COVID-19 live updates: Alberta may lift public health measures this month; EPSB plans to spend $6 million for HEPA filters in all classrooms

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COVID-19 live updates: Alberta may lift public health measures this month; EPSB plans to spend $6 million for HEPA filters in all classrooms

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Watch this page throughout the day for updates on COVID-19 in Edmonton A pedestrian walks past a mural on 118 Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 . While

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

A pedestrian walks past a mural on 118 Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 .  While colder temperatures have moved into Edmonton, milder weather is expected to return at the end of the week.
A pedestrian walks past a mural on 118 Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 . While colder temperatures have moved into Edmonton, milder weather is expected to return at the end of the week. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

With COVID-19 news changing every day, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information in and around Edmonton.

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AHS has updated the COVID-19 Assessment and Testing Tool to make it easier for Albertans to assess their symptoms, determine if they should talk to someone about their symptoms, such as their doctor or Health Link staff, access self-care tips to help manage mild COVID-19 symptoms at home and to determine whether or not they are eligible for PCR testing.

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Help us tell the COVID-19 story in Edmonton

As Alberta continues to navigate the unpredictable waves of COVID-19, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • If you are a healthcare worker, how does the Omicron variant compare with past waves of the pandemic?
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Wednesday

One in four B.C. residents affected by hate, violence during pandemic: poll

Vancouver Sun

File photo: Protesters rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery last March.
File photo: Protesters rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery last March. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG files

A new poll suggests one in four B.C. residents have been impacted by hate rhetoric or violence during the pandemic, in what B.C.’s human rights commissioner calls a disturbing trend.

The Research Co. poll, conducted for the B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commission, found nine per cent of respondents directly experienced a hateful action during the pandemic, including 20 per cent of Indigenous respondents, and 15 per cent of East Asian origin.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents witnessed hate rhetoric or violence concerning the pandemic. Of those who witnessed a hate incident, 50 per cent were youth between the ages of 18 and 24, while 16 per cent have been affected by hate incidents involving racism, according to the poll.

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“Those are astounding numbers that are going to have long-term effects on our population,” commissioner Kasari Govender said Wednesday.

Govender doesn’t know why so many young people are witnessing incidents of hate but said it could have something to do with them spending more time online.

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Manitoba outlines plan to loosen COVID-19 restrictions

Winnipeg Sun

Dr. Brent Roussin.
Dr. Brent Roussin. Photo by KEVIN KING /Winnipeg Sun

Manitoba plans to ease public health restrictions beginning next week, Premier Heather Stefason and chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced on Wednesday.

Based on current COVID-19 projections, the Manitoba government is taking a cautious path towards reducing public health restrictions over the next several weeks Stefanson said noting the province will also make $16.3 million available to businesses and the arts and culture sector that have been affected by public health orders.

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“Last week, we chose to extend public health orders to ensure the COVID-19 situation in Manitoba was stabilizing or improving, and we can see that continues to be the case,” said Stefanson. “This means we can be confident in moving forward with the next phase in our pandemic response, which is a gradual and cautious reopening. New public health orders will reduce restrictions over the next two weeks for private gatherings and begin a shift in how we address capacity limits and how and when we gather in public spaces.”

Roussin also said if all goes well in the next few months, Manitoba could be restriction-free by spring.

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‘Quite plausible’ hospitalizations will rise as Quebec eases restrictions

Montreal Gazette

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Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s interim chief public health officer, said there are several signals that merit attention in the coming days.

They include a “slight increase” in the number of children under 12 going to hospital emergency rooms after testing positive, Boileau said at a pandemic briefing in Montreal.

He said it’s “quite plausible” that the easing of restrictions that began this week and will continue over the next two weeks will cause more contagion, with a risk of seeing more hospitalizations.

“It’s obvious that there will be more contacts between people across the province but we certainly hope that those contacts will be limited by the willingness of the population to be very careful,” Boileau said.

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Among other things, that wearing a mask as much as possible, he added.

Quebec hospitals are still in a fragile state, Boileau said.

At the same time, he understands that Quebecers want to “go back to a more normal life” by having access to the arts, culture, sports, restaurants and socialization.

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These doctors and COVID-19 experts are pushing for quicker return to pre-pandemic normal

Tom Blackwell, National Post

Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng of Ottawa is among the leaders of a U.S. group pushing to end COVID restrictions.
Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng of Ottawa is among the leaders of a U.S. group pushing to end COVID restrictions. Photo by Julie Oliver/Postmedia

It’s been a tough two years in the intensive care unit of Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng’s Ottawa hospital.

The hours have been horrendous and burnout among staff widespread, not least due to a unique characteristic of the COVID-19 sufferers who have flooded the ward.

While the typical ICU patient is unconscious for much of his or her stay, those with COVID often arrive awake and can chat with the doctors and nurses, which makes it all the harder when some grow desperately ill and succumb to the virus, said Kyeremanteng, the unit’s head.

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“You could have a conversation with them, they’re relatable,” he said. “That was a very under-recognized source of stress.”

But despite the pressures of grappling head-on with the world’s worst public-health crisis in generations, Kyeremanteng has a perhaps surprising take on the pandemic and its impact.

As some of his colleagues balk at any easing yet of public-health restrictions, the critical-care specialist is pushing for schools to move more quickly toward open, pre-pandemic norms, and questions the need for some of the other limits still in place.

“The approach moving forward with COVID needs to be more sustainable,” he said. “What we’re doing right now, closing economies, restaurants, gyms, schools, that is not a sustainable solution.”

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He is one of the leaders of a controversial new U.S.-based group — the Urgency of Normal  — that’s pushing for a rapid return to unrestricted in-person learning for children, whom they argue have suffered unduly because of pandemic lockdowns.

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Tuesday

Alberta may lift COVID-19 public health measures this month: Kenney

Anna Junker

Premier Jason Kenney provides an update on Alberta’s COVID-19 response in Calgary on Jan. 4, 2022.
Premier Jason Kenney provides an update on Alberta’s COVID-19 response in Calgary on Jan. 4, 2022. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Alberta will look at easing public health restrictions later this month if the province sees a sustained decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.

Speaking at an update on COVID-19, Kenney said he believes the province may be able to relax restrictions, including the vaccine passport program, by the end of February.

“We need to see a sustained decline in hospitalization pressure but, with the overall trends, I am very optimistic that we will be able to move forward with meaningful relaxation of public health measures this month including the elimination of the restriction exemption or proof of vaccination program,” Kenney said.

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“I just ask people to be a little more patient as we are still at a record high number for non-ICU COVID hospital admissions. We need to see those numbers start to come down. And then I am confident we’ll be able to move forward safely and prudently with reducing the burden of public health measures on Albertans.”

On Tuesday, there were 1,585 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 69 from Monday. Of those, 109 are in intensive care units, an increase of 10.

Kenney said he believes the province is at or around the peak for non-ICU hospitalizations. But as long as that number remains high, it means surgeries and other medical procedures will continue to be postponed.

“We’re operating at about 85 per cent of our typical surgical capacity right now. I’d actually like to see that closer to 100 per cent,” he said.

As the province looks to ease restrictions, there won’t be one specific measure that is relied on to determine when and how measures are eased.

“We are going to be looking at the overall trends altogether,” Kenney said. “Of course the infection trends with respect to positivity, the wastewater data, total active cases, but more specifically the hospitalization numbers.”

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Tuesday

Edmonton Public Schools plans to spend $6 million to put HEPA filters in all classrooms

Dustin Cook

A classroom in Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School, part of the Toronto District School Board.
A classroom in Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School, part of the Toronto District School Board. Photo by POOL /via REUTERS

Edmonton Public Schools is planning to purchase HEPA air cleaners for $6 million to improve filtration in every classroom across the division.

The board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to ask the provincial government to approve the use of surplus funds in order to purchase standalone HEPA units as soon as possible in an effort to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

Superintendent Darrel Robertson said this recommendation follows meetings with engineers and industry experts about improving ventilation across all schools. The HEPA filters would be for all spaces in schools including classrooms, music rooms, libraries as well as art and drama rooms. Additional HEPA units will also be delivered in schools to be placed in other areas as needed.

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Speaking in support of the decision, board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks said improved air filtration is important now amid the pandemic, but this will also be a long-term investment to ensure healthy air quality remains a priority. She pointed to forest fires over the past few years leading to wafting smoke and poor air quality in the Edmonton area as another challenge that the filters could help address.

“Air quality is the new water quality,” she said. “This is a short-term investment but it’s also a long-term investment and it’s in keeping with this idea that the air quality in our schools matter and this will hold us in good stead once this pandemic is over.”

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Tuesday

Alberta hospitality industry calls for provincial support, end of COVID-19 passports

Josh Aldrich, Calgary

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Jeff Jamieson, co-owner of Donna Mac Restaurant and Proof Cocktail Lounge in Calgary, isn’t pleased with the province’s COVID-19 health restrictions.
Jeff Jamieson, co-owner of Donna Mac Restaurant and Proof Cocktail Lounge in Calgary, isn’t pleased with the province’s COVID-19 health restrictions. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

Alberta’s hospitality sector is calling for more government support for restaurants and bars struggling under COVID-19 health orders for the past six weeks, as some contemplate defying the rules in a desperate attempt to stay open.

The province has not provided any financial aid for these businesses since the orders came into effect Dec. 24. The Alberta Hospitality Association said in a letter to Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer on Monday night that many of its members are facing permanent closure.

This includes a two-night stand with The Glorious Sons that was supposed to wrap on Tuesday, representing $25,000 in lost revenue each night. That’s on top of lost dollars already spent on marketing the shows.

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“Basically, we’re treading water without a way to get out,” he said, urging the end of restrictions.

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Tuesday

Legault drops idea of ‘anti-vax tax,’ citing need to preserve social peace

Philip Authier, Montreal Gazette

Quebec Premier François Legault at a COVID-19 press conference in Montreal on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.
Quebec Premier François Legault at a COVID-19 press conference in Montreal on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

QUEBEC — Premier François Legault has announced he is abandoning the idea of imposing a controversial “health contribution” — dubbed the “anti-vax tax” — on Quebecers who are unvaccinated.

At a news conference at the legislature Tuesday, Legault said it’s clear the idea was creating division in Quebec, including threats of protests, and he wants to preserve social peace.

“I understand this divides Quebecers,” Legault said. “It’s time to rebuild bridges. It’s time to work together.”

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He defended his floating of the idea, saying he was looking for more incentives for people to come forward and get the jab.

But the situation has evolved, he said.

Legault had been poised to table legislation that would see people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 charged $100 to $800 — presumably in the form of a tax — to compensate for the additional burden they could impose on the province’s already beleaguered health-care system.

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Tuesday

No longer a ‘critical threat’: Denmark lifts COVID restrictions as cases soar

Courtney Greenberg, National Post

People line up for a rapid COVID test at Budolfi Church in Aalborg, Denmark in late December.
People line up for a rapid COVID test at Budolfi Church in Aalborg, Denmark in late December. Photo by Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Denmark is lifting most of its COVID-related restrictions because they no longer consider it a “critical threat,” even as cases soar.

The decision comes as the country faced of 50,000 cases daily, on average, over the past few weeks. But the data showed that while hospitalizations are high and deaths are slowly on the rise, the amount of people in the ICUs is dropping.

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“While there are high case counts, the pressure on hospitals is lower than in previous waves,’ wrote Aarhus University political professor Michael Bang Peterson on Twitter.

Epidemiologist Lone Simonsen told AFP news agency that lifting restrictions was “reasonable” considering that Omicron was not “a severe disease for the vaccinated.” Danish authorities agreed COVID was not a “critical threat” anymore.

“Does this mean it is over? No, we have declassified corona before. But as lockdowns breed mistrust, it is prudent to relax measures when possible,” wrote Peterson. “If it is not over — if lockdowns are to be imposed again — societies will need as much trust and solidarity as they can muster.” 

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Tuesday

‘Don’t tell me what to do’: How Canada underestimated the anti-vaccine community

Sharon Kirkey, National Post

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Even researchers who have spent years immersed in the anti-vax space are surprised by the resistance, says University of Alberta health policy expert Timothy Caulfield.
Even researchers who have spent years immersed in the anti-vax space are surprised by the resistance, says University of Alberta health policy expert Timothy Caulfield. Photo by Kevin King/Postmedia/File

The anti-vaccine protesters who recently showed up at the home of a medical officer of health were apparently put out by the doctor’s zero-tolerance approach to activists harassing staff.

“One sign affixed to my house read: ‘You didn’t like our protest (at the public health office) so … here we are!”

The doctor, whose identity was withheld to avoid further harassment, described in an article posted on the website healthydebate.ca how some anti-vax groups are conforming to “cult-like characteristics” and jeopardizing the country’s exit from the pandemic.

“We must therefore learn from sociology’s study of the phenomenon,” the author wrote. “Cult characteristics include the seeking of loyalty to their leaders, opposing critical thinking and the same messaging rhetoric to indoctrinate their followers.”

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Members of parliament were cautioned that their homes, too, may be targeted by demonstrators who descended on Ottawa over the weekend. In a memo obtained by CTV and The Globe and Mail, Sergeant-at-Arms Patrick McDonnell warned of “doxxing,” the sharing of personal information online with malicious intent. On Sunday, COVID-rules flouting pastor Henry Hildebrandt, preaching to hundreds of “Freedom Convoy” supporters outside the prime minister’s office, warned Justin Trudeau that “you might have a fringe come and knock at your door.”

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Tuesday

Former N.L. premier suing federal government over vaccine mandates for air travel

Tyler Dawson, National Post

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Peckford lives on Vancouver Island and, according to the legal documents, requires air travel to visit family in Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Peckford lives on Vancouver Island and, according to the legal documents, requires air travel to visit family in Ontario, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Photo by Supplied/File

Brian Peckford, the last surviving premier involved in the drafting of the Canadian constitution, is suing the federal government, claiming vaccine mandates for air travel are unconstitutional.

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In documents lawyers say have been filed with the Federal Court, Peckford and five others claim the mandate “effectively bans Canadians who have chosen not to receive an experimental medical treatment from domestic and international travel by airplane.”

The COVID-19 vaccines are not experimental. They have been fully approved by Health Canada.

Since October, Transport Canada rules have required those seeking to travel by air to be fully immunized against COVID-19 if they’re older than 12 years and four months, although there are exemptions for those who live in some remote communities or require urgent travel, and for essential medical treatment and religious beliefs.

“Requiring travellers and employees to be vaccinated, ensures that everyone who travels and works in the transportation industry will protect each other and keep Canadians safe,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra at the time.

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None of the six people involved in the lawsuit have been vaccinated, according to court filings.

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Tuesday

Remaining protesters say they will not leave until all COVID restrictions are lifted

The Canadian Press

Anti vaccine mandate protesters and truckers still protesting in Ottawa Monday morning. TONY CALDWELL, Postmedia.
Anti vaccine mandate protesters and truckers still protesting in Ottawa Monday morning. TONY CALDWELL, Postmedia. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Crowds have thinned out considerably on Parliament Hill and the surrounding area, where anti-COVID restrictions demonstrators have been protesting for days.

But those that remain say they are staying put until all the restrictions are lifted, with the president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association saying some protesters have been extending their stays at hotels, or are asking to rebook for the coming weekend.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday he will not meet with anyone involved, noting reports that some participants have been seen harassing local businesses, waving Nazi flags, defecating on residential lawns, urinating on National War Memorial and stealing food from the homeless.

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Tuesday

Canadian attitudes are shifting to living with COVID-19: poll

Lynn Chaya, National Post

Protesters gathered around Parliament Hill and the downtown core for the Freedom Convoy protest that made their way from various locations across Canada, Sunday January 30, 2022
Protesters gathered around Parliament Hill and the downtown core for the Freedom Convoy protest that made their way from various locations across Canada, Sunday January 30, 2022 Photo by ASHLEY FRASER/POSTMEDIA

As more people are exposed to the less severe Omicron variant, there are signs Canadians’ attitudes are shifting toward lifting restrictions and living with COVID-19, two new polls show.

A study published on Monday by Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit specializing in Canadian opinion research, revealed public opinion has changed over the last couple of weeks concerning the re-opening of communities.

Between January 7-12, a period where Canada was experiencing a peak in COVID-19 cases after the holidays, a poll asking Canadians whether “it’s time to end restrictions and let people self-isolate if they’re at risk” showed that 55 per cent disagreed with more lenient regulations.

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But public sentiment changed when asked the same question last week. A slim majority —  54 per cent of those polled — said they agreed with ending all restrictions and allowing Canadians to manage their own level of risk, while 32 per cent strongly agreed.

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Letter of the day

Trucker Border Blockade collides with Ottawa Trucker Convoy.
Trucker Border Blockade collides with Ottawa Trucker Convoy. Malcolm Mayes

Where is freedom for those affected by protests?

To the truckers and farmers blocking the Coutts border crossing. Ignorant, stupid and irresponsible. The RCMP need to end this now. Start writing tickets and bring in the tow trucks.

The repercussions of this blockade are affecting everyone on both sides of the border. Some of the non-participating truckers that are backed up have perishable cargo. Some likely contain beef, fruit and vegetables. Since the Alberta packing plant cannot ship out processed product efficiently, they have to slow down or stop processing, depriving meat plant workers of their livelihood.

The packing plant cannot buy cattle from the feed lot, who can’t buy cattle from the farmer, who doesn’t have enough feed for the herd because they are counting on imports of corn/grain from the U.S., which is backed up on the U.S. side.

I sympathize with the innocent truckers (and citizens of Ottawa) that are caught up in this crap. Where is the freedom for all the rest of the Canadians that are being affected by the truckers’ blockade?

Dave Nicoll, Edmonton 

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Letters Welcome

We invite you to write letters to the editor. A maximum of 150 words is preferred. Letters must carry a first and last name, or two initials and a last name, and include an address and daytime telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. We don’t publish letters addressed to others or sent to other publications. Email: letters@edmontonjournal.com


Monday

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Alberta as 35 more deaths reported

Anna Junker

Illustration of coronavirus , covid-19, with tentacles on red background. Contagion and propagation of a disease. 3D illustration.
Illustration of coronavirus , covid-19, with tentacles on red background. Contagion and propagation of a disease. 3D illustration. Photo by hadkhanong_Thailand /Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Alberta continue to climb as the province reported an additional 35 deaths from the virus over the weekend.

On Monday, the province recorded 1,516 Albertans hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 20 from Friday. Of those in hospital, 99 are in intensive care units, a decrease of six.

Thirty-five more deaths from COVID-19 were reported over the last three days, raising the provincial death toll to 3,566.

When asked at an unrelated press conference Monday afternoon whether Alberta’s hospitalization numbers have peaked and if public health restrictions could be eased, Health Minister Jason Copping said the province is still watching the data.

“As indicated last week, our ICU numbers have plateaued,” he said. “Initial data coming out of the weekend (shows) that we may have seen a couple of data points of our hospitalizations plateauing but, again, we’re going to be driven by the numbers.

“This is an extremely challenging time right now for hospitals, recognizing that as a system overall we’re still under our capacity, however, I do note that in a number of locations, Edmonton, Calgary, for example, they’re over capacity.”

He said once those numbers start to trend down, then the province can begin to look at easing public health restrictions.

“Right now at this point in time, we haven’t seen that trendline,” he said.

A total of 6,537 new cases of COVID-19 were identified over the weekend through PCR testing. There were 2,945 cases on Friday, 1,815 on Saturday, and 1,777 identified on Sunday. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has noted in the past that the number of infections in the community is at least 10 times higher.

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Monday

‘Vaccination mandates aren’t the enemy here, COVID is’: Federal labour minister addresses Edmonton chamber crowd

Ashley Joannou

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan spoke to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.
Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan spoke to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. Photo by Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press, file

The risk of unvaccinated workers falling ill is far greater than the risk of labour shortages caused by a vaccination mandate, federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan told the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce Monday.

Speaking at a virtual question and answer session, O’Regan said the convoy of protesters that arrived in Ottawa over the weekend had a lot less to do with truckers, who are largely vaccinated, than people were originally let to believe.

“I think it’s pretty evident that what you have in Ottawa are people with very deep-seated feelings about vaccinations period, or, frankly, people who are just tired of COVID and really want to let us know that,” he said.

The protest, dubbed the Freedom Convoy, was originally targeting a federal mandate requiring unvaccinated Canadian truckers re-entering Canada from the United States to get tested for COVID-19 and to quarantine but expanded to include those demonstrating against health orders and the federal government as a whole.

While acknowledging that everyone is tired of the pandemic, O’Regan said vaccine mandates work in increasing the overall percentage of the population that is vaccinated.

“All of these numbers do matter, and the risk of an unvaccinated worker falling ill and having to stay home or worse, ending up in hospital is far greater than the risk of labour shortages caused by vaccination mandates — bottom line,” he said.

“Vaccination mandates aren’t the enemy here, COVID is. COVID is the biggest threat to our economy.”

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Monday

Alberta leads country in excess death rates during COVID-19 pandemic: U of T researcher

Jason Herring, Calgary

Nurses get ready before going in to assist a COVID-19 patient on the intensive care unit at Peter Lougheed in Calgary on Nov. 14, 2020.
Nurses get ready before going in to assist a COVID-19 patient on the intensive care unit at Peter Lougheed in Calgary on Nov. 14, 2020. Photo by Leah Hennel /Alberta Health Services

Rates of age-adjusted excess mortality in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic outpace all other provinces, according to research from a University of Toronto infectious disease professor.

Dr. Tara Moriarty said that from the start of the pandemic through August 28, 2021, Alberta had reported nearly 150 excess deaths per 100,000 residents. That equates to about 4,800 more deaths than would be expected during the time period.

Alberta’s official tally lists 2,370 COVID-19 deaths through August 28, 2021, suggesting the pandemic’s true death toll in Alberta is significantly higher than the number reported by the province.

Excess mortality calculations represent how many deaths occurred in a jurisdiction above what is expected. It is calculated by comparing reported deaths to historical death counts over a five-year period while correcting for population aging. Moriarty’s calculations also remove deaths from drug overdoses and adjust for the ages of residents.

“This is a way to compare what happened in the provinces independent of the differences in the underlying age of the population,” Moriarty explained.

“When you do that analysis, the deaths for Alberta go up because it’s a younger province. But even without age-adjusting, Alberta is still really high in per-capita excess mortality compared to the rest of the country. . . We still see this trend of Alberta having enormous excess mortality.”

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Monday

Ontario, Quebec start easing restrictions while schools reopen in Maritimes

The Canadian Press

A man walks by an empty restaurant in Montreal on January 20, 2022. Indoor dining now resumed in Quebec.
A man walks by an empty restaurant in Montreal on January 20, 2022. Indoor dining now resumed in Quebec. Photo by Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/File

Canada’s most populous provinces are easing some COVID-19 restrictions today, while students head back to classrooms in two Maritime provinces.

Ontario and Quebec have reported declines in hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in recent days and Monday marks the start of the two provinces’ gradual reopening after surging cases of the Omicron variant prompted tighter rules last month.

In Ontario, the number of people allowed to attend social gatherings has increased to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors until another planned increase on Feb. 21.

Restaurants and bars may reopen indoor dining at half capacity, and many other businesses, such as gyms and cinemas, may also reopen to vaccinated patrons.

Indoor dining has also resumed in Quebec, with certain limits, while the second phase of that province’s reopening plan scheduled for Feb. 7 is set to allow places of worship, entertainment and sports venues to reopen with capacity restrictions.

On the East Coast, schools were set to reopen to in-person learning in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Monday, with added safety measures in place.

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Monday

One-in-five Canadian households report COVID-19 infection since Dec. 1: study

A pedestrian crosses 104 Avenue at MacEwan University while a government advertisement calling for COVID-19 booster shots to combat the Omicron strain outbreak is shines in the background in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Photo by Ian Kucerak
A pedestrian crosses 104 Avenue at MacEwan University while a government advertisement calling for COVID-19 booster shots to combat the Omicron strain outbreak is shines in the background in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

A new Angus Reid Institute (ARI) study said one in five Canadians have reported a COVID-19 infection in their household since Dec. 1.

According to an ARI press release, 21 per cent have had at least one COVID-19 case since Dec. 1. A considerable portion of these positive tests, 36 per cent, came just after the holiday season. Forty-two per cent occurred in December.

“These data also estimate the incidence of COVID-19 among individuals during that same period. Overall, 9 per cent of Canadians saying they have received a positive test – either at home or at a testing center – for COVID-19 since Dec. 1,” the release said.

ARI also estimates an additional five per cent of Canadians have been infected during that period, based on an analysis of the number of self-reported symptoms, and the positivity rate among those with similar symptom profiles who were tested.

“Notably, this 14 per cent aligns closely with the number of Canadians who say they are “almost certain” that they have had COVID-19 in the past two months, added to those who have a positive test confirmed,” the release said.

Another key finding reported in the study said testing levels for low-income households are significantly lower than those with higher household income levels. Additionally, B.C. lags behind the rest of the country in testing, with just 25 per cent of adults reporting having taken a test since Dec. 1. The national average is 42 per cent

In addition, the study also said 54 per cent of Canadians say they want all restrictions to end – a 15 point increase since January.


Monday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has tested positive for COVID-19

Reuters

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, departs a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, departs a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Photo by David Kawai/Bloomberg

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday he had tested positive for COVID-19 but was feeling fine and would continue to work remotely while following public health guidelines.

Trudeau went into isolation last week after one of his children tested positive but at the time a rapid test for him came back negative, he told the Canadian Press.

“This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m feeling fine – and I’ll continue to work remotely this week while following public health guidelines,” tweeted Trudeau, who will not be able to be in Parliament later on Monday when it reopens after a winter break. He intends to attend remotely.

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