With 13,349 active COVID-19 cases, Alberta imposes raft of new restrictions

The latest:

Alberta announced tough new COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, including prohibiting all indoor social gatherings, sending students in grades 7 to 12 to online learning and making masks mandatory in indoor workplaces in Calgary and Edmonton, as it reported 13,349 active cases of the disease, by far its highest number yet.

The province also reported 1,115 new cases and 16 more deaths, with 348 people being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, including 66 in ICU beds.

Premier Jason Kenney said the decision to impose new measures came after he spent much of the weekend on the phone talking to front-line health-care workers, followed by an eight-hour long cabinet committee meeting on Monday.

“I am declaring a state of public health emergency in Alberta,” Kenney said at a news conference. “We are also announcing a series of targeted measures, approved by the COVID cabinet committee, based on recommendations from the chief medical officer of health.

“These mandatory measures will place new restrictions on social gatherings, worship services, businesses, schools and all Albertans.”

A pedestrian wearing a mask crosses a street in Calgary last week. Alberta has rolled out tough new restrictions that prohibit all indoor social gatherings. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Kenney said the restrictions announced today will be evaluated after three weeks. Some notable measures include:

  • No indoor social gatherings allowed, with outdoor gatherings limited to 10 people. Kenney said these mandatory measures will be enforced with fines of $1,000.
  • All students in Grades 7-12 will transition to online learning beginning Nov. 30 until they begin their winter break. In-person classes will resume in January.
  • All businesses are encouraged to have employees work from home as much as possible. Kenney said this would include provincial government employees.
  • Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges will remain open; tables can seat a maximum of six people from the same household, while people who live alone can meet with up to two non-household contacts who are part of their cohort.

Many health-care workers have been calling for weeks for a “circuit-breaker” lockdown — relatively short and severe — to slow the spread of the virus. As well, a contact tracing backlog means that, starting Tuesday, Alberta Health Services is temporarily giving up on investigating contacts for people who received their positive test result more than 10 days ago.

There are currently 11,500 people on the waitlist and about 3,000 of them will not be investigated.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 6:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 342,444, with 57,436 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,618.

In Atlantic Canada, new restrictions are also coming to Nova Scotia as the province on Tuesday reported 37 new cases of COVID-19, its fifth highest single-day increase in cases.

“Thirty-seven cases in one day — if that isn’t enough of a concern, I don’t know what is,” Premier Stephen McNeil said. “If you haven’t woken up to the second wave, this is your wake-up call.”

McNeil announced that as of midnight Wednesday, all restaurants and bars in the Halifax region must close to in-person dining, with only takeout and delivery orders allowed. All fitness and recreational facilities, libraries, museums and casinos in the region must close as well. The new measures apply for a two-week period.

The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia earlier in the day had called on the province to shut down establishments for the next two weeks.

McNeil also said there will be stronger enforcement for illegal gatherings, “including a $1,000 fine for every person who walks through the door.” The gathering limit in the Halifax region remains at five.

The announcement of tougher measures comes a day after the Atlantic travel bubble came apart, as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador announced they would be pulling out of the arrangement for at least two weeks.

WATCH | Atlantic bubble bursts as COVID-19 cases rise:

P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador will soon require 14-day isolation for travellers from other Atlantic provinces, effectively ending the travel bubble that began in July.  3:43

Newfoundland reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, while P.E.I. reported no new cases.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Monday that New Brunswick won’t be making any changes to its participation in the Atlantic bubble “for the time being.”

The province reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Public Health originally reported six but later revised the number.

British Columbia announced a record high of 941 new cases on Tuesday, and 10 additional deaths.

There are 7,732 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, including 284 people who are currently hospitalized, 61 of whom are in intensive care.

Also Tuesday, public health officials ordered dance and yoga studios, gymnastics centres and other spaces offering group indoor fitness activity to temporarily suspend those activities across the province.

WATCH | Expert offers advice on determining what’s accurate COVID-19 information:

Sajjad Fazel, a public health researcher at the University of Calgary, said people should look at what the ‘overwhelming body of science and evidence says’ when it comes to information about the pandemic. 1:21

The order is an update to restrictions Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry introduced last Thursday, with the first round of restricted activities including spin classes, high intensity interval training and hot yoga. Health officials have also introduced a mandatory mask policy for indoor public spaces.

In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe is self-isolating after a potential COVID-19 exposure at a restaurant in Prince Albert. A spokesperson for the premier said Moe was not experiencing symptoms but had been tested out of an abundance of caution.

The province announced 175 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, nearly half of which were from the Regina region.

Of the new cases, 13 of them involve health-care workers, pushing the total since March to 207.

Manitoba on Tuesday reported 476 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths, a day after it reported a record high of 540 new cases the day before. The five-day provincial test positivity rate stood at a record-tying 14.2 per cent.

Despite a slight decline in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital — down to 292 from 296 the day before — Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said health-care workers remain overwhelmed by the consistent pressure from high case numbers and the people in hospitals.

Premier Brian Pallister said that 95 tickets were issued last week to people violating public health orders, as the province ramps up enforcement.

Amid the surge in cases, the province is introducing an automated calling system for contact tracing that will expand current monitoring methods.

People who had previously tested positive will be asked about testing, isolation and other public health guidelines in a question-and-answer format that they can respond to using the phone keypad.

WATCH | Manitoba boosts contact-tracing efforts:

The Manitoba government is adding to its roster of contact-tracers, while existing staff are still struggling to reach people who may have been exposed to the virus quickly. 1:46

Ontario reported 1,009 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 14 additional deaths. However, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted on Twitter that due to a technical issue, “case numbers were overestimated yesterday and underestimated today.” The province had reported a record high of 1,589 cases on Monday.

Data released Tuesday put the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario at 534, with 159 in intensive care.

Toronto and Peel Region are on the second day of a 28-day lockdown, a move that Elliott said on Tuesday was driven to a large extent by the need to curb coronavirus cases so schools remain safe for children.

WATCH | Ontario lockdown aims to keep kids in school, health minister says:

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott says the lockdown of Toronto and Peel Region is meant to curb coronavirus cases so schools remain safe for children. 1:30

There are currently 703 publicly funded schools in the province, or about 14.6 per cent, with at least one reported case of COVID-19. Four schools are closed due to the coronavirus, including one in Windsor with 39 cases, the largest school-related outbreak in the province.

The provincial government also announced Tuesday that it has begun deploying rapid testing in long-term care homes, as well as in rural and remote areas — something Premier Doug Ford called a “game changer.”

Quebec, another province hit hard by the pandemic, reported 1,124 new cases on Tuesday and 45 additional deaths, including nine reported to have occurred in the previous 24 hours. The province earlier reported 1,156 new cases but issued a corrected figure later. 

According to provincial data, hospitalizations stood at 655, with 96 in intensive care.

People line up at a COVID-19 testing centre in Montreal on Monday. Quebec has reported more than 134,000 cases and more than 6,800 deaths since the start of the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Nunavut reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases reported in the territory to 144, with 142 of those considered active.

Nunavut is in the midst of a lockdown to try to beat back an increase in cases. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson cautioned on Monday that case numbers will “go up and down from day to day regardless of what’s happening in the community” because of the timing of testing and “variability of flights.”

In Yukon, Premier Sandy Silver announced that masks will now be mandatory in indoor public places starting Dec. 1, saying the territory is now in its second wave.

There were six new cases in Yukon on Monday. Yukon had already increased restrictions last week as infection rates jumped in jurisdictions around it, requiring all but critical services workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they enter the territory.

The Northwest Territories announced two recoveries on Tuesday, which means there are now no active cases in the territory. N.W.T. has reported 15 cases since the start of the pandemic.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

As of Tuesday evening, there were more than 59.5 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 38 million of them considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The global death toll has now surpassed 1.4 million.

In the Americas, U.S. state and federal officials pleaded with Americans to stay home and redouble efforts to curtail the pandemic on Tuesday, defending unpopular public health measures as record hospitalizations pushed health-care professionals to the brink.

“We are on fire with COVID,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on CNN after enacting new restrictions last week, including retail curbs and school closures. “We’re just trying to do the right thing.”

The United States surpassed 86,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Tuesday as 30 of the 50 states reported record numbers of patients this month. The country is averaging more than 1,500 coronavirus deaths and 171,000 new cases a day.

“There is so much community transmission all over the United States that the chances of you encountering somebody that has COVID-19 is actually very, very high, whether it’s on an airplane, at the airport or at a rest area,” said Dr. Syra Madad, an infectious disease epidemiologist for New York City hospitals.

Nurse Caren Williams talks to a passenger waiting for a coronavirus test at the Tom Bradley international terminal at LAX on Monday. Millions of people in the U.S. are sticking to Thanksgiving travel plans despite warnings from health officials. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The largest county in the U.S. is on the brink of a stay-home order after a coronavirus surge surpassed a level set by Los Angeles County public health officials to trigger such an action. A swell of new cases on Monday put the county over an average of 4,500 cases per day.

In Mexico, church and civic leaders cancelled an annual gathering that attracts massive crowds of Catholic pilgrims to protect people.

In Europe, France will start easing its COVID-19 lockdown this weekend so that by Christmas, shops, theatres and cinemas will reopen and people will be able to spend the holiday with their families, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.

In a televised address to the nation, Macron said the worst of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in France was over, but that restaurants, cafés and bars would have to stay shut until Jan. 20 to avoid triggering a third wave.

The Czech Republic’s prime minister said his government is working on a plan to use rapid coronavirus tests for the entire country. Andrej Babis said the antigen testing will be free and won’t be mandatory, adding that it would take place a week or 10 days before Christmas with help from the military. 

State and federal health authorities in Germany say they are shortening quarantine periods for people who have come into contact with a confirmed COVID case from 14 days to 10, if they provide a negative test.

The European Medicines Agency could produce a scientific opinion on COVID-19 vaccines seeking regulatory approval by the end of the year in a best-case scenario.

WATCH | Trials show AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ‘highly effective’:

British drugmaker AstraZeneca has said the COVID-19 vaccine it’s developed with the University of Oxford is 70 per cent effective on average. The vaccine is one of several that Canada has already preordered and is considered more globally accessible. 4:04

In the Asia-Pacific region, China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.

Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp., the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves, said Tuesday it expects a two- to four-week delay in deliveries after more than 2,000 workers at its factories were infected by the coronavirus, raising the possibility of supply disruptions during the pandemic.

WATCH | Qantas looking at mandatory COVID-19 vaccine for international flights:

Qantas airline CEO Alan Joyce said his company is looking at requiring international passengers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before boarding a flight, as the industry appears headed in that direction. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image/Reuters) 0:48

Top Glove said it has temporarily stopped production at 16 factories in Klang, a town outside Kuala Lumpur, since Nov. 17 to screen workers, with its remaining 12 facilities in the area operating at much reduced capacities.

The government on Monday ordered 28 Top Glove factories in Klang to shut down in stages to allow workers to undergo screening and mandatory quarantine after 2,453 factory workers tested positive for COVID-19.

The Health Ministry reported 1,511 more cases in the area on Tuesday but didn’t say how many were factory workers. The cluster contributed to a record daily high of 2,188 cases nationwide, bringing Malaysia’s total cases to 58,847. 

Top Glove says it produces about 90 billion rubber gloves a year, about one-quarter of the world’s supply, and exports to 195 countries.

A medical worker in protective gear carries test tubes at a community testing centre for COVID-19 in Hong Kong’s Yau Tsim Mong district on Tuesday. (Joyce Zhou/Reuters)

Hong Kong, meanwhile, will close bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues for the third time this year.

In Africa, South Africa is going with the COVAX global COVID-19 vaccine distribution scheme, with a committed purchase for 10 per cent of its population of 58 million, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

The country has recorded the most coronavirus infections on the continent, with more than 769,000 confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths to date.

Nigeria will bar passengers who fail to follow the country’s COVID-19 protocol from flying for six months.

In the Middle East, Iran reported a record high 13,721 new cases and a near-record 483 deaths in the past 24 hours. President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday the country plans to use foreign coronavirus vaccines while also developing its own.

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