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March 19 UPDATE: Western Canada and COVID-19

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Alberta announces its first death from COVID-19 and an eighth person has died in British Columbia.

There are currently 454 cases of COVID-19 from B.C. to Manitoba and more than 750 cases across Canada.

Alberta

27 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in the province bringing its total to 146. Alberta also announced its first death, a man in his 60’s who was in hospital in Edmonton who caught it a week ago. He had pre-existing medical conditions.

The Calgary Herald reported three Calgary Catholic School students have tested positive for the virus.

The efforts taken to limit social interactions and practice social distancing are being done to help prevent announcements such as these, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said on Thursday.

HInshaw addressed concerns about compliance with public health recommendations in light of complaints being received.

“if you have concerns about an establishment please do not call 911 – we need to keep that line free for real emergencies,” she said.

“We are working with Justice and Solicitor General to respond to these complaints and will provide an update when we have more information.”

A curling bonspiel held in Edmonton on March 14-15 is now a potential gathering where COVID-19 transmission took place. Dr. Hinshaw asks that anyone who attended the event self-isolate for 14 days.

“The total number of hospitalizations, the total number of deaths – that depends on us,” Hinshaw said, adding that following health recommendations and practicing social distancing will help keep these numbers low.

Underlying conditions that can exacerbate the severity of a COVID-19 infection include hypertension, diabetes and heart conditions.

A Calgarian who attended the Pacific dental conference in Vancouver on March 5-7 and was reported to be refusing to self-isolate has been located by Alberta Health and is now self-isolating.

TELUS Babylon, an application available to provide doctor “visits” via video conferencing officially came online Thursday. Doctors available through the application are licensed within the province they practice and have additional training to provide online diagnostics.

Additional information for Alberta residents can be found here.

British Columbia

The province announced 40 new cases of COVID-19 and one more person has died. This brings the total number of cases in the province to 271 and the number of deaths to eight.

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says the recommended health measures are not optional – “it will protect ourselves, it will protect our communities.”

“This is a really critical time for us – this is the time we have to build the firewall,” she said.

13 people have been hospitalized, and seven of those are in intensive care.

B.C. will also be reducing the operating hours of liquor stores in the province and will also take action where necessary to limit the number of people who can be in the stores at one time.

Additional information for B.C. residents can be found here.

Manitoba

Manitoba is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The total as of yesterday is 17.

The province says they have received new ventilators and are still expecting more to be delivered soon. There are a total of 262 ventilators in Manitoba.

There are nine testing sites around the province in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, The Pas, Flin Flon and Selkirk. Selkirk’s location is drive-thru and additional drive-thru sites are coming to Steinbach and Winnipeg.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said there will be increased cases in the province, in part due to increased testing, and asked residents to use their judgement when hearing the numbers of cases.

Access to acute care sites is now being restricted to visitors. Children’s acute care is also restricting visitors to one parent at a time.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Chief Medical Officer, said that if you have been tested and are awaiting results, you should be self-isolating.

Additional information for Manitoba residents can be found here.

Saskatchewan

The province announced an additional four cases Thursday, bringing its total to 20. Of those, Eight have been lab-confirmed and the other 12 are awaiting confirmation at the National Lab in Winnipeg.

19 of the 20 cases are currently at home recovering while one case is currently in hospital for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association president, Dr. Allan Woo, wrote in an open letter that he had tested positive for the virus. Dr. Woo said that he believes he was infected while at a curling bonspiel, which generally attracts 40-50 physicians, held in Edmonton on March 11-14.

Michael Fougere, Mayor of Regina, spoke out regarding the province’s recommendations, no more than 50 people, for public gatherings.

“Fifty people meeting together, I think, is too high. The chief medical officer in his comments yesterday talked about four or five people – that is the rule I think we should follow.” he said.

Fougere also responded to the recommendation that bars and restaurants could remain open and said he would call on the province to review those measures as well.

Additional information for Saskatchewan residents can be found here.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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Vaccine passports now mandatory in Alberta

In place of a vaccine passport, a negative test result from a privately-paid rapid test within 72 hours of service will be adequate or a person will need to show a valid medical exemption.

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The Alberta government’s new vaccine mandates for businesses, entities and events are in effect.

Each organization must follow one of two options: implement the Restriction Exemption Program (REP) requiring proof of vaccination or negative test result, plus mandatory masking, to continue operating as usual, or comply with all public health restrictions as outlined in Order 42-2021.

In place of a vaccine passport, a negative test result from a privately-paid rapid test within 72 hours of service will be adequate or a person will need to show a valid medical exemption.

The REP allows operators to avoid the majority of public health restrictions with the implementation of a proof of vaccination program, although vaccine requirements for staff are at the employer’s discretion. Face mask mandates are still required in all indoor spaces.

The program doesn’t apply to those under 12 years of age and businesses that need to be accessed by the public for daily living purposes, including all retail locations. As well, employees, contractors, repair or delivery workers, volunteers or inspectors will be permitted access to spaces without requiring a vaccine passport.

To enter spaces participating in the REP, adults need to provide valid photo identification that matches their paper or digital vaccine record showing name, vaccine type and date of administration. From now until October 25, proof of partial vaccination (one dose) will suffice, however after that date, proof of full vaccination (two doses) will be required. Those under 12 will only need to show vaccination paperwork.

Indoor entertainment, event and recreation facilities that don’t implement the REP will be limited to one-third capacity of their fire code occupancy and attendees must be in household cohorts or with up to two close contacts if they live alone.

Outdoor events and facilities have no capacity restrictions, but attendees must maintain a two-metre distancing between households.  

Restaurants that don’t follow the REP cannot offer indoor dining, and outdoor dining will be limited to six people per table from one household, and liquor sales will have to end by 10 p.m. with consumption cut off by 11 p.m.

Retail, shopping malls and food courts aren’t eligible for the REP, therefore will be reduced to one-third capacity of fire code occupancy and are required to stop all in-person dining, switching to take out only.

Indoor private social gatherings will be permitted for those that are vaccinated to a maximum of two households up to 10 (vaccine eligible) vaccinated people. There are no restrictions for children under 12. For those who are unvaccinated, indoor social gatherings are not permitted.

Private outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 200 people who are socially distanced.  

Churches will be limited to one-third of fire code capacity and masks and social distancing are still mandatory in places of worship.

Employees are mandated to work from home unless their physical presence is required for their duties.

Proof of vaccination will not be required to enter a polling place for Monday’s federal election although physical distancing, masking and other transmission reducing measures will be in place.

For more information on the Restriction Exemption Program, click here.   

Risdon is a reporter at the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Hockey arena backs down on banning unvaccinated kids

Within hours of the Western Standard posting the exclusive story, Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy.

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Public pressure has brought minor hockey out of the penalty box in Cochrane.

Following an exclusive story by the Western Standard on Saturday, along with mounting pressure from the community, a Cochrane sports facility has revamped its vaccine passport policy.  

The Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) and Hockey Alberta were not mandating a vaccine passport system, but Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) announced it would be requiring proof of vaccine status for anyone 12 and up.

Within hours of the story being posted, CMHS President Cory Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy with this statement: “Youth between the ages of 12 (vaccine eligible) to 18 years of age are exempt from the REP vaccination requirement to enter the facility for the purpose of participating in a youth organized sport organization. Examples include (but not limited to) Cochrane Minor Hockey, Ringette, Cochrane Minor Soccer, Lacrosse, Cochrane Figure Skating Club, Comets, Junior Lifeguard Club, etc.”

Although youth may access the facility without being vaccinated, all adult spectators, coaches, volunteers and organizers of any youth activity “must show proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test, or medical exemption to gain entry to SLSFSC premises.”

“Although this helps our kids get on the ice in Cochrane, it’s still an issue at lots of other facilities, especially in larger facilities in Calgary and Airdrie,” Oaten said.

Oaten, who works in the insurance industry, points out the “huge liability issue” this poses to his and other sports organizations.

“Originally, Spray Lakes pushed us to collect this medical documentation from our members,” he said.

The CMHA board consists of 18 volunteer members.

“They can’t put those expectations on a board of volunteers. It’s a big legal issue for us,” Oaten said, adding he and his board refuse to take responsibility for requiring proof of vaccine or the collection of their members’ private medical information.

Oaten was informed the SLSFSC will now have its own security checkpoints set up in the facility and will take responsibility for checking the vaccine status of anyone 18-plus entering the building.

Oaten anticipates families will still pull their kids from hockey and other sports programs as those who remain unvaccinated will not be permitted in the facility to accompany their child.

Hockey Alberta stated on their Facebook page they are working with the Alberta government on how last Wednesday’s announcement will affect hockey for Alberta players. Oaten has asked his members to hold off on making a decision to pull their child from the program until Hockey Alberta comes forward with their updated season plan.

The Western Standard reached out to the SLSFSC for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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