COVID-19 Update: U of C in-person classes delayed until late February | No Crowchild Classic at the Saddledome this year | Health-care system under strain due to Omicron


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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What’s happening now

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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 .


U of C extends online classes until end of February

University of Calgary campus. Thursday, November 19, 2020.
University of Calgary campus. Thursday, November 19, 2020. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Most students at the University of Calgary won’t be heading back to classes in person until Feb. 28 at the earliest.

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The university announced today an extension of online classes until Feb. 19, which is the last day of classes before reading week.

In a release, the university acknowledged that the Omicron variant appears to cause fewer hospitalizations but is also much more contagious than past strains.

“Our decision to temporarily hold off on returning to in-person teaching and learning will allow the University of Calgary to play its part in reducing the spread. This should help ease the burden on our health-care system at this key time.”


Crowchild Classic Saddledome event called off for second year in a row

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University hockey fans are going to miss out on the biggest event of the year again in 2022. The Crowchild Classic Hockey game between Mount Royal and CalgaryU’s men’s and women’s hockey teams will not be going ahead at the Saddledome this year.

The double-header was set for Feb. 3. The games will be rescheduled to a date later in February. The games will now be played at the Flames Community Arenas.

“It’s certainly disappointing that one of the marquee events on the U SPORTS hockey calendar will not happen for a second straight year, but given the current circumstances this is the appropriate decision,” said Ben Matchett, UCalgary Dinos director of athletics.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, staff, and our student body is our number one priority, and with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant and both campuses in online learning until at least the end of January, moving forward with this event would not have been prudent.”

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He said they remain committed to bringing back the event in 2023.


Thursday

Fewer staff, more patients placing strain on Alberta health-care system as Omicron rages

South Health Campus in the SW. Thursday, January 13, 2022.
South Health Campus in the SW. Thursday, January 13, 2022. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

A rapid surge in COVID-19 infections due to the ultra-contagious Omicron variant has the health-care system under significant pressure, emergency room doctors in Southern Alberta say.

The strain comes both from an increase in patients requiring care due to infection with COVID-19, but also a growing number of health-care workers being unable to work due to illness or exposure to the virus.

Staffing issues are causing challenges at Calgary emergency departments, said Dr. Eddy Lang, the city’s head of emergency medicine.

“There’s no question about the staffing issues. People are catching Omicron,” Lang said. “But we’re grateful that, number one, no staff that we know of are very sick.”

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Thursday

Alberta will no longer report COVID-19 outbreaks outside of high-risk, congregate living settings

Carewest Royal Park community in the SW. Wednesday, January 12, 2022.
Carewest Royal Park community in the SW. Wednesday, January 12, 2022. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

COVID-19 outbreaks outside of high-risk settings will no longer be publicly reported, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Thursday.

She said outbreaks in acute- and continuing-care settings, as well as congregate living facilities, will continue to be reported every Tuesday and Friday when there are two or more cases in a facility. The province will no longer report other outbreaks.

“Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and the spread of Omicron, Alberta Health Services is focusing its case investigation resources on cases in high-risk settings only. This includes hospitals, continuing-care facilities and other congregate living settings like shelters and correctional facilities,” said Hinshaw. “This approach is in line with what other provinces are doing given the dramatic rise in cases due to illness.”

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Thursday

Calgary school districts buy N95 masks for staff as absentee rates, hospitalizations soar

James Fowler High School students head out during the lunch break on the first day back in class after an extended Christmas break on Monday, January 10, 2022.
James Fowler High School students head out during the lunch break on the first day back in class after an extended Christmas break on Monday, January 10, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Calgary’s public and separate school districts have purchased N95 masks for school-based staff as they face unprecedented absentee rates, with some institutions still waiting for face coverings and rapid tests promised by the province.

But critics say even those additional supplies won’t be enough to keep schools open unless the province takes more action, like providing N95s for all students and staff, putting HEPA filters in all classrooms and addressing low vaccination rates among school-aged children.

As Omicron cases continue to surge across the province, pediatric hospitalization rates are also rising, with an additional 25 hospital admissions among Albertans under the age of 19 since schools opened on Monday.

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Thursday

Rapid tests trickle in as Alberta officials point to shipping delays for shortages

Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta’s government has made “rapid tests more widely available than anywhere else,” but without confirmed delivery dates it’s difficult to tell when Albertans can access more tests.
Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta’s government has made “rapid tests more widely available than anywhere else,” but without confirmed delivery dates it’s difficult to tell when Albertans can access more tests. Photo by Chris Young/The Canadian Press

As rapid test kit deliveries slowly trickle into Alberta, provincial officials are blaming shipping delays as the reason behind recent shortages.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Premier Jason Kenney said Alberta has made “rapid tests more widely available than anywhere else,” but couldn’t say when more tests will be available to Albertans.

“With no confirmed dates for the arrival of most of the supply into the province, it’s difficult to plan and to let Albertans know how they can access more tests,” Kenney said. “Regrettably, this delay will affect the timing of rapid test shipments for some schools.”

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Thursday

Alberta reports 6,010 new cases

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

  • There have been 6,010 new COVID-19 cases reported since yesterday.
  • Eight deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported to AHS over that period. The provincial total is now 3,375 since the start of the pandemic.
  • There are now 17,548 cases of the Omicron variant identified in Alberta, including 8,949 in the Calgary zone.
  • There are 786 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 38 since yesterday. There are 79 people in ICU, a decrease of three since yesterday.
  • There are a reported 62,733 active COVID cases in the province, an increase of 1,504 since yesterday. There are a reported 29,144 active cases in the Calgary zone, an increase of 292 since yesterday.
  • The province completed 14,347 tests on Jan. 10. Alberta currently has a positivity rate of 39.2 per cent.

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Thursday

‘In for a rough winter’: Ottawa says cross-border truckers must be vaccinated, reversing earlier announcement

Truckers have been exempt from most travel rules for the majority of the pandemic, because they are an essential service, but that exemption is now ending.
Truckers have been exempt from most travel rules for the majority of the pandemic, because they are an essential service, but that exemption is now ending. Photo by Hyungwon Kang/Reuters/File

OTTAWA – After a day of confusion over border rules for truckers, the government confirmed Thursday Canadian drivers will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to return back into the country or face testing and a lengthy quarantine.

On Wednesday evening, a Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson said truckers would remain exempt from vaccination, testing and quarantine rules — a reversal from what the government had said publicly just hours before.

After nearly 24 hours of confusion, the government confirmed the original rules were remaining in place as planned.

“Let us be clear: This has not changed. The information shared yesterday was provided in error,” said a statement from the ministers of health, transport, and public safety.

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There was no explanation for how the error occurred or why it took nearly 24 hours to correct the mistake.

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Thursday

Ethics committee summons health minister on cellular data collection during pandemic

OTTAWA — The House of Commons ethics committee is calling on the health minister to explain the Public Health Agency of Canada’s collection of data from millions of mobile phones to understand travel patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opposition MPs on the committee fear the pandemic is being used to undermine the privacy of Canadians who were not aware that a government agency has been collecting mobile-phone data.

During an emergency meeting Thursday, the committee of MPs passed a motion asking Jean-Yves Duclos and Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, to appear before it to answer questions on the policy.

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Thursday

‘There will be a price to pay’: Quebec pressing ahead with plan to tax unvaccinated

Quebec’s premier said the current curfew to stop the spread of COVID-19 variant Omicron would be lifted on Monday
Quebec’s premier said the current curfew to stop the spread of COVID-19 variant Omicron would be lifted on Monday Photo by Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The province of Quebec is pressing ahead with a plan to levy a “health contribution” on adults refusing to get COVID-19 inoculations and will unveil details soon, premier Francois Legault said on Thursday.

Legault unveiled the proposal on Tuesday, sparking a nationwide debate about how far governments could go to ensure widespread vaccinations as the Omicron variant spreads.

A bill will be presented to the Quebec legislature for a debate early next month, Legault told reporters, dismissing opposition accusations that it would unfairly target the homeless, sick people and the mentally ill.

“There is no question of harming people who are in trouble. Our aim is to tell people who choose not to get vaccinated that there will be a price to pay because there will be an impact on society and how much our healthcare system costs,” he said.

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Thursday

Agriculture summit rescheduled due to COVID-19

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The Calgary Chamber’s upcoming agriculture summit has been moved from late January to early April due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The one-day summit, held at the Big Four building on the Stampede Grounds, was to be held Jan. 27.

The chamber said it is rescheduling the event to April 5, “due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and current health restrictions.”


Thursday

Chinook Blast festival delayed until February due to COVID

A lone skater checks out the lights of Chinook Blast at Olympic Plaza in Calgary on Saturday, February 13, 2021.Gavin Young/Postmedia
A lone skater checks out the lights of Chinook Blast at Olympic Plaza in Calgary on Saturday, February 13, 2021.Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young/Postmedia

The wave of Omicron cases currently affecting Alberta has led organizers of this year’s Chinook Blast to delay the event opening by two weeks.

The annual outdoor winter festival was set to start on Jan. 21. It will now begin on Feb. 4. It will run for four weeks.

“This delay will give partners and organizers time to prepare and welcome guests to Chinook Blast safely,” read a release from organizers.

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Most events will take place in February, including the festival hub, which is an outdoor area with art installations, buskers, pop-up performances and a community stage.

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Thursday

AHS announces rapid tests available in some rural locations

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People in many southern Alberta communities and towns should have access to COVID rapid test kits as of today.

Alberta Health Services announced kits are now available in the following communities:

  • Bow Island
  • Brooks
  • Cardston
  • Crowsnest Pass
  • Fort Macleod
  • Magrath
  • Milk River
  • Oyen
  • Piyami
  • Pincher Creek
  • Raymond

Addresses of where to go to pick up the tests can be found here.


Thursday

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe reports positive antigen test for COVID-19

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Thursday

More than half of Canadians say they expect to catch Omicron: survey

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

A new survey from the Angus Reid Institute suggests Canadians are becoming resigned to the idea that they will eventually catch the Omicron strain of COVID-19.

More than half of Canadians, 55 per cent, say they expect to catch Omicron, regardless of the precautions they take. That number rises to three-in-five for parents with children in school.

However, among the 55 per cent who say catching omicron is inevitable, they are evenly split on whether or not public restrictions should be lifted, with 48 per cent saying restrictions should be removed completely, and 48 per cent disagreeing with lifting restrictions.

When it comes to vaccination status, the unvaccinated are much more likely to say it’s time to end restrictions and let people self-isolate if they’re at risk. Among those with no dose of vaccine, 89 per cent strongly agreed or agreed with that statement.

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Those with three doses of vaccine were the least likely to agree with the statement, with 69 per cent of triple-dosed respondents saying they disagree with totally lifting restrictions.

The survey was not a true randomized poll, with respondents being chosen randomly from members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes, a randomized sample of this size, with 3,375 respondents, would cary a margin of error plus or minus two percentage points 19 times out of 20.


Thursday

Doctors demand Spotify change policy on COVID-19 misinformation after controversial Joe Rogan episode

Joe Rogan is no stranger to hosting controversial figures on his Spotify-exclusive podcast. On episode 1757 which aired on Dec. 31, Rogan invited virologist and self-proclaimed “inventor of mRNA”, as per his LinkedIn bio, Dr. Robert Malone on his show The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) — the most listened to podcast — causing a stir amongst medical experts.

Malone, who was banned from Twitter on Dec. 29 for “repeated violations” of its COVID-19 misinformation policy, made provocative statements on the show, prompting hundreds of doctors to sign a petition demanding Spotify “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform”. Both YouTube and Twitter already have done so.

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