Politics

COVID-19 Live Updates: News on coronavirus in Calgary for April 13


Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Calgary

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COVID-19 anti-viral Paxlovid goes largely unused in Alberta as virus spread grows

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment pill Paxlovid is seen in boxes, at Misericordia hospital in Grosseto, Italy, February 8, 2022.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment pill Paxlovid is seen in boxes, at Misericordia hospital in Grosseto, Italy, February 8, 2022. Photo by REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

An anti-viral drug that significantly reduces risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 is going largely unused in Alberta, even as a sixth wave of virus transmission continues.

Only about 670 prescriptions for Paxlovid have been dispensed in Alberta since late January when it first became available. The province currently has more than 16,000 courses of treatment of the drug in its supply.

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral that was found in clinical trials to reduce risk of hospitalization or death from the novel coronavirus by nearly 90 per cent if taken within five days of symptoms beginning.

The drug is designed for people who have a higher risk of those severe outcomes. In Alberta, it’s available to people with some underlying health conditions including those who are immunocompromised, as well as older, unvaccinated individuals.

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COVID spikes in schools as doctors warn of sixth wave

Desks positioned for physical distancing are seen inside a St. Marguerite School classroom in New Brighton on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
Desks positioned for physical distancing are seen inside a St. Marguerite School classroom in New Brighton on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young /Postmedia file

COVID cases and absence rates are rising again in Calgary schools as doctors warn of a sixth wave and government officials make no moves to increase protections.

Absence rates at the Calgary Board of Education reached 8.4 per cent among K-3 students Wednesday, averaging nearly 6.3 per cent for K-12 students overall. As well, up to 1,106 school-based staff were away due to illness, with only 847 positions filled with substitutes and casual employees.

Two months ago, just before the UCP government lifted mask mandates in schools, student absences hovered around four per cent with about 600 staff away.

The CBE does not track COVID cases reported by parents to schools, saying they are not official since the province no longer reports for schools.

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But parents say the lack of information is raising fears over increased illness while staff shortages continue to cause disruptions for individual learning.

“There is still so much scrambling, so much disruption in the system. It’s the only thing that has been consistent throughout this pandemic — the constant disruptions,” said Medeana Moussa, spokeswoman for the Support Our Students advocacy group.

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Hong Kong questions costs of COVID rules on mental health, livelihoods

Bar owner of Wo Bar, Jacky Ip, 33, poses at a bar, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hong Kong, China, April 7, 2022.
Bar owner of Wo Bar, Jacky Ip, 33, poses at a bar, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hong Kong, China, April 7, 2022. Photo by REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG — To fight COVID, Hong Kong shut schools and businesses, nearly sealed its borders for two years, banned more than two people from gathering and quarantined whole buildings.

Still the draconian restrictions were unable to contain the coronavirus, and with more than 8,600 deaths of mostly elderly, unvaccinated people, many just in the past two months, Hong Kong’s citizens are reckoning with the costs of some of the world’s most stringent social distancing rules on their mental health and livelihoods.

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Empty streets in the financial center, shuttered restaurants and bars, and bare supermarket shelves are a testament to the disruptions Hong Kong’s COVID-19 rules wrought on its people.

Jacky Ip, 33, runs a Japanese sake bar in Kowloon across the harbor from the Central business district that used to stay open until 4 a.m. before the pandemic but has since been devastated by shifting restrictions on opening hours.

“We have lost a lot of money to a point that we almost need to shut down our business. Right now, it depends on the shareholders pooling money to see how long we can survive,” Ip said.

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Copping says rapid test program will continue, provides COVID-19 update

Alberta’s Health Minister Jason Copping provides an update on COVID-19 in the province during a news conference in Edmonton on March 23, 2022.
Alberta’s Health Minister Jason Copping provides an update on COVID-19 in the province during a news conference in Edmonton on March 23, 2022. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

During a COVID-19 update, Health minister Jason Copping said rumours that the province’s rapid testing programs will soon come to an end are false.

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“These rumours are not correct,” he said. “Free rapid tests continue to be available to all Albertans.”

As of April 12, Alberta has distributed more than 40 million rapid tests, including 14.9 million for individual use, Copping said.

“Over one million tests have gone out to pharmacies since March 28,” he said. “I encourage everyone to pick up kits for their household so they are prepared. We have an ample supply of testing kits.”

Copping and chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw also updated Albertans on current trends in the province regarding COVID-19. Calgary Herald reporter Jason Herring is Tweeting the press conference:

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Alberta reports 6,181 new cases, 37 deaths over seven-day period

Here are COVID-19 numbers released today by Alberta Health, covering a seven-day period from April 5 to April 11:

  • The province is reporting 6,181 new COVID-19 cases over seven days, through 23,399 tests completed.
  • There are 1,053 people in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 63 since April 6. There are 48 people in ICU, an increase of four since April 6.
  • There were another 37 COVID-related deaths reported to Alberta Health Services, bringing the total to 4,141 since the start of the pandemic. There have been 826 deaths reported in Alberta since Jan. 1.
  • Alberta’s two-dose vaccination rate for the population age 12 and over is 86.8 per cent.


Hinshaw, Copping to deliver COVID-19 update at 3:30 p.m.

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Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on COVID-19 in the province during a press conference in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provides an update on COVID-19 in the province during a press conference in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health and the health minister will both be on deck this afternoon, taking questions from reporters and providing an update on the COVID-19 numbers in this province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Jason Copping will begin a press conference at 3:30 p.m.

You can watch the livestream once it starts by clicking the video below.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

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COVID-19 vaccines in national stockpile starting to expire as uptake slows

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021.
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic /REUTERS

Health Canada says almost 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines held in a national inventory have expired since January.

That includes more than 420,000 doses of Moderna’s Spikevax that hit the end of their shelf life on Tuesday. Those doses had already seen their expiration date pushed back two months.

The government says this is a relatively new issue because dose deliveries were aligned with demand until late last year. But uptake of vaccines has slowed even as governments and public health authorities urge people to get a booster shot.

More than 80 per cent of Canadians are considered fully vaccinated, while 57 per cent of adults and 15 per cent of teenagers have received a third dose.

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Thousands still on unpaid leave as Liberals late updating federal public service vaccine mandate: unions

As of March 29, 1,828 federal government employees were on unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 vaccination policy, according to the Treasury Board.
As of March 29, 1,828 federal government employees were on unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 vaccination policy, according to the Treasury Board. Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/File

The Liberal government is now a week late on updating its vaccine mandate policy for federal public servants, according to unions, leaving the 1,828 unvaccinated individuals on unpaid leave waiting to find out if they can go back to work.

“If you’re on administrative leave without pay right now, every day that goes by, you’re left wondering what’s going on here,” said Dany Richard, president of the Association of Canadian Financial Officers, which represents financial professionals working in the federal public service.

“We were told we’d have that decision by April 6.”

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Federal government paid $20M for Ottawa company’s COVID-19 test that flopped and was never delivered

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Spartan Bioscience Inc. CEO Paul Lem holds a Spartan Cube, a portable, rapid COVID testing device the company developed.
Spartan Bioscience Inc. CEO Paul Lem holds a Spartan Cube, a portable, rapid COVID testing device the company developed. Photo by Mark Holleron/Spartan Bioscience Inc./The Canadian Press/File

The federal government pre-paid $20 million for COVID-19 tests from Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience that it never received because they never worked as promised, according to new documents.

Now, the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is writing off the amount as a loss pending the company’s liquidation, according to information recently tabled in the House of Commons and in the 2021 federal public accounts.

“The company went through insolvency proceedings and is now being liquidated. By law, once a person or a company is in the insolvency process, no one can sue or attempt any other form of recovery. No litigation is allowed and all procedures go through the Trustee and is a public process,” reads the document.

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Vaccines have halved Italy’s COVID-19 death toll, study shows

A medical worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination.
A medical worker administers a COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

Vaccines against COVID-19 have roughly halved the death toll from the disease in Italy, preventing some 150,000 fatalities and 8 million cases last year, the National Health Institute (ISS) estimated on Wednesday.

The ISS study, which ran from the start of 2021 until the end of January this year, concluded the inoculation campaign also prevented more than 500,000 hospitalizations and over 55,000 admissions to intensive care.

Italy has registered 161,032 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 15.4 million cases to date.

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Tuesday

Thinking inside the box: U of A researchers showcase new COVID-19 sanitization product

Teser Technologies Phil Alle, right, president and CEO and John Fox, vice-president of business operations, demonstrate the TESER ACT unit at the University of Alberta’s Biosafety Level 3 Lab in Edmonton, April 12, 2022.
Teser Technologies Phil Alle, right, president and CEO and John Fox, vice-president of business operations, demonstrate the TESER ACT unit at the University of Alberta’s Biosafety Level 3 Lab in Edmonton, April 12, 2022. Photo by Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

Alberta researchers are rolling out a product they say can leave items sanitized of COVID-19 in just 60 seconds.

The Alberta-made sanitization product uses Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light from hundreds of LED light bulbs to kill viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19, and will be launched in Edmonton and Calgary this spring.

The TESER Act unit is a decontamination box, which shines UVC light on items, such as electronics, for 60 seconds and has been tested at the University of Alberta’s Biosafety Level 3 Lab. John Fox, vice-president of business and operations at TESER, a Calgary-based advanced cleaning solutions company, said the device is able to achieve a 99.99 per cent sanitization rate within a minute.

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“We’ve been able to test it against a variety of bacterias and viruses, and seeing a really good kill rate, especially against viruses, which is going to be the bigger concern for the next pandemic as people prepare against it,” said Phil Alle, president and CEO of TESER.

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Tuesday

Thousands still on unpaid leave as Liberals late updating federal public service vaccine mandate: unions

As of March 29, 1,828 federal government employees were on unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 vaccination policy, according to the Treasury Board.
As of March 29, 1,828 federal government employees were on unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 vaccination policy, according to the Treasury Board. Photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/File

The Liberal government is now a week late on updating its vaccine mandate policy for federal public servants, according to unions, leaving the 1,828 unvaccinated individuals on unpaid leave waiting to find out if they can go back to work.

“If you’re on administrative leave without pay right now, every day that goes by, you’re left wondering what’s going on here,” said Dany Richard, president of the Association of Canadian Financial Officers, which represents financial professionals working in the federal public service. “We were told we’d have that decision by April 6.”

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As of March 29, 1,828 employees were on unpaid leave due to the vaccination policy, the Treasury Board told unions last week. That number included employees who attested they were unvaccinated, who didn’t provide an attestation about their vaccine status, and employees who submitted an accommodation request that “was not applicable.”

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Tuesday

Airport traffic expected to surge in 2022, but still below pre-pandemic levels

Travellers wait to check in for their flight at Calgary International Airport on Dec. 27, 2021.
Travellers wait to check in for their flight at Calgary International Airport on Dec. 27, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Passenger traffic through the Calgary International Airport is expected to surge in 2022, but travel in and out of the hub will remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

In their annual presentation to city council Tuesday, airport officials said they expect between 10 to 13 million passengers to pass through their terminals in 2022.

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That’s up from 5.7 million in 2020 and 6.3 million in 2021, but still off from the 18 million passengers logged in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic grounding many flights and keeping Calgarians at home.

“We are one of the top airports in the world for connecting flights and we have the highest domestic passenger percentage of all major airports in Canada, which positions us well when it comes to recovering from this pandemic,” Bob Sartor, president and CEO of YYC Calgary Airport Authority, told council Tuesday.

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Tuesday

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation wants return of mask mandates, expanded PCR testing

Two students wearing face masks board a school bus in this file photo.
Two students wearing face masks board a school bus in this file photo. Photo by Getty Images

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation wants the province to bring back a mask mandate because Canada’s chief public health officer says COVID-19 cases are rising across the country.

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The federation says it wants the Saskatchewan Party government to reinstate public health measures, including isolation requirements and increased case reporting to the public. It also wants expanded PCR lab testing for teachers and all school staff who deal directly with students.

Lab testing in the province is currently limited to priority populations, including people with chronic illness, Indigenous communities with no access to rapid tests, international travellers from areas of concern and health-care workers.

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Tuesday

As provinces ask people to manage COVID risks, experts say the public has less data

A person squeezes a drop of testing solution into a COVID-19 rapid antigen testing device.
A person squeezes a drop of testing solution into a COVID-19 rapid antigen testing device. Photo by Luke Hendry /Postmedia Network

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, retired teacher Lois Armstrong said local health officials where she lives in Kingston, Ont., provided daily updates about outbreaks, cases and deaths in the community.

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Now, Armstrong, 68, said the public is being asked to take a bigger role in managing their risk but information from health authorities is less available than before. Data such as the location of outbreaks, meanwhile, is no longer made public, she added.

“I think it’s very difficult for the average person to assess their own risk,” Armstrong said Monday in an interview. “Kingston is one of the hot spots of Ontario, but they still are only posting the information three times a week, and you can’t go get tested unless you’re really high risk or really sick. So there’s no way of knowing.”

Health experts agree with Armstrong. Provincial governments are telling Canadians to estimate their own sense of risk but those same governments are reducing the amount of data available to residents, they say.

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