COVID-19 Update: 258 new cases, four additional deaths over weekend | Outbreaks at Lilydale, Peter Lougheed Centre

Signs posted on the front entrance of Somerset School in southwest Calgary on  Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020.

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

Concerns over back to school abound as schools prepare for students to learn online or in person

 Dennis Coulthard, left, criticized the Alberta UCP government about kindergarten class sizes on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 at the Federal Building in Edmonton. His grand-daughter will be going into a kindergarten class of 30 children. Behind him is Sarah Hoffman, Alberta NDP Opposition critic for education.

As Edmonton school boards begin sorting out who will be attending classes online or in person, the Opposition NDP focused on kindergarten class sizes to illustrate concerns about the province’s back to school plan during the COVID-19 pandemic

During a news conference Monday, NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman raised concerns about sending students to overcrowded classrooms with little resources during the pandemic. Hoffman was joined by Dennis Coulthard and Linda Coulthard, whose granddaughter will be attending kindergarten at a school in Edmonton Catholic Schools. Her half-day class is expected to have 30 students.

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Rexall landing PPE vending machine at Edmonton airport

 The Edmonton International Airport, normally a bustling hub of travellers and vehicles, is eerily quiet on April 25, 2020, with the severe drop in airline passengers.

Rexall’s first PPE-dispensing vending machine at a Canadian airport will be arriving in Edmonton next month.

Located past the security gate at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), the machine will provide up to 85 products including disposable and washable masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and beauty products offered by the retail pharmaceutical company. The vending machine, expected in mid-September, is part of EIA’s overall strategy to make travellers feel safer.

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Calgary Transit expands fall schedule to accommodate more users

 Passengers on a Calgary CTrain on July 22, 2020.

Calgary Transit is expanding its schedule to prepare for higher levels of ridership as the school year kicks off and more businesses welcome staff back to their offices.

After seeing a significant drop in ridership in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary Transit reduced service for CTrain and bus users because they couldn’t afford to maintain the same routes and schedules. Calgary Transit is reintroducing some of the services offered before May, starting on Aug. 31, to lessen the load per bus or CTrain car as ridership is expected to increase.

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Crime rates down dramatically during pandemic but domestic violence a concern: police

 Calgary Police Sgt. Artiga checks a door of a business on Stephen Avenue to make sure it’s secure on Thursday, April 2, 2020 as part of their regular downtown patrol. Police in Calgary were on the watch for criminals breaking into shops that were closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Calgary crime rates plunged during the pandemic’s early months but the lockdown appears to have worsened the severity of domestic assaults, say city police.

Police say the effects of physical distancing regulations and lockdowns have been a major factor in falling crime numbers, with nearly 50 per cent fewer robberies and a 25 per cent drop in violent offences in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same time last year.

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Alberta’s GDP will be hardest hit in 2020, expected to drop by 11.3 per cent: Conference Board of Canada report

 An oilsands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray on June 1, 2014.

Alberta’s economy will be the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic nationally this year, with the province’s GDP expected to plunge by 11.3 per cent, the Conference Board of Canada projects.

The province has been dealt a double whammy between the pandemic and the sharp decline in oil prices, with both taking a toll on the economy, states a provincial outlook report released by the research firm Monday morning.

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258 new cases over weekend, four additional deaths

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 83 new cases on 10,175 tests on Friday; 106 new cases on 10,098 tests on Saturday; 69 new cases on 8,489 tests on Sunday
  • Four deaths over weekend: a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 100s both from the Good Samaritan care centre in Edmonton; man in his 70s in Alberta Health Services’ North zone and a woman in her 70s in the South zone
  • 1,172 active cases province-wide
  • 45 in hospital; 9 in ICUs
  • 11,600 recoveries
  • Hinshaw said there are a rise in cases linked to gatherings including weddings, funerals, prayer meetings, family gatherings, informal gatherings of friends, backyard parties, community groups. “Keep gatherings small and meet outside rather than inside whenever possible,” Hinshaw said.

You can watch the full update below.

Outbreaks at Lilydale, Peter Lougheed Centre

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided case number updates for COVID-19 outbreaks around the province on Monday.

In Calgary:

  • Peter Lougheed Centre has five active cases;
  • Lilydale Chicken Plant in Calgary has 11 cases and two recovered
  • Cargill Case Ready plant has no active cases

Outside of Calgary:

  • Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton has two active cases
  • Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre has three active cases and 80 recovered cases, 31 people have died there
  • Deadwood religious gathering linked to seven active, 10 recovered cases in Alberta
  • Bible Pentecostal Church in Edmonton has 75 active cases, two recovered
  • three cases in Healthlink staff members

Three active cases on Siksika Nation

Siksika Nation reports that there are three active cases connected to the First Nation.

As recently as July 28, the First Nation reported zero active cases.

“People must feel comfortable to come forward and be tested, or there will be no way to identify new cases and contain spread,” Siksika wrote on Twitter. “Travel between reserves and attendance at gatherings continues to carry a higher risk of infection and subsequent spread in the community.”

Siksika made masks mandatory in all Nation-owned businesses as of Aug. 1.

There have been 31 total cases connected to Siksika since March 24.

Even fastest man alive may not be able to outrun coronavirus

 Usain Bolt from Jamaica celebrates winning the gold medal in the men’s 200m at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 18, 2016.

World-record sprinter and eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt said on Monday he was self isolating while waiting to hear back from the health ministry after taking a coronavirus test this weekend.

Jamaican radio station Nationwide News had reported earlier on Monday that Bolt, who holds world records in the 100m and 200m distance, had contracted the virus.

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Teachers returning to their classrooms encouraged to get tested for COVID-19

 Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

As teachers and school staff return to their classrooms to prepare for the new school year, Alberta’s top doctor is continuing to encourage them to add COVID-19 testing to their back-to-school to-do lists.

On Twitter on Sunday afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reiterated her encouragement for teachers and school staff to be tested.

“We are in the home stretch preparing for back to school. If you are a teacher or school-related staff and haven’t been tested for COVID-19 yet, I encourage you to arrange for testing today,” she posted.

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‘Nerve-wracking’: Staff talk about stress of first B.C. school to start this year

 The Stein Valley Nlakapamux School, near Lytton, B.C., is seen in this undated handout photo. The school operates on a year-round schedule, with extended breaks for students and teachers four times a year.

There were two questions that nagged at Kyla Blair when the school where she works — and that her children attend — restarted class.

Would her kids be safe? And would she be able to help keep other kids safe?

Blair, a mother of two, is a teacher and education assistant at Stein Valley Nlakapamux School, a First Nations registered independent school near Lytton, B.C., which resumed classes nearly a month ago.

The Ministry of Education said the school is the first in B.C. among public and independent schools to have started the 2020 to 2021 school year.

The school operates on a year-round schedule, with extended breaks for students and teachers four times a year, which line up with culturally significant times for the Nlaka’pamux Nation.

“We had to just kind of create our own (guidelines). It was a little bit nerve-wracking,” said school administrator Edith Loring-Kuhanga. “Some of the parents and the staff were concerned we were going to be guinea pigs … and what if it fails?”

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Calgary’s food trucks surviving a summer without usual events, festivals and rodeos

 Jim, owner of Il Forno Vagabondo Wood Fired Pizza, prepares fresh pizza as several vehicles line up in the Southcentre Mall parking lot in April.

With the summer’s big events, festivals and rodeos cancelled due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgary’s food truck owners had to seek alternative ways to reach customers hungry for their specialty fare.

For Jeremy and Jennifer Andrews, co-owners of 

YYC Food Trucks

, finding new ways to deliver food truck classics wasn’t all about making up for lost revenue, but bringing some joy and normalcy to Calgarians.

Jennifer said some truck owners decided to stay closed or opened late in the season because of legitimate health and safety concerns, but others tried to keep their schedules full with community bookings, drive-thru events and drive-in movie nights.

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New Orleans thought Katrina was its worst nightmare — then COVID hit

 A man waits for a bus in New Orleans during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic on April 7, 2020.

For decades, New Orleans has had more than its share of hurricanes, economic slumps, and gentrifying neighbourhoods, and Sportsman’s Corner, a Black-owned bar, has endured it all.

But Steven Elloie, the third generation owner, wonders if the bar will survive the global pandemic, after his mother, 63-year-old Theresa Elloie, fell victim to COVID-19.

“It just kind of killed my spirit,” said Elloie, 41, sitting in one of the bar’s red vinyl-covered chairs, tears in his eyes.

“It took a big toll on me, and I didn’t feel the same about going on to operate. I was just that hurt about the whole situation.”

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Canada’s top doctor open to opioid decriminalization as COVID-19 threatens to worsen crisis in Alberta

 Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam is reflected in a television during a news conference in Ottawa on Aug. 14.

A nationwide discussion on decriminalizing hard drugs should take place as opioid-related deaths spike across Canada amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s top doctor said Friday.

The call from chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam comes as parts of the country record increased overdose fatalities in the months since the novel coronavirus struck Canada.

“Canadians should be seized with this particular crisis, which can actually happen to anyone and could also have increased risks right now for people who may be isolating at home,” Tam said during a news conference Friday, adding that the crisis is “escalating as we speak.”

Tam stressed that decriminalization wasn’t the only route, adding increasing access to a safer supply of drugs and building more supervised consumption sites are among other critical steps needed to reduce opioid deaths.

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Demonstrators gather to protest treatment of migrant workers amid pandemic

 Protestors rally in support of migrant workers in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in Toronto, on Aug. 23.

TORONTO — Activists staged a demonstration in front of a government immigration office in Toronto on Sunday to protest what they say is unjust treatment of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was organized by the Migrant Workers Alliance of Canada, which for months has been advocating for migrant workers to receive the same status and benefits as Canadian citizens.

Syed Hussan, the group’s executive director, said the actions are about underlining the unique issues that such workers face, and ensuring they receive equal treatment under the law.

“Migrant workers have lost lives and have lost their livelihoods due to COVID-19,” Hussan said.

“If we want a really equal society, everyone should have the same status and opportunities, regardless of whether they were born here.”

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Victoria cops break up second straight party at downtown apartment

Victoria police say that for the second night in a row, they’ve broken up a party at the same downtown apartment and fined one of the participants.

Police say they were called to a one-bedroom suite in a multi-unit residential building just after midnight on Sunday for reports of a party.

They had visited the same suite the night before, breaking up a party of approximately 30 people and fining the host $2,300 for failing to follow the COVID-19 provincial health guidelines.

Police say this time they encountered a group of 15 people and ordered the party to disband.

One guest refused to co-operate, was subsequently arrested and given a $230 fine for abusive or belligerent behaviour under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.

Police say the guest was later released at the scene and no additional tickets were handed out.

– The Canadian Press


WHO chief hopes coronavirus pandemic will last less than two years

 Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 25, 2020.

The World Health Organization hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be shorter than the 1918 Spanish flu and last less than two years, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday, if the world unites and succeeds in finding a vaccine.

The WHO has always been cautious about giving estimates on how quickly the pandemic can be dealt with while there is no proven vaccine.

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Airplane mode and prepaid SIMs: Some Israelis dodge COVID-19 tracking

 A man wearing a mask walks past a billboard in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem on Aug. 17, 2020.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s cellphone surveillance for coronavirus contact-tracing may have overcome challenges by privacy watchdogs, but the state tracking policy is hard put to deal with low-tech evasion methods seemingly lifted from TV cop shows.

Some Israelis, fearing a quarantine order after unwittingly being near a coronavirus carrier, are rendering themselves untraceable while in public by switching their cellphones to “airplane mode” or using prepaid “burner” SIM cards instead.

Such actions are not illegal and, although there is only anecdotal evidence for their prevalence, they drew remonstration from Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel on Sunday.

“This is a problem,” he told Ynet TV. “Ultimately, we are not a police state. We will not manage to compel the citizens of the State of Israel to keep to the health regulations.”

The surveillance, initially instituted without parliamentary oversight by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been anchored in legislation at the behest of Israel’s Supreme Court after it heard challenges by civil liberties groups who worry the mass-surveillance is ripe for abuse.

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At least 13 killed in Peru nightclub crush as police raid clandestine party

 Police officers are seen outside a nightclub after it was raided for hosting a party in violation of COVID-19 restrictions in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 23, 2020.

LIMA — At least 13 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated as partygoers tried to flee a Lima nightclub after it was raided by police for hosting a party in violation of coronavirus restrictions.

Fifteen of the 23 people detained by police who broke up the clandestine party on Saturday night tested positive for COVID-19, President Martin Vizcarra said.

At least six others were injured, including three police officers, as around 120 people tried to escape the Thomas Restobar club in Lima’s Los Olivos district on Saturday night as police arrived to break up the event, which neighbors had reported, national police and government officials said.

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Alberta farmers join coalition calling for feds to shore up food supply in wake of COVID-19

 An Alberta farmer cuts a canola crop during last year’s harvest. Alberta farmers have joined a national coalition of producers calling for the federal government to help producers improve their climate resiliency after COVID-19 impacted national food supply.

The calls come as the government looks towards an economic recovery plan in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. FCS is lobbying the government to keep food producers in mind as they build that plan.

The pandemic hit Alberta’s food supply line particularly hard as outbreaks at the Cargill slaughterhouse in High River and the JBS food processing plant in Brooks led to thousands of cases. The Cargill plant, that has been linked to 1,500 cases, was forced to close for weeks before reopening with additional safety measures.

Barritt said governments need to build up medium and small scale producers so the supply line doesn’t remain so heavily centralized.

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