Café protest goes ahead as Alberta confirms 2,042 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths on Saturday

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 by community: New localized data shows virus levels in Calgary wastewater' COVID-19 by community: New localized data shows virus levels in Calgary wastewater
A University of Calgary study tracking COVID-19 levels in wastewater has expanded, showing more detailed information on where traces of the virus are being found. Sarah Offin has details – May 7, 2021

Alberta Health reported 2,042 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths from the disease on Saturday.

A man in his 60s in the North zone without comorbidities and a woman in her 80s in the Central zone with comorbidities died, the province said.

On Saturday, Alberta identified 406 variant cases of COVID-19. Alberta Health Services has shifted away from screening all positive cases for variants of concern, targeting variant screening on populations highest at risk. This means variant cases made up at least 47.6 per cent of active cases Saturday.

Read more: Hinshaw urges compliance as Alberta gets set to implement new COVID-19 restrictions

Alberta has 25,155 total active cases, 179,894 recoveries and 2,108 deaths.

As of Saturday, the Calgary zone has 11,178 active cases, the Edmonton zone has 5,900, the North zone has 3,780, the Central zone has 2,917 and the South zone has 1,355. There are 25 cases in unknown zones.

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The new cases came from 18,809 tests, meaning a provincial positivity rate of 11 per cent, according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Alberta Health said 661 people were in hospital, with 148 of them in intensive care.

The province said 1,846,554 vaccine doses were administered as of May 7, and 314,504 Albertans have been fully immunized.

Protest goes ahead despite injunction

Also Saturday, a planned protest against COVID-19 public health orders went forward at the Whistle Stop Café in Mirror, Alta., despite a court injunction being granted against the café operator on Thursday. The order defined the event as an illegal public gathering.

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The large gathering of people defies current restrictions, which limit outdoor gatherings to five people. Several speakers took the stage as people in the crowd chanted “freedom.” People were not wearing masks nor following physical distancing rules.

Read more: Health officials close Whistle Stop Café after Alberta restaurant ignores COVID-19 rules for months

RCMP issued a statement Friday, saying the court injunction allows law enforcement agencies to “act immediately” without AHS in attendance.

“There are a variety of ways to enforce this order, including the ability to issue tickets, fines and criminal charges to individuals who are breaking public health orders by organizing and/or attending these events,” RCMP said.

“This can include arrest and removal of any person who has notice of this order and chooses to act in violation of it.”

Read more: COVID-19: Pre-emptive injunction granted against planned protest by Whistle Stop Café operator

RCMP officers were present at Saturday’s protest. A number of tickets were handed out and the organizer of the event was arrested, RCMP confirmed later Saturday.

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On Wednesday, AHS and RCMP physically closed the café and prevented access to the building.

Following the premier’s announcement of tightened COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta, the United Conservative government passed an order in council on Wednesday that doubles fines for public health violations to $2,000.

Read more: Alberta government implements new strategy to enforce COVID-19 restrictions

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Wednesday there is also a new protocol for health officials, police and the government to co-ordinate and target repeat individuals and groups that flout the law.

“Enforcement will be done, and Albertans will see it being done,” Madu told a news conference Wednesday.

‘A little more hope’

Additional restrictions aimed at once again bending the curve in Alberta are set to come into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Those include the closure of most personal and wellness services, as well as patios, which had previously been allowed to remain open.

Read more: Kenney says UCP caucus has ‘free will’ to decide whether to get COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Stephanie Smith, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta, said she is hopeful this set of restrictions will not have to be in place as long as previous shutdowns.

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“I think there’s a little more hope during this third wave than we maybe had during the second wave in terms of time just because we have this extra layer of protection, which is, of course, the vaccine,” Smith said Saturday.

“When we looked at the second wave, taking four to six weeks of fairly restrictive measures before we really saw improvements in our hospitalization and ICU admission rate, I do think that we can anticipate that these restrictive measures may be needed for a slightly shorter period of time if we can really continue to get lots of people vaccinated because that will obviously help with the numbers in addition to the restrictions.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Herd immunity explained' COVID-19: Herd immunity explained
COVID-19: Herd immunity explained – May 8, 2021

As of May 7, about 34.3 per cent of Albertans had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the government.

“When we look at herd immunity, we’re really looking at 60 per cent. But I don’t think that we have to necessarily get to that magic 60 per cent in order to see an improvement in the numbers of cases,” Smith said.

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“I do think that we will be able to bend the curve, even with the restrictions we have in place and the gradually increasing number of people that are vaccinated.”

Read more: Hope, excitement in the air as Albertans 30+ book COVID-19 vaccine appointments

On Monday, every Albertan 12 and older will be eligible to book a vaccine appointment. It comes after everyone 30 and over became eligible to book on Thursday.

Smith said when it comes to getting kids back to learning in the classroom and staying there, vaccines will make a big difference.

“I certainly am going to be signing my children up for their vaccine. They’re excited about it,” she said.

“In terms of looking toward the future and getting our kids back in school and not having this sort of in and out of quarantine and everything, it will make a huge difference.”

– With files from The Canadian Press

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