As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Alberta is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities.
In Alberta, health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.
Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals, according to the draft implementation plan detailed in the Alberta Health Services (AHS) document.
There has been increasing pressure on hospitals in the province, which has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases each day for nearly two weeks. On Wednesday, officials reported 1,685 new cases, along with 10 new deaths. There were 504 people in hospital, 97 of whom were in intensive care.
Also on Wednesday, CBC News reported that Alberta has informally asked the Trudeau government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals, according to a federal source.
The source said the province would likely receive at least four field hospitals — two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government.
Alberta introduced new COVID-19 measures on Nov. 24. They included banning all social gatherings in people’s homes, making masks mandatory for all indoor workplaces in the province’s two largest cities and moving all students in grades 7 to 12 to online learning starting Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, British Columbia officials have announced new restrictions that prohibit all indoor adult team sports and return children’s programs to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.
The move came as the province reported 834 new cases and 12 more deaths on Wednesday, with COVID-19 hospitalizations rising to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.
“We continue to see that indoor group activities — whether for fitness or team sports — are much higher risk right now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a written statement.
In her Wednesday press briefing, Henry again urged everyone to not travel unless absolutely essential, citing the example of an old timers’ hockey team from the Interior that recently travelled to Alberta for games.
Some team members came back with COVID-19 and exposed their family members and co-workers, which led to “several dozen” new cases in the community, Henry said.
WATCH | B.C.’s top doctor asks residents to avoid non-essential travel:
Separately, news that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended length of quarantine after exposure has Canadian health experts weighing whether a similar approach could be useful here.
The CDC is shortening its quarantine recommendation from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result. Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday.
In an interview with CBC News, infection control and disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam said he believes that duration could be lowered given what has been learned about the disease since the pandemic began.
WATCH | Why one expert says Canada should look at shortening quarantine period:
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 389,776 — two additional cases are pending confirmation — with 67,565 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,325.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
In the evening, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack confirmed two cases were found in the community in the province’s northern health zone — the first time COVID-19 has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada. Those cases were not part of Wednesday’s numbers reported by public health.
New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case.
Prince Edward Island, which did not provide an update on Wednesday, is adding 55 new front-line positions to schools across the province to support students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Ontario, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has “plateaued at a very high level” as 1,723 new COVID-19 cases and 35 more deaths were reported on Wednesday. The new cases drove the seven-day average to a record high of 1,720.
Elliott said the results of lockdowns in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region, which began Nov. 23, won’t be seen until next week.
Quebec is tightening the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season, including a maximum capacity of customers based on floor space available to customers.
Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said that many shopping venues already have such measures in place but those that don’t risk being fined up to $6,000 or closed altogether.
Quebec reported a record 1,514 cases on Wednesday, along with 43 deaths. Premier François Legault has said the province’s plan to allow people to gather over the Christmas period may be scrapped, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
In Manitoba, students in grades 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday.
The announcement came as the province hit a record high of 351 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 51 in intensive care. Officials also reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths.
Saskatchewan reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.
WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:
In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all in Arviat.
Yukon reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.
The Northwest Territories did not report any new cases on Wednesday. There have been 15 confirmed cases in the territory since the start of the pandemic, none of which are considered still active.
What’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET
As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 64.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 1.5 million.
In the Americas, U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approached, taxing an overwhelmed health-care system with U.S. political leadership in disarray.
The toll from COVID-19 reached its second-highest level ever on Wednesday with 2,811 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally of official data, one short of the record from April 15. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with record hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.
The sobering data came as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday warned that December, January and February were likely to be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the United States could start losing around 3,000 people — roughly the number that died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — each day over the next two months.
In Europe, coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Thursday, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.
Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.
The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.
In the Asia-Pacific region, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.
The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.
Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
Over 2.1 million confirmed <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a> cases on the African continent – with more than 1.8 million recoveries & 52,000 deaths cumulatively.<br><br>View country figures & more with the WHO African Region COVID-19 Dashboard: <a href=”https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd”>https://t.co/FKav40Cbdd</a> <a href=”https://t.co/LVRnRnypmn”>pic.twitter.com/LVRnRnypmn</a>
Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”
The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.
Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.