For the first time, health officials in Alberta have identified a coronavirus case involving a COVID-19 variant in acute care, the province’s chief medical officer of health confirmed Friday night.
The case involves the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K., and has been linked to the Westlock Healthcare Centre north of Edmonton.
“This case was not acquired in the hospital,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted. “Health officials have implemented outbreak protocols to prevent further spread, including testing patients and staff and restricting visitors.
“Thanks to the variant contact-tracing team, anyone at risk is quarantined and tested twice.”
Hinshaw said the case serves as a reminder that people “cannot dictate where and how this virus spreads.”
“As with the common strain, any setting is at risk of exposure, which is why we all must be vigilant and keep following public health restrictions.”
There were 243 people in hospital across the province, with 44 receiving care in the ICU.
As of Friday’s update, there were 4,639 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. There were 1,654 cases reported in the Calgary zone and 1,101 active cases in the Edmonton zone.
There were 1,005 active cases reported in the North zone, 527 reported in the Central zone and 341 in the South zone.
There were 11 cases not attributed to a specific zone.
Two deaths were also reported Friday: a man in his 70s from the Edmonton zone linked to the outbreak at St. Thomas Health Centre and a man in his 70s from the Calgary zone. Both cases included comorbidities, according to Alberta Health.
On Friday, Health Canada announced the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the approval is more good news.
Shandro said there is still no schedule or any word on how many more doses will be available from J&J but assumes it could accelerate the vaccination process.
Shandro announced Alberta is speeding up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout by opening appointments to Phase 2A Albertans earlier than planned.
Starting March 15, Albertans 65 to 74 can start booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
On the first day, anyone born in 1947 can book their appointment. Anyone born in 1948 can book their appointment on March 16 and so on.
The appointment booking approach for Phase 2 is being adjusted after issues with the website and 811 booking system arose when Phase 1B was launched last month.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis people 50 and older can also start booking appointments on March 15.
– With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News and The Canadian Press.