COVID-19 live updates: Support people showing symptoms no longer allowed in maternity wards; 484 new cases; Parents demand HEPA filters in classrooms

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

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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


Wednesday

Isolation exemption for maternity aides nixed; cases and hospitalizations declining

Hamdi Issawi

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Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital. Photo by Shaughn Butts /Postmedia, file

Alberta has terminated a quarantine exemption that allowed those with COVID-19 or symptoms of the disease to attend to obstetrics patients in hospital.

Alberta Health spokesperson Lisa Glover said Wednesday that the decision came after a discussion with Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“To ensure sufficient capacity in our health system, it was determined that health-care facilities were unable to provide the additional protections required to permit these individuals,” Glover told Postmedia in an email.

The exemption had been in effect since July 29, when a chief medical officer of health order allowed an “essential support person” to join a pregnant patient at a medical facility in exceptional circumstances so long as the facility was notified ahead of time.

However, Glover added, maternity patients can still have visitors and designated support people as outlined by official AHS policy.

Progress on planking the curve

Meanwhile, Alberta’s efforts to drive down a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections is seeing steady progress as the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to decline.

On Wednesday, the province reported 484 new cases of COVID-19, which brings the number of active cases in Alberta to 6,008 – 84 fewer than the day before.

The latest figures report 582 patients hospitalized with the disease — 26 fewer than the day before — while the number of people in intensive care also declined from 128 to 123.

The downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations was consistent across the Edmonton, Calgary, Central and North zones.

The South zone remained steady at 63 cases but saw two additional intensive care patients, bringing the total in that zone to 17. The number of intensive care patients reported in Calgary remains steady at 29.

Five more people died from COVID-19, bringing the provincial death toll to 3,164.

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Wednesday

More parents demand HEPA filters in classrooms as cases increase for young children

Eva Ferguson

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Staff lead students into class at a Calgary elementary school on Sept. 1, 2020.
Staff lead students into class at a Calgary elementary school on Sept. 1, 2020. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

More parents are raising concerns around why public schools won’t allow HEPA filters in classrooms to reduce COVID spread, just as new data shows a spike in cases among five to 11 year olds.

Amanda Hu, spokeswoman for Fresh Air Network, an Alberta parent advocacy group fighting for better ventilation, says it’s time schools recognize COVID as an airborne virus and that students in classrooms get the protection of filtration.

“We know this virus is airborne, that infectious particles are coming out of mouths, and out of noses, and are being emitted into the air,” Hu explained.

“HEPA filters, very simply, pull in the air with infectious particles through a filter, and emit air that no longer has those infectious particles.

“Why not provide that extra layer of protection?”

Hu also argues that other jurisdictions, including Ontario Health and school districts in the Greater Toronto Area, are recommending and using HEPA filters.

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Letter of the day

Canadian war veteran and youth discuss misinformation. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
Canadian war veteran and youth discuss misinformation. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes) Malcolm Mayes

Veterans believed in Canadian way of life

Lest we forget, those service members of the Canadian Armed Forces who ultimately sacrificed their lives in World Wars One and Two, died for a Canada that did not recognize the right to Sunday shopping, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, euthanasia, or any other “progressive” or recently judicially invented right. And shocking as it may be to the contemporary Canadian psyche, those veterans believed that their way of life and the Canada in which they lived was worth defending. And they were right. It was.

This is why their memory deserves better from a prime minister who once a year praises the sacrifices of the fallen, but for the remaining 364 days portrays Canada’s history as replete with systemic racism, bigotry, xenophobia, et cetera. Should ever an international conflict arise in which contemporary Canada is threatened, one wonders how many of this prime minister’s stripes would defend it to the death?

James Halicki, Edmonton

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Letters Welcome

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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Tuesday

Edmonton city council unanimously extends indoor mask mandate indefinitely without thresholds for repeal

Dustin Cook

A sign reading “Masks Still Required” is seen at the Majesty and Friends store in Edmonton, on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. After a city council vote today, as of Sept. 3, wearing a mask or face covering will be mandatory in all indoor public places including publicly accessible areas of businesses, retail shops & City facilities as Edmonton faces rising COVID-19 cases. Photo by Ian Kucerak
A sign reading “Masks Still Required” is seen at the Majesty and Friends store in Edmonton, on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. After a city council vote today, as of Sept. 3, wearing a mask or face covering will be mandatory in all indoor public places including publicly accessible areas of businesses, retail shops & City facilities as Edmonton faces rising COVID-19 cases. Photo by Ian Kucerak Postmedia

Edmonton’s mask mandate will be extended indefinitely without any thresholds for its repeal following a unanimous vote by council Tuesday.

The indoor, public places mask rule within the City of Edmonton was set to deactivate Thursday under the previous bylaw regulations. Deactivation of the rule would have been triggered after 10 days of a case rate below the threshold of 100 per 100,000, which began last Monday. During the first COVID-19 update of the term Tuesday, council decided to remove the threshold and the Dec. 31 repeal date tied to the rule and extend the bylaw unconditionally.

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The move comes as the city’s active case rate dropped Tuesday to 78.8 per 100,000 and cases have declined significantly to 818 throughout Edmonton during the fourth wave of the pandemic. But councillors cautioned against ending the bylaw right now, with children still not able to be vaccinated and most of the surrounding municipalities with an active case rate still above 100.

Even if the bylaw were repealed, the provincial mask mandate remains in effect, but city bylaw officers wouldn’t have been able to enforce the rule as they have throughout the pandemic. The provincial order would only be enforceable by police or Alberta Health Services enforcement officers. With the bylaw extension, the rule will remain in effect even if the provincial mandate is repealed, city manager Andre Corbould said.

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Although the bylaw has been extended without a trigger for its end date, council did set parameters about when there will be an automatic discussion about the mandate, with some offering concerns that just leaving it open-ended without a set time to revisit wouldn’t be fair to the public. Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack brought forward a successful motion that will have the city create draft bylaw amendments with four conditions that will prompt a council discussion around the mask rule if they are met. There will also be monthly reports to council.

If the bylaw amendments are approved in December, the discussion for possible repeal would take place when ICU capacity is below 50 per cent and falling in Edmonton, after the provincial mask mandate is repealed, two weeks after 80 per cent of children between the ages of 5 to 11 have been fully vaccinated and at least 28 days with an active case rate below 100 per 100,000 in the Edmonton Zone.

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Knack said with the bylaw losing all triggers for repeal, it was important to have some sort of thresholds to keep the public informed on when the mandate will be revisited.

“I think a fair criticism of the provincial government has been a lack of information sharing, the lack of publicly talking about these things. So this is at least saying, ‘Hey, the next time we’ll talk about it is when we hit these measures.’ It might not change it because who knows what the state of the world will be, but at least we will have something to talk about,” Knack said about wanting to have something for Edmontonians to see as a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. “I do think it’s important for us to have something to reach toward, something to look at.”

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Tuesday

Ninety-four per cent of Edmonton Public Schools staff have declared full COVID-19 vaccination

Blair McBride

Edmonton Public Schools board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks and Edmonton Public Schools’ superintendent Darrel Robertson at a news conference in Edmonton on. Aug. 16, 2021.
Edmonton Public Schools board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks and Edmonton Public Schools’ superintendent Darrel Robertson at a news conference in Edmonton on. Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

Ninety-four per cent of Edmonton Public Schools staff have declared that they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, chief human resources officer Angela Anderson said that out of 12,665 staff members, 11,900 have attested to receiving both doses of vaccine.

As for the 765 staff who have yet to submit their declarations, board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks said it’s not clear whether they are unvaccinated.

“We need to unpack that a little further,” she told reporters in a media briefing after the board meeting. “Is it vaccine hesitancy? Have they just not declared yet? Are they hourly workers who haven’t checked their email yet? We’re a large school division. There’s still a lot of work to do. I have confidence we can navigate that going forward.”

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Estabrooks said it was too early to say how staff who remain holdouts on declaring or getting vaccinated could impact learning, pointing to the “consequences” outlined in the vaccine mandate announced in October .

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Tuesday

Alberta beginning administering antibody for seniors, high-risk patients with COVID-19

Dylan Short

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Alberta Health Services teams have begun using a newly approved antibody treatment when responding to calls involving seniors and other high-risk patients, the first out-of-hospital treatment in the province.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that AHS and EMS mobile response teams have begun administering Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody drug, to people over the age of 65 who are positive for COVID-19 and are unvaccinated who want the treatment. Some stem cell and organ recipients, regardless of their vaccination status, are also eligible to receive the drug after Health Canada approved its use for mild to moderate COVID-19 cases.

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“The treatment is being rolled out across the province in a phased approach starting with those of the highest risk of severe outcomes like hospitalization,” said Hinshaw. “While this medication is helpful, it does not change the fact that vaccines continue to be our most important tool to protect both ourselves and others.”

The AHS website states Sotrovimab is administered through an IV over an hour-long period, with patients monitored for an additional hour. Health Canada’s website states the drug can be used to stop COVID-19 symptoms from worsening in people over the age of 12 who weigh more than 40 kilograms and who are not in hospital.

“Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody, a type of protein that attaches to the spike protein of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19, and prevents the virus from entering and infecting healthy cells within your body,” reads Health Canada’s website.

Hinshaw said the drug must be administered within five days of when symptoms first appear for maximum effectiveness. She said the drug is not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccines and encouraged everyone to get immunized.

“Albertans are still strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against the virus, as vaccines are the most effective method to prevent the serious outcomes from the disease,” said Hinshaw.

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