COVID-19: Alberta reports 425 new infections, two additional deaths on Friday

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An illustration of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.An illustration of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Photo by CDC

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Alberta is reporting 425 new COVID-19 infections and two additional deaths on Friday.

This brings the total number of active cases in the province to 4,546 and raises the death toll to 1,935. The vast majority of cases remain in the Calgary Zone with 1,661, and Edmonton Zone with 1,155. There are 257 people in hospital with the virus, 38 of those are in intensive care.

Nine new cases of the highly infectious variant strain were reported as well, bringing the province’s total to 784. The highest concentration is in the Edmonton Zone with 324, followed by Calgary Zone with 291.

On Thursday, the province announced nearly a million rapid testing kits will be headed to seniors facilities, businesses and schools as part of an expanded effort to increase screening of asymptomatic people. Roughly 325,000 will be provided to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL, and another 267,000 to long-term care, designated support living sites and hospice facilities.

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The latest announcement is an expansion of previous efforts by the province to use rapid testing as a screening tool for asymptomatic people. Last month, kits were offered to staff at long-term care and supportive living facilities. Kits were also made available at assessment centres and seven homeless shelters in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.

Adults born in 1957 and Indigenous people born in 1972 in Alberta who don’t have a chronic illness became eligible to sign up for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday morning. Those born in 1958 were made eligible on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed concerns over the safety of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, following reports of side effects in European countries.

At least nine European countries, including Denmark and Italy, are pausing their use of AstraZeneca’s doses — some entirely, and others only on specific batches — pending further investigation of blood clots following inoculations.

Hinshaw says Alberta is using COVIShield, which is the brand name of a vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India that Health Canada considers equivalent to AstraZeneca.

“I want to assure Albertans that the current doses of COVIShield AstraZeneca vaccine offered in Alberta have not been linked to the side-effects issues reported in some European countries linked to one lot of vaccine,” she tweeted Thursday.

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On Monday, Albertans born between 1947 and 1956 will be able to book appointments as well as First Nations, Metis and Inuit people born in 1971 or earlier. This is part of Phase 2A of the province’s vaccine rollout strategy.

So far, the province has administered 333,379 doses of vaccine.

Hinshaw’s next live update will be on Monday.

Meanwhile, Edmonton Public Schools reported on Friday one single case at Keeheewin and two at McKee. Edmonton Catholic Schools reported a single cases at St. Charles and Archbishop Joseph MacNeil.

— With files from Dylan Short and The Canadian Press

jlabine@postmedia.com

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