COVID-19 live updates: Alberta expands rollout of boosters; Kenney denies blaming fourth wave blunders on Hinshaw; passed peak of fourth wave, 487 new cases

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

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COVID-19 news happens rapidly, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Edmonton.

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What’s happening now



Share your COVID-19 stories

As Alberta grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19 at the start of another school year, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

  • Have you or a loved one had a surgery rescheduled or cancelled in recent weeks?
  • Are you someone who has decided to get vaccinated after previously being skeptical of the vaccines?
  • Have you changed your mind about sending your children back to school in person?
  • Have you enrolled your children in a private school due to COVID-19?
  • Are you a frontline health-care worker seeing new strains on the health system?
    Send us your stories via email at edm-feedback@postmedia.com

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Wednesday

Alberta expands eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots; Kenney denies blaming fourth wave blunders on Hinshaw

Lauren Boothby

Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw (back) provides an update on COVID-19 during a news conference in Edmonton, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.
Premier Jason Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw (back) provides an update on COVID-19 during a news conference in Edmonton, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

More Albertans can sign up for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week.

Starting Monday, booster shots will be available for four additional groups of people: Albertans 70 and older who had their second dose six months ago; First Nations, Inuit and and Métis people 18 and up who had their second dose six months ago; health-care workers with direct patient contact who got their second shot less than eight weeks after their first; and Albertans who got an AstraZeneca vaccine, or Janssen vaccine while abroad.

Premier Jason Kenney, who announced the changes Wednesday afternoon, said third doses are being offered to protect people at a higher risk. At the moment there isn’t any evidence the general public needs boosters, he said, but the government will continue monitoring recommendations from federal and provincial vaccination advisory groups.

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“The latest evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness may decrease over time in individuals who fall into one of the four groups,” Kenney said.

“If and when we receive scientific advice that points towards a need for booster doses in the general population, we will make sure that Albertans get them efficiently as long as that six-month interval has passed.”

Most people haven’t passed that six-month interval from the second dose so they wouldn’t be relevant for the general public right now, Kenney said.

Premier denies blaming Hinshaw for fourth wave blunders

During the news conference, Kenney rejected the suggestion that he’s blaming the government’s mishandling of the fourth wave on the chief medical officer of health.

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“I think that’s a completely ridiculous misconstrual of what I said,” Kenney said. “I have always said, as I did multiple times in the legislature debate Monday night, that I take ultimate responsibility as the premier, as the president executive council, for policy.

“This is not about blame. I was simply being transparent about when we received information or advice.”

Earlier in the week, the official opposition grilled the premier about who was in charge while he was on vacation and why the government was slow to act. Kenney told the legislature he didn’t move sooner because Dr. Deena Hinshaw didn’t recommend it.

Hinshaw, asked Wednesday if she in fact did advise the government to take further action in August, said when she realized ICU numbers were rising “we moved very quickly to then bring forward additional recommendations” for the government to deliberate and decide upon. She did not give specifics, citing cabinet confidentiality rules.

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“The things that I personally have always taken very seriously are the responsibility to minimize the direct impacts of COVID on the population and the responsibility to minimize the indirect impacts of COVID restrictions on the population.”

Passed peak of fourth wave, 487 new cases

Meantime, the worst of the fourth wave of the pandemic is behind us and cases have been dropping over the last month, Hinshaw said at the news conference.

“We are past the peak of the fourth wave thanks to the targeted public health measures we have in place and our rising immunization rates …. This combination is helping to reduce the demand for acute and critical care for those with COVID-19,” she said.

Another 487 COVID-19 cases were reported in the province and 10,348 tests were completed in the previous 24 hours — about a 4.8 per cent positivity rate. By Wednesday, there were 687 people hospitalized for the disease including 155 patients in ICU. The province announced 14 more deaths on Wednesday.

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There were 6,693 active cases province-wide and outbreaks in 184 schools.

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Wednesday

Country by country, scientists foresee the beginning of an end to COVID-19 pandemic

Reuters

People gather to watch a Halloween parade in New York City on Oct. 31, 2021. Experts expect that the first countries to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic will have had some combination of high rates of vaccination and natural immunity among people who were infected.
People gather to watch a Halloween parade in New York City on Oct. 31, 2021. Experts expect that the first countries to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic will have had some combination of high rates of vaccination and natural immunity among people who were infected. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

As the devastating Delta variant surge eases in many regions of the world, scientists are charting when, and where, COVID-19 will transition to an endemic disease in 2022 and beyond, according to Reuters interviews with over a dozen leading disease experts.

They expect that the first countries to emerge from the pandemic will have had some combination of high rates of vaccination and natural immunity among people who were infected with the coronavirus, such as the United States, the U.K., Portugal and India. But they warn that SARS-CoV-2 remains an unpredictable virus that is mutating as it spreads through unvaccinated populations.

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None would completely rule out what some called a “doomsday scenario,” in which the virus mutates to the point that it evades hard-won immunity. Yet they expressed increasing confidence that many countries will have put the worst of the pandemic behind them in the coming year.

“We think between now and the end of 2022, this is the point where we get control over this virus … where we can significantly reduce severe disease and death,” Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist leading the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 response, told Reuters.

The agency’s view is based on work with disease experts who are mapping out the probable course of the pandemic over the next 18 months. By the end of 2022, the WHO aims for 70% of the world’s population to be vaccinated.

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“If we reach that target, we will be in a very, very different situation epidemiologically,” Van Kerkhove said.

In the meantime, she worries about countries lifting COVID precautions prematurely. “It’s amazing to me to be seeing, you know, people out on the streets, as if everything is over.”

COVID-19 cases and deaths have been declining since August in nearly all regions of the world, according to the WHO’s report on Oct. 26.

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Letter of the day

COP26 jets pollute on the way to delegate conference. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
COP26 jets pollute on the way to delegate conference. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Blaming Hinshaw for fourth wave was shameful

Watching Tuesday’s evening news, I was furious to see Premier Kenney throw Dr. Deena Hinshaw under the bus for the fourth wave. Whatever decisions were made, weren’t Dr. Hinshaw’s to make. They were yours, Premier. The buck stops with you. You’re the premier.

I am a hardcore, true-blue, born-and-raised Alberta conservative, and I have voted conservative my entire life. That is never going to change. But if you’re the premier and leader of the UCP in 2023, I simply will not vote — marking the first and only election I failed to do my civic duty.

Clearly for me, the NDP is not a viable alternative in 2023, but neither are you Premier Kenney. I am from a generation who worked for what I wanted, and never once took a handout for something I could earn myself. I raised my children to be the same. We stood accountable for the decisions we made, and accepted the consequences. To throw Dr. Hinshaw under the bus to avoid accepting the fallout from your ill-timed “Best Summer Ever” is cowardly, shameful and unworthy of my vote. Shame on you. It is time to resign, and save yourself the embarrassment of being removed at the leadership review.

S.C. Thomas, St. Albert

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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

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Wednesday

Everything you need to know about the reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines

Sharon Kirkey, National Post

The United States on October 29, 2021 authorized the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children aged five-to-11 after a committee of experts found its benefits outweighed risks. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)
The United States on October 29, 2021 authorized the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children aged five-to-11 after a committee of experts found its benefits outweighed risks. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

Dr. David Juurlink is often asked to see people with rare, and sometimes extraordinarily rare, side effects from drugs. “Very often that’s a delayed reaction,” he said: Someone might take an antibiotic for a skin condition and, six weeks later, end up in hospital with damage to a major organ, like a kidney or lung.

In 35 years of studying drugs and their side effects, Juurlink has seen the “weirdest of the weird.” But, the authorized COVID-19 vaccines? “These are some of the most remarkably safe and effective drugs in medicine today,” said Juurlink, head of the division of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.

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He also believes there is no convincing reason to believe they could have long-term risks, months or years out. “I can’t think of even an obliquely plausible mechanism.”

New drugs brought on the market sometimes have side effects that only “manifest” after widespread use. That has happened with the COVID-19 vaccines —  the blood-clotting syndrome linked with the viral vector vaccines AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson  ; the rare but still higher-than-expected rates of  heart inflammation associated with Moderna and Pfizer’s mRNA shots,  particularly among young males and primarily after the second dose. The unexpected side effects occurred within weeks or days of vaccination.

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Wednesday

Health Canada says review of Pfizer vaccine for kids will take weeks not months to complete

A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer and Biontech logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021. The vaccine presents a “significant oppotunity” to make profits after the pandemic is over, executive says.
A vial and syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer and Biontech logo in this illustration taken Jan. 11, 2021. The vaccine presents a “significant oppotunity” to make profits after the pandemic is over, executive says. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Health Canada is clarifying a tweet that went out on Tuesday suggesting approval for Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 could still be months away.

In a Tweet Wednesday morning Health Canada said they posted an error that indicated it would take months to review a submission from Pfizer BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11.

“That was incorrect,” said the Tweet. “The review will take weeks, not months.”

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Health Canada will review to ensure the vaccines are safe and effective for this age group, reviewing the data to consider both the benefits and risks and also taking into account the differences in risks for COVID-19.

“Health Canada authorizes all COVID-19 vaccines only after independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality.”

“Although children and youth are less likely to get really sick from COVID-19, they can still: be infected and not have any symptoms; spread COVID-19 to others; get MISC – a rare but severe inflammatory illness and experience longer-term effects if they do get infected.”

The vaccine has been approved for use in children in the U.S.


Tuesday

Alberta MLA says she’s outraged COVID-19 protesters left noose outside her home

Lisa Johnson

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Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard says she is outraged and shocked after anti-mask protesters hung a noose outside her house on Sunday.
Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard says she is outraged and shocked after anti-mask protesters hung a noose outside her house on Sunday. Photo by PETER SHOKEIR /Postmedia

An Alberta government MLA says she is outraged and shocked after anti-mask protesters hung a noose outside her house on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters in the legislature Tuesday, UCP MLA for Grande Prairie Tracy Allard said although she wasn’t home at the time, it was disturbing that the group of up to 30 protesters left the noose behind.

“That is a clear act of aggression and utterly unacceptable,” Allard said. Captured in a photograph Allard posted on Facebook Monday , the noose is seen attached to a small makeshift wooden gallows, and is painted with the words, “no to masks, end the gov’t, hang ‘em all.”

“This is not normal and it’s not OK. No matter what political background you’re from, when you step into public service, there has to be some modicum of etiquette and decorum,” Allard said, adding she decided to speak out because she does not want young people to be deterred from seeking public office out of fear of being vilified.

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