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COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for Jan. 31

Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in 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 health care 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.


Alberta leads country in excess death rates during pandemic: U of T researcher

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

Rates of age-adjusted excess mortality in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic outpace all other provinces, research from a University of Toronto infectious disease professor found.

Dr. Tara Moriarty said that through August 28, 2021, Alberta had reported nearly 150 excess deaths per 100,000 residents since the start of the pandemic. That equates to about 4,800 more deaths than would be expected during the time period.

Alberta officially reports 2,370 COVID-19 deaths through August 28, 2021, suggesting the pandemic’s true death toll in Alberta is significantly higher than the number reported by the province.

Read more.


Industry warns blockade at Coutts threatens supply chain to U.S.

Anti-mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks Hwy 4 at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.
Anti-mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks Hwy 4 at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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As more than 100 truckers blockade the Coutts border crossing in Alberta for a third day, resulting in its closure by the Canadian Border Services Agency, industry has begun to speak out.

“The reliability of a stable supply chain is essential to Canadian beef production,” said Bob Lowe, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, in an email on Monday. “Early in the pandemic, food production and the food supply chain were labelled essential services and critical infrastructure in Canada. Transportation delays can severely impact the beef supply chain on everything from animal feed through to the transport of cattle.”

This followed a post to Twitter from the Canadian Meat Council (CMC) in the afternoon that said there were more than 150 loads of Canadian beef stuck at the crossing.

Read more.


Alberta cabinet ministers condemn protest attended by UCP backbencher

A convoy of trucks and other vehicles is blocking northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 4 near the Coutts border in southern Alberta on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022.
A convoy of trucks and other vehicles is blocking northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 4 near the Coutts border in southern Alberta on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. Photo by Jake Zacharias /supplied

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Alberta cabinet minister Doug Schweitzer wants to know why a UCP backbencher attended a trucker protest that has blocked access to the U.S. border for three days.

On Monday, vehicles continued to clog the highway at the southern Alberta Coutts crossing in support of a national convoy to Ottawa with a stated goal of repealing a federal vaccine requirement for cross-border truckers.

On Saturday, Taber-Warner UCP MLA Grant Hunter posted a picture on Facebook that has since been deleted with family standing amongst stationary vehicles on a roadway, saying he brought his grandkids to the border to “show them the importance of standing up for freedom and liberty.”

On Monday, while announcing $6 million towards lab research and health technology innovation efforts, Schweitzer said he condemned the protest but it will be up to caucus to discuss the matter and decide whether Hunter will be ejected from the UCP for attending.

Read more.


‘Vaccination mandates aren’t the enemy here, COVID is’: Federal labour minister addresses Edmonton chamber crowd

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan spoke to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.
Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan spoke to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Photo by Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press, file

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The risk of unvaccinated workers falling ill is far greater than the risk of labour shortages caused by a vaccination mandate, federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan told the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce Monday.

Speaking at a virtual question and answer session, O’Regan said the convoy of protesters that arrived in Ottawa over the weekend had a lot less to do with truckers, who are largely vaccinated, than people were originally led to believe

“I think it’s pretty evident that what you have in Ottawa are people with very deep-seated feelings about vaccinations period, or, frankly, people who are just tired of COVID and really want to let us know that,” he said.

Read more.


Alberta reports 35 COVID deaths over last three days, 1,516 patients in hospital

Health Minister Jason Copping.
Health Minister Jason Copping. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

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An additional 35 COVID-19 deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last three days, as hospitalizations continued to climb.

Alberta’s Health Minister Jason Copping said during a press conference Monday that this is an “extremely challenging time” for hospitals, noting that health-care facilities in Calgary, Edmonton and a number of other locations are over capacity. Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients surpassed previous pandemic peaks for a total of 1,516, which includes the 99 patients in intensive-care units.

Despite the increase seen Monday, Copping said initial data from over the weekend could indicate hospitalizations are beginning to plateau.

Read more.


Alberta reports 6,537 new cases, 35 deaths over the weekend

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

  • There have been 6,537 new COVID-19 cases reported since Friday.
  • Thirty-five deaths attributed to COVID-19 have been reported to AHS over that period. The provincial total is now 3,566 since the start of the pandemic.
  • Alberta has reported 23,142 cases of Omicron to date, including 11,680 in the Calgary zone.
  • There are 1,516 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 20 since Friday. There are 99 people in ICU, a decrease of six since Friday.
  • There are a reported 37,468 active COVID cases in the province, a decrease of 3,832 since Friday. There are a reported 15,630 active cases in the Calgary zone, a decrease of 3,151 since Friday.
  • The province completed 19,331 tests over the weekend. Alberta currently has a positivity rate of 36.3 per cent.

Health officials are hinting at ending COVID restrictions (and it’s not because of the truckers)

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry went from being an advocate of aggressive lockdowns to now leading the charge to have COVID-19 treated more like the flu.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry went from being an advocate of aggressive lockdowns to now leading the charge to have COVID-19 treated more like the flu. Photo by Don Craig/B.C. Government/File

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The overarching goal of Freedom Convoy 2022 was for the federal government to declare the immediate lifting of all COVID-19 mandates across Canada.

It was, at root, a politically unrealistic demand, given that most mandates are imposed at the provincial level. But there is nevertheless a growing chorus of politicians and health experts now saying that it’s time for Canada to officially abandon extraordinary COVID-19 measures and “learn to live with” the virus.

The statements all point to Canada eventually treating COVID-19 as an “endemic” disease: A virus that is always present within the Canadian population, but can be controlled and contained without overly disrupting civil society.

Read more.


Ottawa still gridlocked by protesters while residents say it’s time for them to go

Anti-vaccine mandate protesters and truckers still protesting in Ottawa Monday morning. TONY CALDWELL, Postmedia.
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters and truckers still protesting in Ottawa Monday morning. TONY CALDWELL, Postmedia.

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OTTAWA — The trucker convoy, which arrived in Ottawa over the weekend, has entrenched itself on downtown streets, with hundreds of vehicles parked directly in front of Parliament Hill and on the side streets leading up to it. One vehicle in the convoy has even removed its front wheels, presumably to make it harder to move. The protesters are continuing to honk horns, but are no longer driving around the city.

Some downtown streets are now clear of protest vehicles, but they remain inaccessible, because they have now been blocked with police vehicles and City of Ottawa heavy equipment. Police have told people who work downtown to stay home if they can.

Protest leaders have indicated they have no intention of leaving the capital until their call for an end to all COVID restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates, are met.

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said protesters have every right to raise grievances, but the time has come for them to leave.

“As the old saying goes, they’ve worn out their welcome. I think it’s time for them to go back to their communities and work with their local members of Parliament and provincial parliament to address their grievances,” he said.

Read more.

Independent MLA Drew Barnes announces support for trucker protests

Supporters of the “freedom convoy” of truckers gathered on an overpass over the Trans-Canada Highway east of Calgary on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
Supporters of the “freedom convoy” of truckers gathered on an overpass over the Trans-Canada Highway east of Calgary on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes announced today he is in full support of the trucker protests that have been taking place at the Canada-U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta.

“I fully support the recent protests by truckers on both sides of the border against unnecessary vaccine mandates,” he said in a statement. “These mandates and vaccine passports are dividing our society, disrupting our supply chains, harming small businesses, and having an unclear impact on preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

Barnes went on to say he encourages everybody to obey the law, and from what he has seen the protestors have made an effort to ensure first responders and emergency vehicles can get to where they need to go.

Barnes spoke to recent polling that indicates the “vast majority” of Canadians want pandemic restrictions lifted once and for all, and added by “escalating rhetoric against these protestors, officials in our federal and provincial governments including Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are only inviting larger protests.”

“What Jason Kenney, in particular, needs to understand is that these protests are against his own governments policies as much as they are against the federal government’s,” he said. “His hypocritical attempts to play both sides of this issue are blatantly apparent and further frustrating the situation.”

The announcement of his support comes right after Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter issues a statement on his participation in the same protest over the weekend.


Federal government introduces bill to spend up to $2.5B on rapid tests for provinces

Steele Grasza holds the COVID-19 test kits he has picked up at Northwest Pharmacy on Monday, December 20, 2021.
Steele Grasza holds the COVID-19 test kits he has picked up at Northwest Pharmacy on Monday, December 20, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

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The federal government introduced legislation on Monday to continue providing as many rapid tests as possible to the provinces and territories.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos introduced the bill in the House of Commons on MPs’ first day back after a six-week break.

The bill would give Health Canada the authority to purchase and distribute across the country up to $2.5 billion worth of COVID-19 rapid tests, according to a statement from the department.

“As COVID-19 remains a global threat, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the demand for rapid tests has increased worldwide,” said Duclos in the statement, adding that rapid tests are an important part of the government’s strategy for keeping Canadians safe.

Read more.


Federal election cost estimated $630M, but many First Nations had no polling station

Calgary voters are seen outside a polling station at St. Helena School in the NW. Monday, September 20, 2021.
Calgary voters are seen outside a polling station at St. Helena School in the NW. Monday, September 20, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

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Elections Canada says last year’s federal election cost an estimated $630 million — more than the estimated $502 million bill for the 2019 poll — partly because of extra costs associated with the pandemic.

An official report by Elections Canada, which ran the vote, outlines various obstacles it had to overcome because of COVID-19 and says it overestimated the number of people who would vote by mail-in ballot.

It says it had trouble finding staff for polling stations, including people to enforce social distancing and sanitize surfaces.

Read more.


One in five Canadians report COVID-19 infection since Dec. 1

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending teenagers with underlying conditions or at high risk of COVID-19 exposure get a booster shot.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending teenagers with underlying conditions or at high risk of COVID-19 exposure get a booster shot. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

A new Angus Reid Institute (ARI) study said one in five Canadians have reported a COVID-19 infection in their household since Dec. 1.

According to an ARI press release, 21 per cent have had at least one COVID-19 case since Dec. 1. A considerable portion of these positive tests, 36 per cent, came just after the holiday season. Forty-two per cent occurred in December.

“These data also estimate the incidence of COVID-19 among individuals during that same period. Overall, nine per cent of Canadians saying they have received a positive test – either at home or at a testing center — for COVID-19 since Dec. 1,” the release said.

ARI also estimates an additional five per cent of Canadians have been infected during that period, based on an analysis of the number of self-reported symptoms, and the positivity rate among those with similar symptom profiles who were tested.

“Notably, this 14 per cent aligns closely with the number of Canadians who say they are “almost certain” that they have had COVID-19 in the past two months, added to those who have a positive test confirmed,” the release said.

Another key finding reported in the study said testing levels for low-income households are significantly lower than those with higher household income levels. Additionally, B.C. lags behind the rest of the country in testing, with just 25 per cent of adults reporting having taken a test since Dec. 1. The national average is 42 per cent

In addition, the study also said 54 per cent of Canadians say they want all restrictions to end — a 15 point increase since January.


‘If I pissed you off, I’m sorry’: Joe Rogan apologizes for show

Joe Rogan’s show, The Joe Rogan Experience, has been the most listened-to podcast on Spotify.
Joe Rogan’s show, The Joe Rogan Experience, has been the most listened-to podcast on Spotify.

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U.S. podcaster Joe Rogan has apologized and pledged more balance on his show amid a backlash against COVID-19 misinformation on the streaming service Spotify that wiped more than $2 billion off its market value last week.

Spotify said it would add a content advisory to any episode with discussion of COVID to try to quell the controversy, a first step into the field of content moderation that other platforms such as Facebook have found challenging and costly.

Spotify shares were up 2 per cent in pre-market trading on Monday but still at their lowest since May 2020, after the controversy and a broader sell-off of tech stocks in January eroded more than a quarter of its value.

Read more.


Trudeau says protest ‘needs to stop’

Protest signs are seen attached to the main gate to Parliament Hill, as demonstrations by truckers and their supporters against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates continue, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Protest signs are seen attached to the main gate to Parliament Hill, as demonstrations by truckers and their supporters against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates continue, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is not “intimidated” by members of the trucker protest who “hurl insults and abuse” workers or “steal food from the homeless” over the weekend and will not meet with organizers.

“Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked, and frankly, disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” Trudeau said during a press conference Monday in which he came out swinging against some members of this weekend’s massive trucker protest in Ottawa.

“We are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse small business workers and steal food from the homeless. We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans.”

The prime minister also criticized politicians who are “exploiting people’s fears,” though he stopped short of naming anyone.

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This is Trudeau’s first public (virtual) appearance since he began isolating following a COVID-19 exposure last Wednesday. Monday morning, he said on Twitter that he had tested positive for the virus and would remain in isolation.

Read more on this story. 

Our colleagues at the Ottawa Citizen are reporting live on the trucker convoy. You can follow the latest here.


Southern Alberta border crossing blockaded by convoy for third day

A convoy of trucks and other vehicles is blocking northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 4 near the Coutts border in southern Alberta on Jan. 29, 2022.
A convoy of trucks and other vehicles is blocking northbound and southbound traffic on Highway 4 near the Coutts border in southern Alberta on Jan. 29, 2022. Photo by Jake Zacharias

With RCMP warnings unheeded, more than 100 vehicles remain lined up on a southern Alberta highway blocking access to the border and a small village for the third day in a row Monday.

Semi-trucks, cars and farm equipment filled Highway 4 south of Lethbridge on Saturday, in support of a national convoy to Ottawa with a stated goal of repealing a federal mandate requiring unvaccinated Canadian truckers re-entering Canada from the United States to get tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine. Some participating in both protests have expanded that goal, demonstrating against health orders and the federal government as a whole.

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On Sunday night, Mounties told demonstrators to clear the area, warning protesters that enforcement may be necessary. This morning, media relations officer Const. Curtis Peters said that notice has been largely spurned by the crowd, with the number of vehicles on the road remaining stagnant.

Read more.


AHS begins rollout of new drug Paxlovid

Health Canada recently approved Paxlovid, a treatment for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer.
Health Canada recently approved Paxlovid, a treatment for COVID-19 developed by Pfizer. Photo by Handout/Pfizer/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer’s COVID-19 anti-viral pill Paxlovid will be available in limited supply to Albertans starting Monday.

The drug is the latest to be approved by Health Canada for treatment against COVID-19. In Alberta, it is intended for use by individuals 18 and older who have specific medical conditions, or those who are unvaccinated and at least 65 years of age.

Individuals who meet the criteria will be prompted to contact Health Link for an initial evaluation of eligibility. Those potentially eligible will be referred to a clinician for an assessment and prescription.

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Postmedia spoke with Nathan Beahm, an assistant clinical professor with the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, to learn more about Paxlovid and how it works.

Click here to read the interview.


Restaurants, gyms reopen in Ontario as public health measures ease

Ontario is reporting 2,983 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 583 people in ICU.

That’s down from 3,019 hospitalizations and 587 in intensive care the previous day, and Health Minister Christine Elliott notes that not all hospitals report data from the weekends.

The province is reporting 31 more COVID-19 deaths today.

Ontario’s restaurants, gyms and theatres are welcoming patrons back today for the first time in nearly a month.

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It’s the first step in the province’s plan to gradually ease public health restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Restaurant dining rooms, gyms and cinemas will reopen at half capacity today after being shuttered on Jan. 5 due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Read more. 


COVID-19 restrictions ease across Quebec, with restaurants reopening today

Quebec is taking its first steps today toward reopening the province after partially shutting down over the holidays due to record-high hospitalizations.

Premier Francois Legault announced plans last week to gradually loosen public health restrictions as the COVID-19 situation began to improve.

Beginning today, restaurant dining rooms can open at half capacity, with no more than four people or two different households at a table, and they must close by midnight.

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The changes come as Quebec is today reporting 33 additional deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Read more. 


Olympics: COVID cases mount as athletes, personnel arrive in Beijing

Workers in PPE stand next to the Olympic rings inside the closed loop area near the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, in Beijing, China.
Workers in PPE stand next to the Olympic rings inside the closed loop area near the National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held, in Beijing, China. Photo by THOMAS PETER /Reuters

During the past four days China has detected 119 COVID-19 cases among athletes and personnel involved in the Beijing Winter Olympics, with authorities imposing a “closed loop” bubble to keep participants, staff and media separated from the public.

The tally from the weekend showed 37 new cases on Sunday, and 34 on Saturday, with most testing positive after arrival at the airport, Games organizers said on Monday.

Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova said her own Olympic ambitions were over after testing positive twice following her arrival in Beijing, one of three Russian positive tests announced on Monday.

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“Unfortunately, my Olympic dream will remain just a dream,” Vasnetsova wrote on social media. “Maybe one day I will find the strength to rise again but it will be a completely different story.”

Eight athletes or team officials were among 28 people who had tested positive on arrival at the airport on Sunday.

Read more.


Sunday

Younger students face further risk of learning loss amid Omicron surge

A snowy playground at Le Roi Daniels School in the SE. Wednesday, December 29, 2021.
A snowy playground at Le Roi Daniels School in the SE. Wednesday, December 29, 2021. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Just as educators were poised to tackle learning gaps from the early months of the pandemic, a new wave of disruptions from the Omicron surge is putting even more strain on struggling students.

Alberta Education provided $30 million late last year to address learning loss, with much of that going to hire specialists to support Grade 2 and 3 students in small group settings. The Calgary Board of Education received $5.8 million while the Calgary Catholic School District got $2.2 million.

But after the highly transmissible Omicron variant delayed the return to school this month, and absentee rates for students and staff are now hitting record highs, local districts cannot maintain optimal learning environments for many students.

Read more.

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