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TIMELINE: Alberta’s battle with COVID-19

Alberta has already been through two ‘lockdowns,’ three waves and currently, the virus’s variants are spreading rapidly through the province.

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It has been just over since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Alberta.

It was only a matter of time really, as the pandemic spread fast and furious across the globe, infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Alberta has already been through two ‘lockdowns,’ three waves and currently, the virus’s variants are spreading rapidly through the province.

Reporter Alex Dhaliwal looks back on some of the key dates of the pandemic.

March 5: Alberta identifies the province’s first COVID-19 case – a Calgary woman returning from a California cruise.

March 11: The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic, while Alberta urges against international travel. 

March 12: Alberta bans gatherings exceeding 250 people.

March 15: Calgary is among Alberta cities to declare a state of local emergency, closing most non-essential businesses and services. 

March 16: Alberta declares a provincial public health state of emergency and cancels in-person classes for students.

March 19: Alberta records its first COVID-19 death, an Edmonton man in his 60s. The province’s case count rises to 146, the majority of which came from international travel.

March 31: A third resident of the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre dies of COVID-19. An outbreak at the facility would go on to claim the lives of 19 residents.

McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. Courtesy CBC

April 6: Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw recommends using non-medical face masks when physical distancing is difficult. Modelling suggests a mid-May peak for COVID-19 in Alberta, with around 800,000 total cases in the province. Twenty-four Albertans have died of the virus, with almost 1,350 infections.

April 20: The Cargill meat-packing plant in High River temporarily closes down amid a COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak would become the largest in Alberta, linked to more than 1,500 cases and three deaths. Meanwhile, the JBS meat-processing plant in Brooks would record more than 650 cases.

Cargill plant. Courtesy CBC

April 23: The Calgary Stampede cancels its 2020 event, the first time the show didn’t go on since it became an annual tradition in 1923, as Hinshaw restricts gatherings of more than 15 people. The 319 new cases reported standing as Alberta’s highest single-day tally. There are 3,720 total cases in the province, with 68 deaths.

May 3: Alberta records fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19 for the first time since mid-April, signalling the end of the province’s first wave of the virus.

May 13: Alberta enters Stage 1 of its COVID-19 relaunch, letting businesses like restaurants and retailers reopen, except for Calgary and Brooks due to ongoing meat-plant outbreaks. Both municipalities are allowed to join in the relaunch on May 25.

June 5: Alberta records only seven new COVID-19 cases while also conducting its highest number of tests to date. Hinshaw lauds the efforts of Albertans to flatten the curve. The province has almost 7,100 virus cases and 151 deaths.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw

June 12: Stage 2 of Alberta’s relaunch begins a week ahead of schedule, with businesses like massage clinics, theatres and libraries allowed to reopen. Calgary’s local state of emergency expires after three months, with Alberta following on June 16.

July 11: Edmonton became one of two NHL hub cities. The ‘bubble’ approach is a success, with zero COVID-19 cases detected among players and staff who travel to the city for the playoffs.

July 21: Alberta announces schools will reopen in September with added safety measures. Meanwhile, Calgary makes mask use mandatory in indoor public spaces effective August 1 as COVID-19 case counts begin to surge, with nearly 10,000 confirmed cases and 202 deaths.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Courtesy 660 News

July 30: Serology testing suggests nearly 36,000 Albertans had COVID-19 by mid-May, far higher than official counts. Hinshaw urges mask use, but Alberta does not introduce a mandate.

August 4: Alberta mandates mask to use for its back-to-school plan for students in grades 4 to 12. The Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District soon expand that mandate to include all students.

August 20: COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Alberta, with the Edmonton region responsible for much of the increase. Hinshaw suggests young people and indoor gatherings are driving the spread.

September 1: Calgary students head back to school amid anxiety surrounding plans to combat the pandemic in the classroom.

September 9: Henry Wise Wood High School becomes Calgary’s first school with an outbreak of COVID-19, only about a week after students returned to in-person learning.

September 21: Alberta Health Services staff work to contain multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at Foothills Medical Centre. Over the coming months, the outbreaks would infect 95 and kill 12.

Foothills Hospital. Courtesy AHS

October 8: “Voluntary” COVID-19 restrictions come to the AHS Edmonton zone amid a surge in infections. Calgary is spared from the new measures.

October 12: Albertans celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday is later cited as an inflection point in the pandemic’s second wave, with family gatherings driving the viral spread.

October 20: Influenza shots become available at Calgary pharmacies as officials worry about the flu season could coincide with the second wave of COVID-19. The province has yet to find a single case of seasonal influenza.

October 26: Alberta imposes a mandatory 15-person limit on social gatherings for Calgary.

November 1: Infection rates skyrocket at the Calgary Correctional Centre. The prison would see more than 150 cases during the second wave, while the nearby Calgary Remand Centre logged nearly 350 infections.

Calgary Correctional Centre. Courtesy CBC

November 5: Alberta’s contact tracing system is overwhelmed by surging case counts. The system doesn’t recover until February.

November 12: Hundreds of Alberta doctors sign a letter urging the province to enter a circuit-breaker lockdown to curb the second wave. Restaurants and bars face tighter restrictions, including an earlier last call for alcohol, but the province stops short of more strict restrictions.

November 24: After weeks of mounting COVID-19 cases, Alberta announces new restrictions, banning social gatherings, closing high schools and limited attendance at places of worship.

December 5: Alberta logs 1,879 cases of the coronavirus, the most ever in a single day. The peak active patients would come a week later when 21,135 infections were active.

December 8: Lockdown-style restrictions come to Alberta, with many businesses forced to close and all indoor and outdoor social gatherings banned.

December 11: Dr. Dennis Modry penned a letter to Premier Jason Kenney on the province’s recent public health measures. Alberta entered the second wave of COVID-19 in November.

December 15: Long-term care residents receive the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta, the Pfizer-BioNTech jab. Moderna’s vaccine would be approved later in the month.

December 24: Alberta reports its first case of a variant strain of the coronavirus thought to be more contagious. The B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, was found in a sample from December 15.

December 28: A grim milestone is hit as Alberta passes 1,000 deaths from COVID-19. Nearly half of those deaths came in December alone.

December 31: UCP Minister Tracy Allard is reported to have vacationed in Hawaii, contradicting her own government’s advisories. Over the next week, eight more government officials will be found to have left the country over the holidays, facing sanctions following public pressure.

Allard-Kenney

January 8: More medical workers are made eligible for immunization. Those in COVID-19 and emergency units are among those who can get the job.

January 14: Alberta eases restrictions for outdoor gatherings and allows personal services businesses to reopen as case counts slowly decline.

January 18: Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta will run out of vaccine as Pfizer shipments to Canada halt. Some first dose appointments are postponed the next day.

January 29: Alberta announces it will ease some restaurants’ restrictions, indoor fitness and kids’ sport on February 8. Edmonton mom and wife, Nikki Mathis, became the first known Albertan taken to an undisclosed federal isolation centre after travelling abroad.

January 31: A Red Deer mom, Rebekah McDonald, watched her son being detained at the Calgary airport, loaded into a van, and taken to an undisclosed isolation centre because he had the ‘wrong COVID-19 test’. The McDonald case was at least the second one at the Calgary airport to cause anguish amongst families.

February 3: Hinshaw boasts that Alberta has “bent the curve” amid falling case counts. Fifty variant cases have been found.

February 5: A worker dies of COVID-19 at the Olymel pork slaughterhouse in Red Deer. The ongoing outbreak has seen four deaths and more than 500 cases at the site, which temporarily closed on February 16.

February 18: Premier Jason Kenney announced The Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit, which succeeds the Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant. The subsidy provided businesses facing at least a 30 per cent decline in revenues with up to $30,000 in support.

February 24: Vaccine appointments open to those born in 1946 or earlier. Technical problems cause headaches, but more than 50,000 seniors book slots, with some getting immunized the same day.

February 26: Health Canada regulators approve the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health Minister Tyler Shandro anticipates Alberta will receive more 55,000-plus doses the following week, with those 65-plus not receiving the vaccine.

Tyler Shandro

March 1: Gyms and libraries are allowed to reopen in Alberta. Other businesses are left out of the plans.

March 5: GraceLife Church Pastor James Coates was denied bail over several violations of Alberta’s public health measures. Coates counsel argues that his refusal to abide by the measures was due to his “strong interpretation of holy scripture” than an unwillingness to ensure his congregation’s health.

March 11: Statistics Canada confirms the excess deaths from the COVID-19 responses across Canada exceeded the excess deaths of COVID-19. The pandemic response’s indirect consequences increased the number of deaths from various factors, including delayed medical procedures or increased substance use.

March 21: Alberta Health Services confirms zero lab-confirmed influenza cases from September 27, 2020, to March 20, 2021. Albertans took 107,820 total influenza tests, nearly two and a half times the total tests from the previous flu season, where Albertans performed 39,793 flu tests from August 25, 2019, to March 21, 2020.

March 22: GraceLife Church Pastor James Coates was released from prison unconditionally after spending more than a month in solitary confinement. He was given a $1,500 fine for failing to abide by public health measures, stating he is not a political revolutionary.

Pastor James Coates and family

March 31: Dr. Dennis Modry penned another letter to Premier Jason Kenney in a continuing battle of correspondence over COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Modry again accused Kenney of using incorrect data when he warned of the pandemic.

April 1: Premier Jason Kenney announces Alberta officially entered the third wave of COVID-19.

April 5: Official Opposition leader Rachel Notley calls Premier Jason Kenney a ‘weak and ineffective leader’ over current public health measures. Calls for additional supports and restrictions.

Dahiwal is an Edmonton reporter for the Western Standard

News

Lawyer blasts Alberta sports facilities for vaccine passport policies

“It is unlawful for your facility to implement REP (Restriction Exemption Program) for youth activities,” From said in his letter to facilities.

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Lawyer Derek From has sent a stern warning to sport facility operators Monday saying they are breaching the law by requiring parents and kids 12 and over to show their vaccine status.

A constitutional lawyer for 10 years with the Canadian Constitution Foundation, From is now in private practice at an Airdrie law firm.

From was retained by a group of parents who have kids enrolled in youth sports programs in Calgary and the surrounding area.

“It is unlawful for your facility to implement REP (Restriction Exemption Program) for youth activities,” From said in his letter to facilities.

REP allows businesses to either choose to operate as usual if they implement a vaccine passport program or limit their attendance to one-third of their fire code capacity and abide by a number of other public health restrictions.

“Youth sports are supposed to be out of scope for these mandates according to the latest public health order,” From said in an interview with the Western Standard.

Last Thursday, public health order #43-2021 was rescinded due to “bad faith behaviour on the part of businesses offering youth activities and rogue municipal governments seeking to increase and stiffen the restrictions enacted by the Government of Alberta,” From states in the letter.

In its place, order #45-2021 was enacted making it clear that youth activities are out of the scope of REP.  

“This means that facilities that house youth sports are not allowed to use (vaccine) passports. They have to opt out of the passport program,” From said.

However, Calgary city council passed a bylaw that came into effect September 23 forcing businesses eligible for the REP to participate without choice including recreation facilities.

Calgary bylaw 65M2021 says “any person aged 12 years and older must show identification and either proof of vaccination, proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or a medical exemption from vaccine letter.”

“With (Mayor Naheed) Nenshi running interference on this issue, a lot of people were turned away from a number of facilities over the weekend,” From said.

“Essentially, they (city council) have left no one any choice in the municipality of Calgary including hockey rinks, even though it falls out of scope according to the province. Now a bunch of other surrounding communities are falling in line.”  

The legal letter demands these facilities stop enforcing any REP-related restrictions associated with youth physical, performance or recreational activities, and begin to follow the clear direction set out by the Alberta government regarding what falls in and out of scope for the REP.

“Youth physical activity, performance activity and recreational activity, where all participants are under the age of 18” is listed as outside of the purview of REP. This means that REP is not available for implementation in association with such activities,” the letter states.

“Thousands of parents are ready to have this fight for their kids across the province,” From said.

“If the letters aren’t enough to change the course for these facilities, we will start suing rinks and even the city (Calgary).”

From said he was sending the letter to Nenshi and Calgary council Monday.

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

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News

WATCH: Pawlowski arrested at Calgary airport

Pawlowski was handcuffed and taken away by Canadian Border Service Agency members when he landed back in Calgary via a private plane Monday afternoon.

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Controversial Calgary Pastor Artur Pawlowski is back behind bars again.

Pawlowski was handcuffed and taken away by Canadian Border Service Agency members when he landed back in Calgary via a private plane Monday afternoon.

He had been out of the country for four months.

Details on why he was taken into custody haven’t been revealed.

Pawlowski has been repeatedly ticketed and jailed for breaking provincial COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

He has recently been on a speaking tour in the US.

more to come…

source: streetchurch facebook

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Norway goes back to life as usual before COVID

Next to Denmark and Britain, Norway joins a growing number of countries who are lifting all COVID-related domestic restrictions.

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Norway lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions this weekend in an effort to return to normal.

“Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” said Erna Solberg, Norways’s prime minister at a press conference.

Neither vaccination status nor a negative test result was required for citizens to enter nightclubs and restaurants which saw throngs of people heading to their favourite hangouts en masse.

Saturday marked the first time capacity limits were lifted in bars and restaurants in more than 500 days. Revellers young and old took to the streets with rowdy celebrations.

Next to Denmark and Britain, Norway joins a small but growing number of countries who are lifting all COVID-19-related domestic restrictions. Sports venues, bars, restaurants and other businesses will be permitted to return to full capacity and will no longer require social distancing or masking.

According to the Institute of Public Health, Norwegian vaccination rates sit around 76% for one dose and 67% are considered fully vaccinated.

Solberg still encouraged citizens to get vaccinated and said those who contract COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate to avoid transmission.

“Even though everyday life is now back to normal for most people, the pandemic is not over,” Solberg said.

Although some restrictions will remain in place for those arriving in Norway from countries with higher rates of infection, travel restrictions will also be lifted, the government said.

“In short, we can now live as normal,” Solberg said.

Denmark was the first country in the European Union (EU) to lift all corona virus restrictions on September 10.

“The vaccines and the great efforts of all of Denmark’s citizens over such a long period are the foundation for why we are going strong,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter just before the country opened up.

After seeing nearly three-quarters of adults fully vaccinated and experiencing low rates of infection and death in August, the Danish Health Authority declared the virus is “no longer a critical threat to society.”

Britain lifted much of its COVID-19-related restrictions over the summer.

As of September 23, more than 48 million people in the UK have received their fist does – 89% of those over 16 years old. A total 82% of the population or 44 million people 16 and older have been double jabbed.

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

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