COVID-19 live updates: Disney Cruise Line adds vaccine mandate for passengers 5 and up; Alberta reports 412 new cases Wednesday, 100 in ICU

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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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


8:03 a.m.

Disney becomes first cruise line to mandate vaccinations for children five-years-old and up

Bloomberg News

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Disney Cruise Line became the first cruise company to introduce a vaccine mandate for passengers 5 years old and up. The policy applies to all sailings departing on or after Jan. 13.
Disney Cruise Line became the first cruise company to introduce a vaccine mandate for passengers 5 years old and up. The policy applies to all sailings departing on or after Jan. 13. Photo by Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line

The days of bringing unvaccinated kids aboard a cruise are winding down. On Wednesday, Disney Cruise Line became the first cruise company to introduce a vaccine mandate for passengers 5 years old and up.

The policy applies to all sailings departing on or after Jan. 13. Until then, the existing rules–which require children to show a negative PCR test taken before departure–will continue to apply. Under the current restrictions, anyone turning 12 within five weeks of departure dates is given leeway, and it is expected that similar provisions will apply to 5-year-olds celebrating recent birthdays.

Though cruise lines generally require vaccines for any eligible guests, with unvaccinated persons subject to restrictions, no major cruise lines have indicated plans to follow Disney’s lead. Only one company, Carnival Corp., initially responded to requests for comment, saying that a decision to expand the vaccine mandates to include 5- to 11-year-olds would be left up to executives at each of its nine individual cruise lines.

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Wednesday

COVID-19: Active cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions decline in Alberta Wednesday

Kellen Taniguchi

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021.
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic /REUTERS

Active cases of COVID-19 dropped in Alberta on Wednesday, as did hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.

The province reported 412 new cases of the virus, totalling 5,521 active cases, a decrease of 44 from the previous day.

The Calgary Zone has 1,827 active cases and the Edmonton Zone has 1,221.

There are 516 Albertans in hospital due to the virus, a decrease of two from the previous day, while there was a decrease of one patient in ICU, with 100 reported on Wednesday.

An additional three deaths were reported.

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Canadians returning from short foreign trips won’t need PCR test for COVID-19: Source

Air India flight 187 from New Delhi lands at Pearson Airport in Toronto on April 23.
Air India flight 187 from New Delhi lands at Pearson Airport in Toronto on April 23. Photo by Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

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OTTAWA – Fully vaccinated Canadians who leave the country for fewer than 72 hours will soon no longer need to pony up hundreds of dollars for a negative PCR test to return home, according to multiple media reports.

The new measure is expected to be announced by the end of the week and will likely be welcomed with a sigh of relief by Canadian travelers, business groups and residents of municipalities close to the American border.

As part of the changes first reported by La Presse, the obligation to get a negative molecular test such as a PCR test will remain for any traveler who leaves Canada for more than three days as well as returning citizens or permanent residents who are not fully vaccinated with a shot approved by Health Canada.

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Government spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Letter of the day

A motorist digs out their vehicle near 34 Avenue and Tamarack Green, in Edmonton Tuesday Nov. 16, 2021. A phase 1 parking ban will begin at 7 p.m. and remain in effect until the city has cleared major roadways such as arterial and collector roads as well as freeways, bus routes and roads with “Seasonal No Parking” signs. Photo by David Bloom
A motorist digs out their vehicle near 34 Avenue and Tamarack Green, in Edmonton Tuesday Nov. 16, 2021. A phase 1 parking ban will begin at 7 p.m. and remain in effect until the city has cleared major roadways such as arterial and collector roads as well as freeways, bus routes and roads with “Seasonal No Parking” signs. Photo by David Bloom

Nov. 16, when we welcomed our first big snowfall, I took the Yellowhead to go to my daughter’s home to look after my granddaughter. Suddenly, a big truck driving fast threw snow on my left side. At the same time a ghastly wind came dumping blowing snow on my right. I became confused and I was left with no visibility. Consequently, I took the wrong exit and became stranded.

I parked on the right side of the road with my emergency lights on. I opened my window and started to wave my hand asking for help. Many cars went by for almost 25 minutes and no one even made an effort to stop.

Then, a car stopped in front of me and I ran to ask for help. This wonderful angel went out of her way to ask me to follow her. When I asked for her name, she replied, “Cindy, and please take my phone number and don’t hesitate to call me if you need more help.”

I phoned her when I arrived. She had been waiting for my call to see that I was OK which thanks be to God, I was.
Thank you Cindy, without your help, I would probably have frozen to death on that Anthony Henday highway.

Gabriela Shea, Edmonton

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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


Merkel warns of dramatic situation before talks to curb COVID-19 in Germany

Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right. Photo by POOL /via REUTERS

BERLIN — Germany’s coronavirus situation is dramatic, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday, calling for an extra push on vaccinations a day before federal and regional leaders meet to agree on measures to curb a fourth wave of the virus.

Germany reported 52,826 new infections on Wednesday – a jump of a third from a week ago and another daily record, while 294 people died, bringing the total to 98,274, as the pandemic tightens its grip on Europe.

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The surge in infections comes at an awkward time in Germany with the conservative Merkel acting in a caretaker capacity while three other parties negotiate to form a new government after an inconclusive September election.

Merkel said a national effort was needed and appealed to federal and regional leaders meeting on Thursday to introduce steps to trigger tighter restrictions based on the number of infected people being hospitalized in a week.

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Third death in ongoing Ottawa hospital COVID-19 outbreaks

Ottawa Citizen

A third person has died as part of a COVID outbreak at the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital. PHOTO BY TONY CALDWELL /Postmedia
A third person has died as part of a COVID outbreak at the Civic campus of The Ottawa Hospital. PHOTO BY TONY CALDWELL /Postmedia

A third person has died in ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at two campuses of The Ottawa Hospital.

Ottawa Public Health, which tracks outbreaks across the city, reported a third patient death this week in one of the outbreaks at the hospital’s Civic campus. Earlier, it reported two other deaths of patients at the Civic.

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In total, 55 patients (including three who have since died) and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in four separate outbreaks at the hospital’s Civic campus. The first of the outbreaks at the Civic, on the hospital’s unit A2, began on Oct. 26. The most recent of those outbreaks, on unit A1, began Nov. 4. All four outbreaks remain ongoing.

At the General campus, a total of nine patients and staff members have tested positive in two separate outbreaks, in units 6 West and 8 West, bringing the total number of people infected to 64, including the three fatalities. Both outbreaks are ongoing.

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Quebec reports 718 new cases of COVID-19 – most since September

Montreal Gazette

Photo by ERROL MCGIHON, Postmedia
Photo by ERROL MCGIHON, Postmedia

After falling below 600 following a weekend when fewer people got tested, Quebec’s case count is back over 700.

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Quebec has recorded 718 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s the most since the end of September.

No new deaths were registered.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:

  • Montreal Island: 241 cases, zero deaths.
  • Net decrease in hospitalizations: 5, for total of 195 (15 entered hospital, 20 discharged).
  • No change in number of intensive care patients: 47 (4 entered ICUs, 4 discharged).
  • 8,413 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
    31,626 tests conducted Monday.
  • Positivity rate: 2.2 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 436,084 cases and 11,548 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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Message shift on airborne transmission of COVID-19 seen as positive — but late

Elizabeth Payne

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Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam wrote a series of tweets last weekend about airborne spread of the COVID-19 virus that advised Canadians to wear snug fitting masks that better protect against airborne transmission and to ventilate, among other things.
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam wrote a series of tweets last weekend about airborne spread of the COVID-19 virus that advised Canadians to wear snug fitting masks that better protect against airborne transmission and to ventilate, among other things. Photo by Adrian Wyld /The Canadian Press

Twenty-two months into the pandemic, there is something new in the air: a heightened emphasis by the Public Health Agency of Canada that COVID-19 can spread through the air, like second-hand smoke.

As far back as last November, PHAC quietly acknowledged that COVID-19 could be spread through the air and not just through droplets. But it offered little or no advice about what that would mean to the way people and institutions prevent transmission, critics say.

On the frontlines in Ontario and elsewhere, evidence of airborne spread was often ignored, critics say, which meant health workers didn’t always get the level of protection they should have, among other things.

That could begin to change with a message shift from PHAC.

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Clear statements from Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam and the public health agency in recent days are being welcomed by those who have long called for better action to prevent airborne spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

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Tuesday

NDP accuses UCP of ‘cowardice’ by avoiding debate on COVID-19 leadership

Lisa Johnson

NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir highlighted concerns from communities across the province over Bill 63: the Street Checks and Carding Amendment Act, April 20, 2021.
NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir highlighted concerns from communities across the province over Bill 63: the Street Checks and Carding Amendment Act, April 20, 2021. Photo by NDP Supplied

The Alberta NDP is accusing the government of “cowardice” after UCP MLAs used their majority to avoid debating a motion condemning Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership on COVID-19.

The motion, calling for the formal censure of Kenney’s “failed leadership” before and during the fourth wave of the pandemic, was pushed to the bottom of the legislature’s order paper Monday night, increasing the likelihood it will die on the order paper without a vote when the session ends.

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On Tuesday, NDP MLA Irfan Sabir told reporters in the legislature it was a “shameful display of cowardice” by the government.

“Instead of debating the motion, Jason Kenney and his UCP MLAs ran away,” said Sabir, who added the private member’s motion is about holding Kenney accountable for the crisis created in the health-care system, including 15,000 delayed surgeries.

During question period Tuesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley asked Kenney why members were not allowed to vote on his COVID-19 leadership record.

Kenney countered that the house did vote — to defer the motion.

“The NDP is desperate to continue trying to divide people on the basis of the pandemic rather than unite Albertans in enthusiasm for this economy,” said Kenney, who listed several recent major investments in the province.

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Study shows steroid therapy for severely ill COVID-19 patients has had little to no benefit for Alberta women

Stephanie Babych, Calgary Herald

Teams in a crowded Calgary ICU work on a patient on a ventilator.
Teams in a crowded Calgary ICU work on a patient on a ventilator. Photo by supplied by AHS

A study released from the University of Calgary this week shows that a drug used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients has had little to no benefit for women, according to researchers.

One of the main treatments for severe COVID-19 lung infections, dexamethasone, alters how immune cells work, and research into the way people’s immune system responds to COVID-19 shows that the sex of a patient might impact the effectiveness of certain drugs, including dexamethasone. The study found the drug may only be benefiting male patients.

“We found that the males derived benefit from the steroids and the females, at both the cellular level and at the population level, received limited benefit,” said Dr. Bryan Yipp, associate professor with the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

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“Currently, it’s possible the mainstay therapy for severe COVID-19 that we’re giving everybody is only benefiting half the population. This is a big problem.”

Yipp led the multidisciplinary study alongside Dr. Jeff Biernaskie, a professor of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

When physicians and researchers were scrambling for effective treatment of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic in 2020, steroids were first to be identified as a treatment that helped patients with severe illness. However, steroids were only moderately successful at reducing COVID deaths and it wasn’t clear how they were benefiting patients.

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Health Canada receives submission to approve Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids

The Canadian Press

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This file photo taken on October 14, 2021 shows boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine stored at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California.
This file photo taken on October 14, 2021 shows boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine stored at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON /AFP via Getty Images

OTTAWA — Health Canada says it has received a submission from Moderna to authorize use of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six to 11.

The agency says it will prioritize the review of the submission, while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality.

It says the assessment will consider clinical trial data and emerging research about the impacts of COVID-19 in children to determine if the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in this age group.

Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech’s submission for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, and officials have indicated that a decision could come within the month.

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Pfizer to allow generic versions of its COVID pill in 95 countries

Reuters

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A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021.
A syringe and vial are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration PHOTO taken June 24, 2021. Photo by Dado Ruvic / Illustration /REUTERS / FILES

Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).

The voluntary licensing agreement between Pfizer and the MPP will allow the UN-backed group to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers to make their own versions of PF-07321332. Pfizer will sell the pills it manufactures under the brand name Paxlovid.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it was “disheartened” by the deal which it said was restrictive and excluded countries such as Argentina and China with established capacity for producing generic drugs.

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“The world knows by now that access to COVID-19 medical tools needs to be guaranteed for everyone, everywhere, if we really want to control this pandemic,” said Yuanqiong Hu, MSF Senior Legal Policy Adviser.

Pfizer, which also makes one of the mostly widely used COVID-19 vaccines, has said the pill cut the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in its clinical trial. The drug will be used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.

Pfizer’s version of the drug will be in high demand. The company has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.

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