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March 21 UPDATE: Western Canada and COVID-19

There are currently 1,046 cases across Canada including 14 people who have recovered and 12 deaths.

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More than half of the COVID-19 cases in Canada are in Alberta and British Columbia. There are currently 586 positive cases from B.C. to Manitoba.

Alberta

Alberta announced 31 new cases which brings the numbers of confirmed cases in the province to 226.

16 cases, in total may be from community spread. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said that it appears Calgary and Edmonton are the only areas at that seem to have been affected by community spread at this time.

Eleven people are in hospital with 6 in intensive care.

10 individuals have been hospitalized and three people have recovered.

Health officials said one of the cases is in a nursing home.

Numerous prominent Albertan’s got together for an anti-virus video.

AHS said at one point a small number of nurses walked off the job because they thought they were not being provided the protection they needed. CBC reported roughly 30 nurses in Edmonton have refused to swab patients for the coronavirus because Alberta Health Services (AHS) won’t provide N95 masks, their union says.

A work camp in Fort McMurray is warning employees about a presumptive case on-site.

Dr. Hinshaw reiterated that the virus is not food-borne and people do not need to worry about transmission in meals. She said there was a slight possibility that the virus could live on containers but transferring it to a new dish and washing hands before eating is effective enough to reduce risk.

New measures are being enacted to protect care centres. Only one visitor may be allowed in at one time and must be designated. Care centres are being asked to install security to verify visitors.

One of the most important things you can do is pick up the phone and call our loved ones, Dr. Hinshaw said.

The government will propose an amendment to the Emergency Management Act to allow more than one state of emergency to exist at one time. The current Act effectively gives all decision-making power to the province and the amendment would allow for the local government to provide additional measures as needed for those residents impacted.

As of March 20, there have been 25 local states of emergency declared in Alberta municipalities as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rise.

Additional information for Alberta residents can be found here.

British Columbia

The province announced they have a total of 424 cases.

22 people are in hospital, including 10 in ICU.

University of Victoria and St. Michael’s University confirmed students have tested positive.

Concerns about a potential outbreak at the fourth care home in British Columbia, Dufferin Care Home in Coquitlam, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Healthcare staff work at more than one facility. The local health authority said it is trying to ensure that staff at the Dufferin facility do not work at any other location while the investigation is being conducted.

Officials said that approximately two dozen healthcare workers in the province have tested positive for the virus. The illnesses in those workers have reportedly been mild and individuals recovered at home in most cases.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that personal protective supplies and equipment are currently in good supply.

“We do have enough supplies right now. We are doing everything to ensure we can protect anyone in the health care system,” Dr. Henry said.

City of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has asked restaurants and bars to close to dine-in patronage.

“The changes being announced today are major. They mean … many, many people will be laid off,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“We are doing this because we think this is what we need to do to keep vulnerable people from becoming seriously ill, or worse.”

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

Manitoba

For the second day in a row, Manitoba has not reported a new case. The province has 17 confirmed cases and one person has been hospitalized.

Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency to deal with COVID-19.

The declaration enables legal enforcement of compliance related to public health strategies.

New measures will include banning public gatherings of more than 50 people, closing gyms, casinos and other gaming centres.

Grocery and retail stores, including pharmacies, will remain open providing they are able to observe appropriate social distancing within.

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and performance event centres are required to limit access to 50 people or half capacity, whichever is lower.

Additional information for Manitoba residents can be found here.

Saskatchewan

The province added another six cases, bringing its total to 26 lab-confirmed and presumptive cases.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority now says all health-care workers who returned from international travel on or after March 6 must immediately self isolate for 14 days. Previously, those who’d returned before March 16 were cleared to go back to work.

Regina declared a state of emergency to broaden its powers in addition to the province’s state of emergency announced earlier this week.

In addition to the provincial measures, Regina residents will see a ban on public gatherings of more than 25 people, excluding areas where people can maintain a distance of two metres from one another. Nightclubs, bars and lounges have been ordered to close to patrons but can still offer take-out so long as they can maintain appropriate social distancing.

Effective Monday March 23, restaurants, cafeterias, food courts, cafes, and bistros are being ordered to close but can still offer take-out.

Dental offices must close for anything but emergent or essential procedures.

It is now mandatory that anyone returning to Saskatchewan from anywhere outside of Canada self-isolate for a 14-day period.

Premier Scott Moe said several of the new cases were linked to international travel.

Additional information for Saskatchewan residents can be found here.

There are currently 1,046 cases across Canada including 14 people who have recovered and 12 deaths.

  • British Columbia: 348 confirmed cases, including 5 recovered and 8 deaths
  • Ontario: 308 cases, including 5 recovered and 2 deaths
  • Alberta: 195 confirmed cases, including 3 recovered and 1 death
  • Quebec: 121 confirmed cases, including 1 recovered and 1 death
  • Saskatchewan: 26 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • New Brunswick: 11 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Manitoba: 17 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Nova Scotia: 15 confirmed and presumptive cases
  • Prince Edward Island: 2 cases the province lists as positive
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 3 presumptive cases
  • Territories: 0

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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Nearly $400 million in commemorative holiday events planned for fed employees only

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

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It’ll cost hundreds of millions of dollars with federally regulated employees getting ready to party like it’s 2021, all on the public teat.

The Department of Canadian Heritage promises “large-scale commemoration events” for a September 30 holiday for federally regulated employees only.

Blacklock’s Reporter says the holiday will cost $388.9 million, by official estimate.

“The department will collaborate with national organizations for large-scale commemorative events on September 30,” staff wrote in a briefing note. It is the first federal observance of its kind.

The Senate on June 3 passed Bill C-5 An Act To Amend The Bills Of Exchange Act that designates September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The paid holiday applies only to federal employees including the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, and federally-regulated private sector workers at job sites like airports, banks, grain mills, marine shippers, radio stations and railways.

“This new annual statutory holiday on September 30 will ensure public commemoration of the tragic history and legacy of Residential Schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” said the briefing note National Day For Truth And Reconciliation. Costs of planned events were estimated at $2.7 million.

Parliament passed the holiday bill without a dissenting vote though senators in final debate questioned its usefulness. “What could long-term, dedicated and stable funding mean for food security, for closing the infrastructure gap which is huge, for finally ending boiled water advisories, for dealing with acute housing shortfalls in Indigenous communities?” asked Senator Dennis Patterson (Nunavut).

“It is hard for me to hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to provide federal employees a paid day off when I think about how an ongoing commitment of what we have heard today would be $388.9 million per annum for this holiday,” said Patterson.

“It would be an insult to my family members, to my friends and to the memories of those survivors I have lost along the way if this day were to become yet another paid day at the cottage for federal workers,” said Patterson. “It needs to truly be a day of remembrance and learning.”

The Treasury Board said direct costs were $165.9 million in the federal public service. “Most of that is in lost productivity,” Stephen Diotte, executive director of human resources, told the Senate June 3.

“The balance of it is payments required for employees in 24/7 work environments like corrections or Canada Border Services or ships’ crews and officers in the Department of National Defence and Department of Fisheries,” said Diotte.

The $165.9 million figure did not include holiday pay or overtime for Crown corporation employees. “I don’t have those figures,” said Diotte.

The labour department said airlines, marine shippers and other federally-regulated private sector companies would pay another $223 million annually.

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