COVID-19 Northern Alberta

COVID-19 killed more Albertans than flu did in past 10 years

Gerd Altmann photo

By Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Fort McMurray Today

More Albertans have died from COVID-19 since March than have died from the flu in the past 10 years.

During her Wednesday media conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 16 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing COVID-19’s death toll to 760. To compare, CTV reports that influenza has killed 562 Albertans since 2010. Hinshaw called these numbers “sobering.”

“This virus does not discriminate and it can have long-term and potentially devastating impacts on all of our health,” she said.

Hinshaw also said 32,000 COVID-19 cases have been found in people between the ages of 20 and 39. Of those, 380 people have been hospitalized and eight have died.

Alberta’s health care system is expanding available acute care and ICU beds in hospitals. Some beds will be new and others will be made available as patients are moved into continuing care beds in their community.

Hinshaw also assured Albertans the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe. On Tuesday evening, the first group of health care workers in Edmonton and Calgary began getting vaccinated against the virus.

The vaccines will be shipped to health care workers in other parts of Alberta next week. By the end of December, 29,000 health care workers will have received the vaccine. Priority is going to doctors and nurses in intensive care units, respiratory therapists and eligible long-term care workers. 

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections,” said Hinshaw. “We are taking every precaution and acting on clear evidence showing this vaccine is safe for Albertans and it works.”

Locally, Alberta Health has declared COVID-19 outbreaks at Suncor’s Fort Hills site and Syncrude’s Aurora site.

At Fort Hills, a Suncor spokesperson said there have been 32 COVID-19 cases reported at the site. Of those, 14 remain active. Three active cases are employees and 11 are contractors.

None of the active cases are from out of province, but a Suncor spokesperson did not know if any of the 18 recovered cases were from Alberta or elsewhere.

At Aurora, Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson did not know the specific details of the outbreak at the site.

But across Syncrude’s operations, he said there have been 210 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. There are 70 active cases and 140 recoveries. The cases have been found in employees and contractors.

Health authorities have determined the virus spread among Syncrude workers in the community and not at the workplace.

-with reporting by Vincent McDermott 

COVID-19 numbers for Alberta as of December 16:  

  • 84,597 people have been infected with the virus. The earliest known COVID-19 case in Alberta was detected in a blood sample collected on Feb. 24. The first case was announced on March 5.
  • Of those cases, 63,668 people have recovered, or 75.3 per cent of all cases.
  • 1,270 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the active total to 20,169.
  • 749 people are in hospital, with 139 people in intensive care units. Privacy regulations means Alberta Health cannot release how many COVID-19 patients are being treated in local hospitals or health centres.     
  • 16 new deaths from COVID-19, totalling 760. The majority of people who have died from COVID-19 also had high blood pressure, dementia, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • 17,661 people were tested for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
  • To date, 2,562,225 tests for COVID-19 have been carried out on 1,587,574 people.

COVID-19 numbers in Fort McMurray:   

  • 17 new active cases in past 24 hours, bringing known active total to 219. The first case was reported in the city on March 19.
  • 22 new recoveries in past 24 hours, bringing the total to 841.
  • Masks in public spaces become mandatory on Oct. 26, after 51 active COVID-19 cases were reported in the Wood Buffalo region. The order will be assessed every 30 days and remain if there are more than 50 active cases.
  • Privacy regulations means Alberta Health cannot release how many COVID-19 patients are being treated in local hospitals or health centres.
  • Two people have died from COVID-19 in Fort McMurray, with the last death reported on Nov. 15. The first death was reported Sept. 8.

COVID-19 in rural areas:   

  • No new COVID-19 cases in rural communities reported in the past 24 hours, the active total is now six cases.
  • There have been two new recoveries in Wood Buffalo’s rural areas in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 109.
  • AHS has not confirmed which rural communities have active COVID-19 cases, only community leaders have.
  • Masks in public spaces become mandatory on Oct. 26, after 51 active COVID-19 cases were reported in the Wood Buffalo region. The order will be assessed every 30 days and remain if there are more than 50 active cases.
  • Privacy regulations means Alberta Health cannot release how many COVID-19 patients are being treated in local hospitals or health centres.
  • There have been no deaths from COVID-19 in the RMWB’s rural areas.

COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s schools:   

  • Information on school outbreaks can be found online from Alberta Health Services. No school in Wood Buffalo has been ordered to close.
  • Father Patrick Mercredi Catholic High School has been added to the provincial ‘watch’ list after five positive cases were reported in relation to the school.
  • On Nov. 14, an outbreak was declared at Holy Trinity High School.
  • On Nov. 25, an outbreak was declared at the Fort McMurray Islamic School.
  • On Dec. 9, an outbreak was declared at Ecole Dickinsfield School.
  • An outbreak is declared when five people linked to a public site, such as a workplace, test positive for COVID-19. At continuing care centres and schools, the number is two.
  • An outbreak is over when no new COVID-19 cases have been reported after 30 days.

COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s workplaces:   

  • Information on workplace outbreaks can be found online from Alberta Health Services.
  • Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site declared an outbreak on Sept. 3 when 11 workers tested positive for the virus.
  • Suncor’s base plant declared an outbreak on Sept. 4 after five workers tested positive for the virus.
  • Canadian Natural’s Horizon site has declared an outbreak.
  • Canadian Natural’s Albian site has declare an outbreak.
  • Suncor’s MacKay River site has declared an outbreak.
  • Suncor’s Firebag site has declared an outbreak.
  • Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake site has declared an outbreak.
  • Suncor’s Fort Hills site has declared an outbreak
  • Syncrude’s Aurora site has declared an outbreak
  • An outbreak is declared when five people linked to a public site, such as a workplace, test positive for COVID-19. At continuing care centres and schools, the number is two.
  • An outbreak is over when no new COVID-19 cases have been reported after 30 days
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