With COVID-19 news changing every day, we have created this file to keep you up-to-date on all the latest stories and information in and around Edmonton.
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Before calling Health Link use the COVID-19 Assessment & Testing Tool to check symptoms.
Health Link continues to experience high daily call volumes and Alberta Health Services (AHS) is encouraging all Albertans to assess their symptoms or the symptoms of someone they are caring for using the online assessment and testing tool before calling Health Link.
AHS has updated the COVID-19 Assessment and Testing Tool to make it easier for Albertans to assess their symptoms, determine if they should talk to someone about their symptoms, such as their doctor or Health Link staff, access self-care tips to help manage mild COVID-19 symptoms at home and to determine whether or not they are eligible for PCR testing.
The tool has up-to-date guidance for adults, children and youth and is available at ahs.ca/covidscreen.
What’s happening now
Help us tell the COVID-19 story in Edmonton
As Alberta continues to navigate the unpredictable waves of COVID-19, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.
- If you are a healthcare worker, has the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions affected how safe you feel at work or in the community?
- With restrictions lifted how do you feel about heading out in public without a mask?
- Have you made plans to travel now that most restrictions have been lifted?
- Are you experiencing symptoms of long-COVID? How is it affecting your life?
- Are you a parent, how are you coping with fewer restrictions in schools? Do you feel safe allowing your child to go maskless in class?
NHL teams setting their own itineraries to avoid COVID-19 testing requirements at US-Canada border
Some NHL teams are coming up with alternate routes across the US-Canada border this playoff season to avoid mandatory COVID-19 testing for international flights entering the US.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers both avoided testing requirements by taking buses across the border into the US before then catching flights to continue their series in Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, respectively.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told CBC, “I think the biggest thing at this point of the year really is just to do all that we can to avoid any false positives or anything that might come up that would impact our group.”
Keefe said his team was following the lead of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors’ both of which crossed the border into Buffalo by bus before flying to their destinations for away games during their seasons.
The Edmonton Oilers had a multi-leg journey beginning after their game Wednesday night, when the team flew from Edmonton to Vancouver where they stayed overnight in a hotel before bussing across the border to Washington State and then catching a plane to LA. A trip with a total transit time of approximately six hours—not including overnight stays—whereas a direct flight from Edmonton to LA takes approximately three and a half hours.
Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft told reporters players were involved in the travel decisions and enjoyed the travel day, “we thought it was the smartest move for our group,” he said.
Scientists question the point of swabs up everyone’s nose: ‘We might have overdone it’
For many people worldwide, having cotton swabs thrust up their nose or down their throat to test for COVID-19 has become a routine and familiar annoyance.
But two years into the pandemic, health officials in some countries are questioning the merits of repeated, mass testing when it comes to containing infections, particularly considering the billions it costs.
Chief among them is Denmark, which championed one of the world’s most prolific COVID testing regimes early on. Lawmakers are now demanding a close study of whether that policy was effective.
“We’ve tested so much more than other countries that we might have overdone it,” said Jens Lundgren, professor of infectious diseases at Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, and member of the government’s COVID advisory group.
Japan avoided large-scale testing and yet weathered the pandemic relatively well, based on infection and death rates. Other countries, including Britain and Spain, have scaled back testing.
Yet repeated testing of entire cities remains a central part of the “zero-COVID” plan in China, where leaders have threatened action against critics.
“We need to learn, and no one did it perfectly,” said Dale Fisher, chair of the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.
Canadians are clinging to cash as a savings strategy during the pandemic: RBC
Stephanie Hughes, Financial Post
The pandemic has not spelled the death of cash as many suspected it would. In fact, demand for hard currencies as a savings vehicle has gone in the opposite direction as demand reached its highest level in 60 years.
Cash withdrawals surged at the onset of the pandemic as circulating notes increased twice as much as expected in 2020 and remained elevated in the following year, according to an April 14 Bank of Canada report.
The Royal Bank of Canada noted in a May 9 report that cash was used more as a savings vehicle rather than for transactions. The Bank of Canada’s data tracking transactions found that the volume of cash purchases dropped precipitously from 54 per cent in 2009 to only 22 per cent in 2020.
RBC analyst Josh Nye has a few reasons why Canadians are clutching onto cash: for one, there is an overall correlation with crises and the need to have hard cash on hand. Nye wrote that the demand for cash was pronounced over 20 years ago amid fears that the Y2K programming bug would wipe out the worldwide network of ATMs and digital payment systems. This “dash for cash” also resurfaced during the global financial crisis in 2008 when consumers were unsure of whether banks could stay afloat.
Alberta sees ‘massive increase’ in deaths among youth during pandemic: study
Jason Herring, Calgary Herald
Alberta logged a “massive increase” in deaths from causes other than COVID-19 among youth during the pandemic, a recent study has found.
The conference abstract found excess mortality in Alberta from January 2020 to May 2021, meaning the number of deaths that took place in the province during that time was higher than would be expected when compared to death rates from 2015 to 2019.
During that time frame, there was an average of 248 monthly excess deaths in Alberta. That ranged from as few as 49 excess deaths in January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, to as many as 781 excess deaths in December 2020.
Over those 17 months, 2,226 Albertans died of COVID-19, representing about 54 per cent of the 4,214 excess deaths in the province over that time period. And, younger Albertans made up a large share of those deaths.
“Increase in all-cause excess deaths was proportionately higher, and in significantly greater numbers, in the younger age groups,” the study read.
“Although older adults are more likely to die of COVID-19, there was massive increase in non-COVID-19 related mortality among the youth. These should be factored in public policy decisions on epidemic/pandemic management.”
Alberta’s hip and knee replacement waits improving, but still not at pre-pandemic capacity: report
Madeline Smith, Edmonton Journal
Less than half of Alberta’s knee replacements in 2021 were done within the recommended six-month time frame, according to new national health data.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released its annual study Tuesday comparing wait times across the country for common procedures like joint replacements, cataract surgery and radiation therapy. The data covers April to September of last year.
Wait times for hip and knee replacements in Alberta improved compared to 2020. But CIHI reports that only 59 per cent of the province’s hip replacements for 2021 were done within six months of a surgeon deeming it a requirement. Just 49 per cent of knee replacements hit the same benchmark.
Knee replacements generally take longer to address — the province with the longest wait times last year was Saskatchewan, where just 30 per cent of those surgeries were done within six months. Ontario completed 71 per cent of the procedures in the same timeframe.
B.C rescue groups get surge in unwanted dogs as people return to office post-COVID
With relaxations to COVID-19 rules forcing people back to their offices to work, animal rescue groups throughout B.C. are reporting a sharp uptick in the number of people surrendering dogs to them. The only exception is the B.C. SPCA.
Jesse Adams, founder of the Victoria-based Raincoast Dog Rescue Society which places homeless dogs in foster care all over the province, says that since the beginning of this year he has received three to five calls a day from people wishing to give up their dogs. Last year, he would get three to five calls a week.
He blames the increase on people failing to take the necessary time and care required to look after a dog properly when they were at home.
“So many people got dogs without knowing what they were getting into,” Adams said. “They didn’t train them or look after them properly and now that they’re going back to work, they don’t have time for them anymore.”
The problem is confined mainly to dogs, since they require more care and attention than cats, he says.
Pamela Saddler, who runs Broken Promises Rescue, also in Victoria, agrees. Until two months ago, she might get three to five emails a week from people wishing to surrender their animals. Now, like Adams, she fields three to seven a day, and most of them are from people wanting to unload dogs.
“When the pandemic hit, people were alone and they missed their friends, so they decided to get a dog,” Saddler said. “But they didn’t prepare for it properly. They didn’t realize how much work it was. So now they want to get rid of them.”
Crown seeks direct indictment for 1 of 4 accused in Coutts border blockade
The Canadian Press
The Crown is attempting to streamline the cases of four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade protest in southern Alberta.
Prosecutor Steven Johnston told court in Lethbridge, Alta., on Monday that the Crown is preparing a direct indictment for Christopher Lysak, 48, who has already waived his right to a preliminary hearing so his trial can go ahead.
He requested a trial by judge and jury.
An accused is normally entitled to a preliminary hearing, but the Crown can override that by filing a direct indictment, which has to be approved by the attorney general.
“The Crown has prepared a direct indictment in this matter and it also joins three other gentlemen with the same person,” Johnston told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dallas Miller.
The Crown has already indicated it intends to try the four together.
Lysak, who is also charged with uttering threats, possession of a weapon and mischief to property over $5000, was denied bail March 2.
COVID-19 vaccine makers shift focus to boosters
COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster shot market after delivering as many doses as fast as they could over the last 18 months.
Executives at the biggest COVID vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID have already done so – more than 5 billion people worldwide.
In the coming year, most COVID vaccinations will be booster shots, or first inoculations for children, which are still gaining regulatory approvals around the world, they said.
Pfizer, which makes its shot with Germany’s BioNTech SE, and Moderna still see a major role for themselves in the vaccine market even as overall demand declines.
Upstart U.S. vaccine maker Novavax Inc and Germany’s CureVac NV, which is working with GlaxoSmithKline, are developing vaccines they hope to target the booster market.
The roles of AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, whose shots have been less popular or effective, are expected to decline in this market.
“It becomes a very competitive game with companies battling it out with pricing and for market share, even for vaccines that are considered to be the best, like Pfizer and Moderna,” said Hartaj Singh, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co.
‘Like a prison’: Shanghai, Beijing ratchet up COVID restrictions
China’s two largest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on Monday, fueling public angst and even questions about the legality of its uncompromising battle with the virus that has battered the world’s second largest economy.
In Shanghai, enduring its sixth week of lockdown, authorities have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by late May, according to people familiar with the matter.
While there has been no official announcement, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts received notices at the weekend saying they wouldn’t be allowed to leave their homes or receive deliveries, prompting a scramble to stock up on food.
Some of these people had previously been allowed to move around their residential compounds.
“Go home!” a woman shouted through a megaphone at residents mingling below an apartment block impacted by the new restrictions on Sunday, a scene that might baffle other areas of the world that have opted to open up and live with the virus.
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Letter of the day
More police needed downtown, on LRT
Over the past month, it has been encouraging to see local media shine a spotlight on the serious crime and disorder problem in the core and on transit. If you spend any significant amount of time downtown or on transit, an uncomfortable or even threatening encounter with someone who is clearly mentally ill or high is likely. Conversely, EPS officers walking the beat or riding the LRT are a rare sight.
This needs to change; police officers can’t effectively spot or prevent criminal behaviour simply driving by, and peace officers and transit security are not a sufficient deterrent. Our downtown would be much safer with a strong EPS presence to deter crime and enforce the law.
The lack of enforcement is another concern. Recently, Edmonton city council requested the federal government decriminalize dangerous drugs like fentanyl and meth in Edmonton as a harm-reduction measure. Given that there appears to be no enforcement for open drug use and dealing downtown and on the LRT, we already have de facto decriminalization. That is a problem, not the solution. Drug treatment courts are a proven model to reduce recidivism, help people overcome addiction, and promote a safer community. No one wins when we enable drug addiction and criminality.
T.G. Sangster, Edmonton
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: [email protected]
‘Really happy to be here’: NAIT holds in-person convocations for first time since 2019
Matthew Black, Edmonton Journal
Graduating NAIT student Braydon Tol feels lucky to be graduating this year, instead of last year.
Tol, 26, walked across the Jubilee Auditorium stage Saturday as the school’s convocation ceremonies returned in-person after a virtual event last year.
“I wouldn’t have gone,” he said of a virtual convocation.
“I’d have popped some popcorn and put on a movie or something instead.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 graduation ceremonies to be postponed. Last year’s convocation was held virtually, and included the class of 2020, amid the pandemic’s third wave.
Tol says his two-year program was pushed online after a month due to COVID-19 and Saturday’s ceremony was a chance to reconnect with classmates.
“It’s kind of interesting seeing people in person for the first time.”
The digital media and IT student was among 6,500 new NAIT graduates celebrated in five ceremonies this weekend.
Canada’s jobless rate drops to a new low, ensuring interest-rate hikes
Kevin Carmichael, Financial Post
Canada’s jobless rate dropped to 5.2 per cent, a modern low, all but guaranteeing another outsized increase in interest rates when policymakers at the Bank of Canada end their next round of deliberations on June 1.
Statistics Canada’s latest monthly survey of the labour market didn’t turn up stunning results like it has over the previous few months. Employment was little changed in April, as absences from illness and disability appeared to offset employers’ desire to hire to keep up with strong demand for goods and services.
It’s possible the country’s labour market is hitting its limits after adding more than 400,000 workers over February and March, an unsustainable pace. In April, Statistics Canada’s household survey implied that employers added 15,300 positions, a statistically insignificant change because it was smaller than the poll’s margin of error. The unemployment rate for workers aged 25 to 54 dropped to 4.3 per cent, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1976.
“Slower momentum was inevitable,” said Brandon Bernard, an economist at Indeed, the hiring website.
The Bank of Canada in April concluded that demand had overshot supply, contributing to the fastest inflation in more than three decades. The central bank raised its benchmark rate a half-point in April, and governor Tiff Macklem last month hinted he and his deputies likely will do so again in June. The policy rate is currently one per cent, compared with 0.25 per cent at the start of the year.