COVID-19 Update: Province to pay hotel bills for all Albertans who must self-isolate | Hinshaw to speak at 3:30 p.m.



a person wearing a blue hat: A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine dose in Widnes, Britain, on Jan. 14, 2021.


© Provided by Calgary Herald
A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine dose in Widnes, Britain, on Jan. 14, 2021.

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.

What’s happening now

  • All Albertans who must self-isolate due to COVID-19 can now access hotel rooms paid for by the province and will be eligible for $625 once they complete the self-isolation.
  • 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.
  • Quebec and Ontario are reporting a combined count of 68 new deaths attributed to COVID-19.
  • 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.
  • The province reported 461 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, as well as eight deaths. The positivity rate was about 5.2 per cent.
  • A survey conducted by Hockey Calgary found three-quarters of families polled want their kids back on the ice.
  • Calgary business owners have mixed reactions to Alberta’s reopening plan on Saturday, with some saying it could just create more problems.
  • Premier Jason Kenney revealed Friday Alberta’s plan to ease health restrictions in a stepped approach based on COVID-19 hospitalizations. The first step will begin on Feb. 8, with some restrictions eased on kids’ sports and performances, restaurants, and indoor fitness.
  • The Alberta Summer Games for 2021 have been cancelled due to COVID-19. Set to happen in 2020, they had previously been rescheduled to July 2021.

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.



logo, company name:  Numbers reported by Alberta Health on Sunday, Jan. 31.


Numbers reported by Alberta Health on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Hinshaw to give COVID-19 update at 3:30 p.m.



a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera:  Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.


© Provided by Calgary Herald
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, will give an update at her usual time this afternoon, and will answer reporters’ questions.

Hinshaw’s update comes a day after Alberta reported 461 new cases , along with eight deaths. Alberta’s positivity rate on Sunday was 5.2 per cent on 8,946 tests.

The number of active cases in Alberta continued to decline, reaching 7,505 Sunday, marking a decline from 7,530 active cases the previous day. The second wave’s mid-December peak hit 20,686 active cases.

You can watch the update below.

All Albertans who must self-isolate due to COVID-19 can now access hotel rooms at no cost

All Albertans who must self-isolate due to COVID-19 can now access hotel rooms paid for by the province and will be eligible for $625 once they complete the self-isolation.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said Monday those who need to isolate but are unable to do so safely at home are eligible upon referral by Alberta Health Services.

It’s an expansion of an outreach program first announced in December aimed at communities hard-hit by COVID-19 in Edmonton and Calgary, in part because of multi-generational living arrangements and cultural barriers.

Read more.

Questions remain over Canada’s vaccination drive amid delays and fresh applications



 A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.


© Provided by Calgary Herald
A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Canada’s national vaccine rollout seems poised to dominate COVID-19 discussions in the coming week as the country enters the 11th month of life during a global pandemic.

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The federal government, which is overseeing the countrywide effort, has been facing strong criticism as it struggles to ensure there are enough immunization doses to go around.

The two companies whose vaccines have been approved for use here recently complicated matters by saying they wouldn’t immediately be able to deliver their promised number of doses due to production delays in Europe.

The Liberal government has repeatedly said both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna still intend to fulfil their promised delivery schedules and that current delays are temporary.

At least three other companies, Novavax, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson, have all launched the process of having Health Canada approve their vaccines.

Read more.

Britain’s 100-year-old Captain Tom in hospital with COVID-19 after Barbados vacation



a man wearing a suit and tie:  World War II vet Captain Tom Moore does a lap of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine on April 16, 2020.


© JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
World War II vet Captain Tom Moore does a lap of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine on April 16, 2020.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among a host of well-wishers from across Britain and beyond willing record-breaking fundraiser Captain Tom Moore to pull through after the centenarian was admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Moore, who raised more than 30 million pounds ($41 million)by walking 100 lengths of his garden during last year’s lockdown, was admitted to Bedford hospital after testing positive for the virus, his daughter said on Sunday.

“You’ve inspired the whole nation, and I know we are all wishing you a full recovery,” Johnson said on Twitter, adding his thoughts were with Moore and his family.

Read more.

Quebec, Ontario report combined 68 new deaths



a couple of people that are standing in the snow:  People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021.


© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
People wait to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021.

Quebec is reporting 890 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including 14 in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations rose by eight, to 1,144, and 183 people were in intensive care, a drop of eight.

The province says 796 doses of vaccine were administered yesterday, for a total of 239,023.

Ontario, meanwhile, is reporting 1,969 new cases and 36 more deaths.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said today 886 of those new cases are in Toronto.

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



text:  The Suncor head office in Calgary.


© REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File
The Suncor head office in Calgary.

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.

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.

Companies taking part in the consortium:

  • Air Canada
  • CPP Investments
  • Genpact
  • Loblaw
  • Magna
  • MDA
  • Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment
  • Nutrien
  • Rogers Communications
  • Scotiabank
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Suncor Energy

Read more.

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.

COVID-19 by the numbers in Alberta



a tall building in a city:  Foothills Hospital in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.


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Foothills Hospital in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

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.

Read more.

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 .

Gym and restaurant owners are mixed on province’s reopening plans



a close up of a person wearing a mask:  Mike Shupenia, owner of Side Street Pub & Grill in Kensington.


© Provided by Calgary Herald
Mike Shupenia, owner of Side Street Pub & Grill in Kensington.

Calgary business owners have mixed reactions to Alberta’s reopening plan with some calling it a “punch in the face” and others a “happy surprise.”

Premier Jason Kenney announced on Friday that Alberta would be  easing some restrictions come Feb. 8 , considering hospitalizations had dipped below 600.

Among them, restaurants, cafes and pubs will be allowed to offer dine-in service and gyms may reopen for one-on-one, scheduled training with appropriate safety measures in place.

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 .