Alberta announced another 1,608 cases of COVID-19 Sunday and reported nine deaths, all of whom were seniors.
There are now 15,692 active cases in the province, mainly in the two largest metro centres, with 7,230 or 46 per cent of active cases in Edmonton zone and 5,756 or 36 per cent of all active cases in Calgary zone.
Sunday’s nine reported deaths bring the provincial fatality total to 533.
Five of the nine seniors who died were at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre.
The Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre was added to the provincial outbreak list on Oct. 20. The last public update the centre gave was on Saturday, when it said 32 residents were positive with COVID-19. There are also 36 staff members at the centre with active COVID-19 cases.
Those connected to the centre who died were two women — one in her 80s who died on Nov. 25 and another in her 90s who died on Nov. 27 — as well as three men, one in his 70s who died on Nov. 26, one in his 80s who passed away Nov. 25, and one in his 90s who died Nov. 27. All five had comorbidities — underlying health conditions that may have contributed to their death — according to Alberta Health.
There were four other deaths reported in the province: a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Clifton Manor in Calgary zone on Nov, 29, with unknown comorbidities. A man in his 90s in South zone, believed to have comorbidities but not connected to any care centres, died on Nov. 28. A man in his 80s with no known comorbidities and linked to the Laurel Heights Retirement Residence outbreak in Edmonton zone died on Nov. 28.
A man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at Westlock Continuing Care Centre in North zone passed away Nov. 27. It is not known if he had any comorbidities.
There are now 435 Albertans in hospital, 95 of whom are in intensive care.
The province said it tested 23,282 Albertans for COVID-19 on Saturday.
Jason Kenney said in an interview on The Roy Green show Sunday that he continues to hope Albertans recognize the seriousness of the situation and follow new restrictions.
“We are concerned about the recent spike in COVID-19 in Alberta,” Kenney said.
“And that’s why we felt — in order to avoid a situation where we have to engage in widespread cancellation of surgeries and non-urgent hospital care, in order to ensure we have capacity with our health-care front line personnel — we’ve had to bring in more stringent measures. Strong, but we think balanced.”
He added the “main thing” for Albertans to be careful with is in-person socializing.
“When you’re at home, people let down their guard, people aren’t wearing a mask in their living room, they’re not frequently sanitizing, they’re not sitting two metres apart,” Kenney said.
“It’s family gatherings, hugging… those at-home social activities are the highest vector of transmission.”
Kenney also stressed this weekend that when the province starts to receive COVID-19 vaccinations there will be no rule that makes them mandatory in Alberta.
The province is currently expected to receive about 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year. Kenney said Sunday officials are already working on the roll-out plan.
“We would be starting with the most vulnerable such as seniors in nursing homes as well as health-care workers,” Kenney said.
Many students in province shifting to online learning Monday
Alberta students in Grades 7-12 will shift to online learning on Monday as part of the province’s attempt to limit the spread of the virus among older students.
Parents preparing for the change have mixed reactions to having their kids learn online for the second time this year.
Ibrahim Cobanoglu was out shopping for laptops for his two sons so that they have more reliable technology now compared to their first round of distance learning.
On the other hand, parents like Karen Beckford are upset at the change and believes the messaging from the province is unclear.
“I think it’s hard for the kids. I don’t understand why I can go to a shopping mall with thousands of people, but my son can’t go to school with 300 kids in his high school.”
Christopher Usih, the chief superintendent for the Calgary Board of Education said teachers have been already doing both online and in-person learning due to the number of students having to isolate.
Students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 will continue in-person learning until their scheduled winter break — which for many is Dec. 18. They will then move to at-home learning after the winter break until Jan. 8, and resume in-person classes on Jan. 11.
Diploma exams were also made optional for the rest of the school year, meaning students can choose to write them, or be exempt from the April, June and August 2021 examinations.
–With files from Michael King, Global News