COVID-19 Update: 76 new cases, three additional deaths | AHS to reinstate parking fees

Nicole Gagnon is seen enjoying a bicycle ride down Stephen Ave. SW on a warm afternoon. Monday, August 10, 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


Teachers association urges more funding for school re-entry hires, pension change reversal

 Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) president Jason Schilling seen in a file photo. The ATA says new legislation making it easier to establish charter schools would do little to help the majority of students.

The union representing Alberta teachers passed resolutions Thursday calling for immediate funding to school boards for more staff, including public health nurses, and urging the government to reverse its pension plan changes.

Meeting via zoom amid the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives at the annual assembly voted to urge government to take more action on school re-entry plans and reverse the planned transfer of teacher pension investment fund management to the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo).

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Calgary arts, tourism groups roll out new platform for COVID-19 safe events

 Calgary Arts Development President and CEO Patti Pon speaks during the Calgary Rise Up launch announcement on Thursday, August 13, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

A group of Calgary organizations is trying out a new way for Calgarians to find arts events that they can safely experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new online platform called Rise Up Calgary is planned to be a hub for event listings with coronavirus precautions in mind, from drive-in movies to hotel and concert packages where you watch the performance from your room’s balcony.

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City of Edmonton considering a fine for mask exemption card misuse, termination of program after significant abuse

 The City of Edmonton is considering terminating the mask exemption card program or issuing a fine for misuse after distribution ended Wednesday.

The City of Edmonton may discontinue the contentious mask exemption card program if an alternative solution can’t be found to limit the significant amount of “unanticipated abuse.”

Interim city manager Adam Laughlin addressed the city’s new program for the first time Thursday, one day after the distribution of cards abruptly ended due to abuse by some residents. More than 6,000 cards were handed out at seven recreation centres since the program started Saturday. The city publicly defended the program Tuesday, but since then it saw a 55 per cent increase in cards doled out in just over 24 hours.

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Albertans growing less satisfied with provincial COVID-19 response, new survey says; 76 new cases

 Premier Jason Kenney.

Albertans are becoming more critical of the way Premier Jason Kenney has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, a new Angus Reid survey suggests.

Nearly half of respondents to the online survey, which polled a representative random sampling of more than 1,500 Canadian adults between Aug. 5 and 8, found that only about half of Albertans (51 per cent) believe Kenney is doing a good job of handling the novel coronavirus.

It’s a drop in confidence in Alberta’s premier from previous polls in April and July, which both found about two-thirds of respondents believed Kenney was doing a good job with the pandemic.

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Free hospital parking coming to an end

 An Alberta Health Services parking-payment kiosk at Rockyview General Hospital.

Five months of free parking at Alberta hospitals is running out of road.

Parking fees at Alberta Health Service sites that were waived beginning April 3 will return for staff on Aug. 31 and the public Sept. 1.

The measure was meant to be a temporary one in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to reduce the spread of infection through touching screens and buttons at payment sites.

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76 new cases, one additional death


Alberta Beer Festivals postponing Calgary and Edmonton events until next year

 People toasting with a glass of beer.

Ticket holders to the Calgary International Beer Festival and the Edmonton Craft Beer festival will have to wait a bit longer to sample those festivals’ wares.

The organizer of the events, Alberta Beer Festivals, has decided to postpone both events until next spring, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tickets and tokens for this year’s events will be valid at next year’s events, and tickets for one festival can be redeemed at the other. Those who do wish to switch are asked to contact festival organizers.

Bill Robinson, president of Alberta Beer Festivals, said refunds will not be given at this time, and that he thanks the public for their support in that.

“We are a small company and have not laid off any of our staff during this time,” read a statement on the ABF website. “We continue to work hard to support the craft beer and spirit industry that we love.”

The new date for the Calgary event is April 30-May 1, 2021, while Edmonton’s festival is set for May 28-29, 2021.


Two Calgary buffets written up for allowing self-service

 FILE – Patrons help themselves from a buffet table.

Two separate Calgary buffet restaurants were ordered to switch to table service this week after not following new rules aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.

The A+ Buffet Sushi and Bar located at 6712 Macleod Trail S.E., and the Asian Buffet located at 9125 Bonaventure Drive S.E. were both handed public health orders dated Aug. 11 after receiving verbal warnings on Aug. 7.

In both cases, an inspector found the restaurants were allowing patrons to serve themselves from the buffet without having staff present to hand out plates and utensils, control the flow of people, replace the serving utensils after each use and ensure proper hand sanitization.

New rules for the operations of buffets were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Buffets are still allowed if restaurant owners take steps such as having staff dish out portions and police physical distancing between patrons.

Both restaurants had until noon Aug. 12 to comply with the order.


Albertans almost evenly split on coronavirus restrictions dissatisfaction

 Social and physical distancing signs are pictured on the floors of various business throughout Vancouver and surrounding area

Too much, or not enough? When it comes to restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Albertans are almost evenly split on that question.

Almost half of Albertans — 48 per cent according to a new survey by the Angus Reid Institute — say the current restrictions are about right.

Among the other half who say they aren’t satisfied, there is an almost even split between those saying restrictions go too far (25 per cent) or not far enough (27 per cent).

Across Canada, the numbers are slightly more conservative, with 52 per cent saying the restrictions are just right, 20 per cent saying they go too far, and 28 per cent wanting to see tighter rules.

People in B.C, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were more open to tighter restrictions to prevent the spread. Alberta and Quebec showed the least openness to that idea.

The poll also asked respondents how they felt about their premier’s handling of the pandemic. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney received the lowest approval rating east of the Atlantic provinces, with 51 per cent saying he was doing a good job, and 47 per cent saying he was doing a bad job.

The results come from an online survey of 1,511 Canadian adults registered on the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.


Canada’s airports likely to hike passenger fees as need for upgrades rise in the wake of pandemic

 A man pushes a baggage cart wearing a mandatory face mask as a “Healthy Airport” initiative is launched for travel, taking into account social distancing protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 23, 2020.

Canada’s airports are facing the bill for long-recommended upgrades just as COVID-19 has decimated their revenues and passengers could end up covering the costs when planes take off again.

In early March, before the pandemic was front and centre, the government published new regulations calling for the extension of emergency overshoot areas at major airport runways. The overshoots, called runway end safety areas (RESA), exist at airports around the world and are designed for emergencies when planes run out of room while landing.

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Two Chinese patients test positive after recovering from COVID

 A medical staff member treats a patient infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus at Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 11, 2020.

Two patients in China that recovered from COVID-19 months ago tested positive for the coronavirus again, raising concern of the virus’s ability to linger and reactivate in people who it previously infected.

A 68-year-old woman in the central Chinese province of Hubei, where the novel coronavirus first surfaced in December, tested positive on Sunday, six months after she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered. Another man found to have contracted the disease in April after returning from abroad tested positive in Shanghai on Monday but hasn’t shown any symptoms.

None of the patients’ close contacts has tested positive for the virus, but they have been placed under quarantine, local authorities said. The two cases are the latest addition to a growing number of “virus reactivation” anecdotes found among patients believed to have recovered from the viral infection, which has sickened more than 20 million worldwide and killed 748,000.

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Wednesday

Hinshaw advises teacher testing before back-to-school; Edmonton driving COVID-19 spread in Alberta

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

Alberta’s top doctor wants the province’s 90,000 teachers to get tested for COVID-19 before they return to classrooms in September.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is calling on educators to receive an asymptomatic test for the novel coronavirus now, as well as regularly throughout the school year.

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Wednesday

121 new cases, one new death

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

  • 121 new cases on 8,024 tests
  • 50 in hospital, 13 in ICUs
  • One new death; 217 Albertans have died from the virus
  • 1,044 active cases in COVID-19; 10,632 recoveries
  • 312 active cases in Calgary
  • Over 316,000 “surveillance” tests of asymptomatic people with no close contacts or exposure of confirmed COVID-19 cases completed, Hinshaw said. 99.9% of these tests have come back negative
  • Hinshaw recommends all teachers and school-based staff should get at least one test before school starts and regularly throughout the year
  • She also asks healthy Albertans with no symptoms, exposure to COVID-19 should delay testing until after Sept. 1 to allow capacity to handle students and school staff

You can watch it below.


Wednesday

Calgary Transit to end seating restrictions on Monday

Calgary Transit says it’s ending the practice of blocking off some seats on buses and CTrains, which will allow the vehicles to again run at full capacity.

In a tweet, the city’s transit authority says mandatory masks will help protect customers if physical distancing can’t be maintained.

The change comes into effect on Monday, Aug. 17.

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