COVID-19 Update: Canada considers approval of third vaccine | Companies launch rapid screening program

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.



a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd: Calgarians enjoy a fire in Bowness Park on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021.


© Provided by Calgary Herald
Calgarians enjoy a fire in Bowness Park on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021.

What’s happening now

My COVID Story: How have you been impacted by coronavirus?

Postmedia is looking to speak with people who may have been impacted by COVID-19 here in Alberta. Have you received your vaccine, and if so did you feel any side effects? Send us an email at [email protected]  to tell us your experience, or send us a message via  this form .

Read our ongoing coverage of personal stories arising from the pandemic.

Novavax submits vaccine for approval in Canada



a close up of a hand holding a knife:  COVID-19 vaccine administered by a health worker.


© Justin Tallis/Pool
COVID-19 vaccine administered by a health worker.

Canada’s hopes of speeding up COVID-19 vaccinations brightened slightly over the weekend as regulators began work to approve a new inoculation, even as the federal government sought to head off any restrictions on vaccine shipments from Europe.

Pharmaceutical company Novavax quietly submitted its COVID-19 vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval on Friday, less than two weeks after Ottawa finalized a deal with the Maryland-based company for 52 million doses of the shot.

Because of the emergency nature of the pandemic Health Canada is accepting applications for vaccines before the final trial data is ready, allowing the review team to start poring over the documents on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until everything is finished.

Read more.

Air Canada, Suncor and other companies launch ‘rapid screening consortium’ to test for coronavirus



a large air plane on a runway:  A WestJet Boeing 737 lands while an Air Canada CRJ jet wait to take-off at Calgary International Airport on Jan. 23, 2020.


© Gavin Young
A WestJet Boeing 737 lands while an Air Canada CRJ jet wait to take-off at Calgary International Airport on Jan. 23, 2020.

With the help of University of Toronto business professors, 12 major Canadian corporations have banded together to develop a system for quickly screening workers — and hopefully speeding up the economy’s restart.

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The “ rapid-screening consortium ” may be the only group of its sort in the Western world.

It was an idea partly inspired by novelist Margaret Atwood and involves a surprising commitment by the corporations involved. They have not only worked with each other over the last several months to put together the initiative, but pledged to share the system for free with other firms, including their competitors.

Air Canada has even agreed to work with rival airlines like WestJet to help them implement the screening program, says Ajay Agrawal, founder of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab and an overseer of the initiative.

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Vancouver police raid ‘nightclub’ party in luxury B.C. condo, issue $17,000 in fines



a car parked on the side of a building:  Vancouver Police on scene at the Telus Gardens condo tower in Vancouver on Sunday.


© NICK PROCAYLO
Vancouver Police on scene at the Telus Gardens condo tower in Vancouver on Sunday.

The party may be over for the owner of a Vancouver luxury condo that police say has been transformed into a makeshift nightclub in violation of provincial COVID-19 social gathering restrictions.

Vancouver police arrested a 42-year-old man and issued more than $17,000 in fines in connection with a pair of weekend parties that were allegedly held inside a penthouse suite on Saturday night.

“Our officers found 78 people inside the three-level apartment, and none of them were wearing masks,” said police Sgt. Steve Addison. “There were menus, tables, point-of-sale terminals, and cash tills.”

Read more.

Grandparents, researchers, friends: 20,000 people in Canada have died of COVID-19



a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera:  Benito Quesada with his son, Adriel, 12.


© Supplied
Benito Quesada with his son, Adriel, 12.

COVID-19 also blazed through meat-packing plants last year. Many of those infected were people who had come to Canada looking for a better life.

Benito Quesada worked at a large slaughterhouse south of Calgary. The 51-year-old from Mexico was a union shop steward at the Cargill plant in High River.

“He always told me how proud he was for having been able to bring his family to Canada,” said Michael Hughes with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.

Quesada, described as a quiet, gentle and humble man, was one of two plant employees to die from COVID-19 when the virus infected nearly half of its 2,200 staff last spring.

Read more .

UFCW Local 401 town hall hears workers nervous about vaccinations



a group of people riding skis on a snowy road:  UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse and other union members hand out masks and information to workers entering the Cargill plant near High River on May 4, 2020.


UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse and other union members hand out masks and information to workers entering the Cargill plant near High River on May 4, 2020.

Leaders of a prominent Alberta food service union tried Sunday to allay worker anxieties over eventually receiving vaccines for COVID-19.

In a morning general membership meeting attended by about 3,000 workers, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401, which represents about 32,000 Alberta workers largely across grocery stores and meat-processing facilities, found that more than half of attendees are nervous about getting immunized for the novel coronavirus.

Surveys among attending members showed only 29 per cent of members would feel comfortable with employers making vaccinations mandatory, and 60 per cent continue to feel anxious about going to work during the pandemic.

Union president Thomas Hesse told Postmedia following the meeting it’s important to address these valid concerns from frontline workers.

“These people are forced to go to workplaces that are essentially public places. It’s like an NHL game, bumping into each other,” Hesse said. “They’re naturally nervous, they’re naturally full of anxiety.”

Read more .

Some business owners wonder why they’re not included in province’s first round of relaunch



a woman sitting on a chair in front of a laptop:  Nathalie Hunter, owner of Canyon Meadows Cinemas, wants to know why risk in theatres is considered greater than bars and restaurants.


© Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Nathalie Hunter, owner of Canyon Meadows Cinemas, wants to know why risk in theatres is considered greater than bars and restaurants.

With restaurants, bars and gyms set to reopen in a week with strict restrictions, business owners who haven’t received the green light say they are puzzled by the government’s relaunch timeline.

Movie theatres and indoor entertainment centres are among businesses awaiting the second, third and fourth stages of the new relaunch strategy, announced Friday by Premier Jason Kenney. Owners say they are disappointed and confused about being left out of the Feb. 8 reopening, adding they have the ability to maintain just as safe an environment as restaurants and bars.

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561 new cases reported Sunday, with eight deaths

There are currently 561 people in Alberta hospitals, including 101 patients in intensive-care units, as of Sunday.

Another 461 cases of the novel coronavirus were identified from 8,946 tests for a positivity rate of 5.2 per cent — the highest in more than a week.

Eight Albertans were reported dead on Sunday, including four people from the Calgary zone, three from the Edmonton zone and one from the North zone. Their deaths bring the province’s death toll to 1,639.

Of the 7,505 active cases provincewide, 40 per cent are in the Calgary zone.

Read more .

Sunday

Parkland County church holds packed service despite closure order for COVID-19 rule violations



a close up of a snow covered bridge:  GraceLife Church of Edmonton held a packed Sunday morning service.


GraceLife Church of Edmonton held a packed Sunday morning service.

A church just west of Edmonton held a packed service Sunday morning despite being ordered shut after continued violations of provincial COVID-19 rules.

Congregants honked with glee as they drove into the parking lot of GraceLife Church of Edmonton, a few minutes west of the city in Parkland County, prior to the 10:45 a.m. Sunday service. One RCMP cruiser was on site but left by 11 a.m.

The church was issued the immediate closure order from Alberta Health Services Friday afternoon for conditions that are dangerous to public health and against the current rules.

Parkland County RCMP said officers would be one site Sunday morning to assist AHS in compliance efforts if the closure is violated. “Our role would be to accompany AHS to keep the peace. We’re there in a support role,” Cpl. Deanna Fontaine told Postmedia on Saturday.

Families could be seen walking unmasked from the packed parking lot into the church. A livestream of the online service showed congregants singing, also unmasked.

Read more .

Sunday

Israel extends lockdown, sees delay in COVID-19 turnaround



 Police tape blocks off a shopping centre in Ashdad, Israel, on Jan. 8, 2021.


© REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Police tape blocks off a shopping centre in Ashdad, Israel, on Jan. 8, 2021.

JERUSALEM — Israel extended a national lockdown on Sunday as coronavirus variants offset its vaccination drive and officials predicted a delay in a turnaround from the health and economic crisis.

Highlighting Israel’s challenges in enforcing restrictions, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews attended the Jerusalem funerals of two prominent rabbis on Sunday, drawing criticism from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners.

Netanyahu has promoted a speedy vaccination of Israel’s most vulnerable cohorts – around 24% of 9 million citizens – and the lockdown as dual pathways to a possible reopening of the economy in February.

But a projected mid-January turnaround in curbing the pandemic did not transpire. Serious cases have surged among Israelis who have not yet been vaccinated. Officials blame that on communicable foreign virus strains and on lockdown scofflaws.

Read more .