COVID-19 live updates: QR codes now required as proof of vaccine; Austria locks down unvaccinated

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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

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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


QR codes now required as vaccine proof in Alberta

Jason Herring

The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.
The Alberta government is rolling out a verification app, enabling businesses to scan proof-of-vaccination with a QR code. Photo taken on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Photo by Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

As of Monday, Albertans entering businesses participating in the province’s vaccine passport program will need to show a QR code as proof of vaccination.

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The change means previous provincial immunization records, including those issued at the time of vaccination and saved from MyHealth Records, will no longer count as valid proof for businesses taking part in the Restrictions Exemption Program.

The QR code can be accessed via alberta.ca/CovidRecords, where it can be printed or saved to a phone. A free printed vaccine record with a QR code can also be obtained by calling 811 or visiting a registry office.

Businesses are expected to download the AB COVID Records Verifier app on an Apple or Android device to scan QR codes. After scanning a code, the app displays a green check mark or a red X to indicate vaccination status.


Keith Gerein: Shelter crisis in Edmonton exacerbated by pandemic

A man sleeps on the street in downtown Edmonton. Homelessness is becoming a major concern in Edmonton with the onset of winter.
A man sleeps on the street in downtown Edmonton. Homelessness is becoming a major concern in Edmonton with the onset of winter. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

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The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness has exploded during the COVID era, which will hardly come as a shock to anyone who has visited the core or certain other areas of the city in recent months.

Officials believe this population has doubled, and then some, over the last couple of years to around 2,800 people, more than enough to fill an entire section at Commonwealth Stadium, upper and lower bowls.

Exactly why this happened and why we weren’t better prepared for it are questions worthy of further investigation, though the most pressing matter is on finding enough warm, safe spaces for this crowd during the winter. And right now, the numbers are nothing less than alarming.

In the report, city administrators say about 1,600 people experiencing homelessness are being “provisionally accommodated,” which means they are finding places to crash on friends’ couches or in short-term or transitional housing.

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(Of note, social service officials estimate just 30-40 per cent of homeless Edmontonians are COVID vaccinated. As such, there is a significant risk of outbreaks in shelter facilities, which could affect how many people they can safely take.)

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Friday

Cases and hospitalizations decline, province says Friday; Janssen vaccine available

Hamdi Issawi

Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.
Vials and syringes of the Johnson and Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta continues to crash as cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions steadily decline.

On Friday, the province reported 841 new cases of COVID-19, which includes 470 cases from Wednesday and 371 cases on Thursday since no data was reported on Remembrance Day. Alberta has 263 fewer cases than what was reported on Wednesday, leaving the number of active cases in the province at 5,745.

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In keeping with this week’s trend , the number of patients hospitalized with the disease between Wednesday and Thursday fell to 554 from 582, while the count for those in intensive care also fell to 110 from 123.

However, the province reported seven more deaths, raising Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll to 3,171.

As of Thursday, 81.8 per cent of Albertans 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, while 87.7 per cent have received at least one dose. More than 6.68 million doses have been administered in Alberta.

Alberta gets 5,000 doses of Janssen

The province also announced that Albertans 18 and older can book appointments for the Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson by calling Health Link at 811. Since the province has received only 5,000 doses, the Janssen vaccine will only be available at Alberta Health Services clinics in select locations throughout the province.

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At a press conference on Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said the government has heard of a demand for the vaccine from a number of unvaccinated Albertans .

“If people, for their own reasons, based on their own research or priorities, have chosen this as the best vaccine for them, we respect that choice, and we want to be there to support them in that choice,” Kenney said.

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Friday

What is sotrovimab? An Alberta physician explains how the new COVID-19 drug approved by Health Canada works

Anna Junker

COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy, sotrovimab, developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology.
COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy, sotrovimab, developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology. Photo by supplied

This week, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Alberta is rolling out sotrovimab, a new drug recently approved by Health Canada to treat COVID-19.

Postmedia spoke with infectious disease physician Dr. Ilan Schwartz to learn about sotrovimab, how it works and who is eligible to receive it.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is sotrovimab?

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody, a lab-made version of a protein your body would typically make to fight off the virus. Antibodies are the artillery that we use against foreign invaders like viruses and they’re trained by prior immunization or infection. Individuals who have not been vaccinated or infected with COVID-19 don’t have antibodies against the virus, hence a role for augmenting their own immune response by providing an exogenous source of these antibodies.

How is the drug provided?

It’s a one-time intravenous infusion that needs to be given in the first five days of symptom onset. To date, there’s been logistical challenges for patients infected with COVID-19 and at an early enough phase, which also corresponds to the period of highest infectivity. The idea of bringing such patients into an IV infusion site, which is primarily used for people with cancer, has been very problematic.

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It’s been overcome now by Alberta Health Services through the deployment of mobile integrated health (MIH) units — community paramedics who go into patients’ homes to provide treatment. It’s an exciting and innovative use of these health professionals. It’s also not a particularly efficient or scalable solution. Fortunately, most of the population has become vaccinated and there’s only a small portion that will still benefit from this.

Who is eligible to receive sotrovimab?

Individuals who are unvaccinated and are over 65 as well as individuals who are recipients of organ or bone marrow transplants irrespective of age or vaccination status are eligible at this time. The patients or their physicians are encouraged to either self refer or to refer patients through Health Link.

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Letter of the day

PCR tests for travellers too expensive

My husband and I are both fully vaccinated and we wear our masks all the time in indoor settings. We haven’t travelled since COVID arrived and we were hoping to get away this winter.

It’s very frustrating to find out that we have to pay for a PCR test in order to come back to Canada. These tests are very expensive, and the price ranges from $150 US to $300 US. I called Shoppers Drug Mart and I was told they charge $40 for the antigen test which is what is required to enter the States. This is a reasonable amount.

The travel industry is struggling and yet the government is making it difficult for Canadians to travel. Families with children cannot afford to pay for these PCR tests and it is not fair to Canadians that want to travel. The Government of Canada needs to drop the mandatory PCR tests immediately because Canadians will continue to refrain from travelling and the travel Industry will continue to suffer.

Lindiwe Carter, Edmonton

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