done to verify rapid test results, the board said.

“We’re really committed to not letting access to testing to be a barrier for workers’ benefit entitlements,” said Ben Dille.

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Wednesday

Albertans left in the dark as rapid test kits run out, federal shipments delayed

People line up to get a free box of five COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests at a Capilano pharmacy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
People line up to get a free box of five COVID-19 Antigen rapid tests at a Capilano pharmacy on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Calgary school boards received some rapid tests this week despite delays, but Albertans are struggling without access to adequate tests as Omicron washes over the province.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Twitter Tuesday that an anticipated shipment of rapid test kits from the federal government has been held back.

“Alberta Health is working hard to obtain more supply as soon as possible,” Hinshaw wrote.

There are no more rapid test kits available in any Alberta pharmacies, according to data collected by the Alberta Blue Cross.

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Wednesday

Alberta reports 6,789 new cases

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

  • There have been 6,789 new COVID-19 cases reported since yesterday.
  • Fifteen deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported to AHS over that period. The provincial total is now 3,367 since the start of the pandemic.
  • There are now 16,314 cases of the Omicron variant identified in Alberta, including 8,376 in the Calgary zone.
  • There are 748 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 40 since yesterday. There are 82 people in ICU, an increase of two since yesterday.
  • There are a reported 61,229 active COVID cases in the province, an increase of 2,616 since yesterday. There are a reported 28,852 active cases in the Calgary zone, an increase of 661 since yesterday.
  • The province completed 17,815 tests on Jan. 10. Alberta currently has a positivity rate of 38.9 per cent.

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Wednesday

Albertans are Canada’s most financially-stressed as pandemic drags on: poll

People brave the cold to line up for free COVID-19 rapid test kits at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Kensington on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
People brave the cold to line up for free COVID-19 rapid test kits at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Kensington on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Burdened by the fatigue of a relentless pandemic, Albertans are more anxious about their financial security than other Canadians, states a national poll.

Uncertainty spun off from the 22-month COVID-19 plague and previous years of economic downturn have 87 per cent of Albertans worried about the cost of living and inflation and 73 per cent concerned over their ability to save money, suggests an Angus Reid Forum survey conducted for insolvency trustee Bromwich and Smith.

Those are the highest numbers in the country, as are the 55 per cent stressed about managing debt and the 63 per cent who say they’re worried about managing expenses, according to the survey of 1,519 people conducted online Jan. 5-6.

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Wednesday

Provinces ‘right’ to look at new anti-vax measures, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks back to his office on Parliament Hill after a news conference on the COVID-19 situation on January 12, 2022 in Ottawa.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks back to his office on Parliament Hill after a news conference on the COVID-19 situation on January 12, 2022 in Ottawa. Photo by Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

The day after Quebec announced a new tax on unvaccinated adults, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says provinces are “right” to look at new ways to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Trudeau shied away from either supporting or criticizing Quebec Premier François Legault’s controversial new measure specifically on Wednesday, saying he needed more details before commenting. But he said he was not opposed to provinces enacting “strong measures” to fight Omicron.

“Details will be important in Quebec, because we want to make sure that the principles of the Canada Health Act are respected,” Trudeau said in French during a press conference Wednesday. He later noted that the province had promised that its new tax would be in line with the act.

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Wednesday

China issues stiff sentences for COVID violations after four people infect 83 others

Health workers spray disinfectant outside a shopping mall in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China on Jan. 11.
Health workers spray disinfectant outside a shopping mall in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China on Jan. 11. Photo by STR /AFP via Getty Images

China has sent three people to prison for up to four-plus years over breaches of rules that led to a virus outbreak, in one of the harshest punishments for lapses in enforcing the government’s strict Covid-zero policy.

The violations at a cargo company in Dalian, a port in the northeast, included failing to ensure employees wore masks, avoided visiting public venues after hours, and were properly quarantined and tested, the Global Times reported late Tuesday, oversights that allowed four people to infect 83 others.

The episode involved a cargo ship bringing frozen goods into Dalian in mid-November 2020, the state-run news website said. The company’s controller, its legal representative and a supervisor were given prison terms from 39 to 57 months last week. The company was fined 800,000 yuan ($125,500), according to the news website, which didn’t give the full names of the company or the individuals, or name the court.

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Wednesday

Scientists believed COVID leaked from Wuhan lab but feared further discussion would be harmful: emails

The P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is accused by some U.S. officials as being at the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, on April 17, 2020.
The P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is accused by some U.S. officials as being at the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, on April 17, 2020. Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images/File

Leading British and U.S. scientists thought it was likely that COVID-19 accidentally leaked from a laboratory but were concerned that further debate would harm science in China, emails show.

An email from Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, on Feb. 2, 2020, said that “a likely explanation” was that COVID had rapidly evolved from a SARS-like virus inside human tissue in a low-security lab.

The email, to Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, went on to say that such evolution may have “accidentally created a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans.”

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Wednesday

Quebec sees thousands sign up for first shot of COVID-19 vaccine as tax threat looms

After plans to tax the unvaxxed were revealed on Tuesday by Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, more than 7,000 people registered to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose since the announcement 24 hours ago.

“About 5K appointments were taken on January 10 and 7K yesterday, our record for several days,” Dubé tweeted this morning.

“107K doses administered yesterday,” he adds. “It’s encouraging!”

Dubé’s controversial announcement was echoed by Quebec Premier François Legault on the same day, stating “significant” penalties for those refusing vaccination for non-medical reasons.

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Wednesday

U.S. COVID deaths rising but likely due to Delta, not Omicron, says CDC chief

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks to the press after visiting the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks to the press after visiting the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Erin Clark-Pool /Getty Images

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States have increased by about 33% and deaths are up by about 40% from a week earlier, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, speaking on a media call, said U.S. COVID-19 cases, driven by the fast spreading Omicron variant, are expected to peak in the coming weeks.

“The magnitude of this increase is largely related to the Omicron variant, which now represents about 90% of the COVID-19 cases in the country,” she told reporters.

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Wednesday

What is flurona? Everything you need to know about the COVID-flu combo

A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub in Toronto.
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub in Toronto. Photo by Peter J Thompson /National Post

There is another pandemic term to be aware of, but don’t worry “flurona” is not another variant.

As 2021 came to an end, doctors at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel, confirmed an individual had contracted both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. On Dec. 23, 2021, a 29-year-old pregnant woman tested positive for COVID-19. Six days later she also tested positive for influenza type A, a strain of the flu. She was hospitalized and released after recovering. There have been more cases of the virus combo confirmed in other countries.

While medical experts say that co-infections are rare, they are worried about how cases of the virus combo will affect the already burdened health-care system.

Read more.


Wednesday

Bow Valley College extends online-only classes into February

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Bow Valley College is extending its online-only class delivery until Feb. 13.

The move means an extra three weeks at home for students of the college.

The campus will be closed during this time. Students who need access to the library, learner success services and academic advising can do so by appointment.

Only health program labs will continue in person, and those students must not come to class if they have COVID-19 symptoms.


Wednesday

Feds shut down 2020 Raptors season in Toronto over U.S. travel, quarantine concerns

The Raptors are Canada’s only NBA team, leaving them no choice but to travel to the U.S. to resume their season.
The Raptors are Canada’s only NBA team, leaving them no choice but to travel to the U.S. to resume their season. Photo by John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

The federal government called foul on the NBA’s COVID-19 plans over fears Toronto Raptors’ players would spread the virus when they returned from U.S. road trips, according to a memo on the decision obtained by National Post.

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Professional sports leagues had most of their 2020 seasons delayed or cancelled due to the pandemic. The NBA and the NHL shut down in March 2020 and finished the remainder of that season in rigid bubbles.

But for the 2020/2021 season both leagues hoped to resume somewhat regular play. The NHL moved all of the Canadian teams into the same division to virtually eliminate cross-border travel and had other testing and quarantine measures that are still in place.

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Wednesday

‘Democratization of COVID’: Four in 10 Canadians know someone recently infected, poll finds

Thirty-eight per cent of Canadians know someone in their immediate family or circle of friends who has contracted COVID in the last 10 days, according to a new poll.
Thirty-eight per cent of Canadians know someone in their immediate family or circle of friends who has contracted COVID in the last 10 days, according to a new poll. Photo by Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Nearly four in 10 Canadians know someone close to them who has been infected with COVID-19 in the past 10 days, a new poll shows — further evidence that appears to support a warning from British Columbia’s provincial health officer, that all will be exposed to Omicron at some point.

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If everyone will inevitably be exposed, what then? Will it “normalize” COVID? The more people who experience COVID, and the more who fare relatively well because of vaccination, the more people will become resigned to simply living with the virus and increasingly weary of — and increasingly vocal about expressing their displeasure with — social restrictions, some observers say.

One eminent group of scientists is already calling for the focus to shift to “the ‘new normal’ of life with COVID,” a life that doesn’t include eradication or a “zero COVID” strategy, but one that sees COVID monitored along with the flu and other respiratory viruses, and a “peak week threshold” for hospitalizations and deaths established that, if crossed, would trigger the emergency use of measures to slow the spread.

Read more.

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