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Covid no longer means special measures. Province brings treatment in line with flu and other viruses

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Adapting COVID-19 measures to support Albertans

With strong vaccine uptake, Alberta will gradually bring COVID-19 measures in line with other respiratory viruses to ensure health system capacity for the fall.

Nearly 75.6 per cent of eligible Albertans have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 64.3 per cent are fully immunized. Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection. While COVID-19 cases may rise in the coming months, a surge of hospitalizations and other severe outcomes is much less likely thanks to vaccines.

In the coming weeks, Alberta’s health system will take steps to make sure that it is ready to support all patients, including those with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, like influenza, which health officials expect to increase this year.

As a part of this, Alberta will bring COVID-19 quarantine, isolation, and other measures in line with those used for influenza and other viruses.

Testing for severe cases, provincial monitoring, outbreak management in high-risk settings, and other key measures will remain in place. Health officials will be able to adapt as needed if hospitalizations due to COVID-19 spike in the future.

“Our health system will keep protecting Albertans who are exposed to COVID-19 while also ensuring that we are able to handle all other viruses and illnesses. As the majority of us are vaccinated against COVID-19, we are adapting to make sure that the health system is ready to care for all Albertans, whatever their illness. Please get vaccinated to help protect your health and the health of those around you.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“Our top priority is supporting the health of Albertans. COVID-19 is still with us but we are now in a place where we need to manage it through vaccinations and the proven public health measures used for other communicable viruses. We expect to see increased influenza and other viruses this year, and these changes will make sure the health system is ready and able to support all Albertans in the months ahead.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

A two-phase transition will be used to safely monitor the impact of the initial changes, adapt as needed over the next few weeks, and give more time to vaccinate Albertans.

The following changes will be effective July 29:

  • Quarantine for close contacts will shift from mandatory to recommended. Isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and for confirmed positive cases is still required.
    • Unimmunized individuals who know they have been exposed to COVID-19 should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if they become symptomatic.
    • Anyone who is not fully immunized should avoid high-risk locations such as continuing care facilities and crowded indoor spaces if they have been in contact with a case in the past 14 days.
  • All positive cases will continue to be notified. Contact tracers will no longer notify close contacts of exposure. Individuals are asked to inform their close contacts when informed of their positive result.
  • Contact tracers will continue to investigate cases that are in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
  • Outbreak management and identification will focus on high-risk locations, including continuing and acute care facilities and high-risk workplaces. Community outbreaks with a surge in cases leading to severe outcomes will also be addressed as needed.
  • Asymptomatic testing is no longer recommended. Testing will continue to be available for individuals who are symptomatic.
  • Mandatory masking remains in acute and continuing care facilities, publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-share.

The following changes will take effect on Aug. 16:

  • Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be required.
  • Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be required, but strongly recommended.
    • Individuals with symptoms of any respiratory infection should still remain at home until symptoms have resolved.
    • Staying home when sick remains an important way to care for those around us by not passing on any infection.
  • Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
  • Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when it is needed to help direct patient care decisions.
    • This testing will be available through assessment centres until Aug. 31 and, after that, will be in primary care settings including physicians’ offices. For those with severe illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available in acute care and hospital settings.
    • COVID-19 testing will also be offered as needed in high-risk outbreaks such as in continuing care facilities.
  • Public health will focus on investigating severe cases that require hospitalization and any deaths due to COVID-19.
  • Outbreak management and preventative measures will continue focusing on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
    • Community outbreaks will continue to be addressed as needed.
    • Daycares and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if outbreaks are identified.

Health officials will continue to closely monitor hospitalizations and other severe outcomes due to COVID-19 in the province. Additional measures will be taken, as needed, in specific facilities or areas where an outbreak is occurring leading to severe outcomes.

Universal masking will not be required in schools once students return. However, it is recommended as a temporary outbreak intervention in response to respiratory outbreaks. A guidance document to support return to schools is being finalized and will be released in mid-August.

A wastewater baseline testing program will also be launched to provide area trend information and monitor variants of concern. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Canadian men to face Ireland in Edmonton rugby sevens quarterfinal

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EDMONTON — Canada will play Ireland in the Cup quarterfinals Sunday after winning two of three on Day 1 of the HSBC Canada Sevens.

The Canadian men, who finished sixth last week at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series event in Vancouver, opened play Saturday by beating Hong Kong 21-12 and Mexico 47-0 before running into a South Africa buzzsaw in the closing match of the day at Commonwealth Stadium. The Blitzboks, who downed Kenya to win the Vancouver tournament, ran in seven converted tries in a 49-0 win.

South Africa is now 9-0-0 in the two Canadian events, which stand as a truncated 2021 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series due to the pandemic. The 2022 campaign kicks off in late November in Dubai.

Earlier, Canada’s Josiah Morra, Phil Berna and Brennig Prevost scored tries against Hong Kong with Prevost adding three conversions.

Thomas Isherwood, in his World Series debut, had three tries in the lopsided win over Mexico while Anton Ngongo and Ciaran Breen had two apiece.

Pool A winner South Africa will play Hong Kong in the quarterfinals while the U.S. takes on Britain and Germany meets Vancouver runner-up Kenya.

Germany, an invited team, scored the upset of the day by beating Vancouver bronze medallist Britain 19-10 to reach a Series Cup quarterfinal for the first time.

The U.S. went unbeaten Saturday, overcoming Kenya, Spain and Chile to win Pool B. Ireland secured top spot in pool C with two wins and a draw.

Canada is fielding a new-look team at the Vancouver and Edmonton events.

Co-captains Nate Hirayama and Harry Jones along with Connor Braid, Justin Douglas and Conor Trainor have retired in the wake of the recent Tokyo Games, where the men finished eighth in their Olympic debut. 

Other players are taking time off in advance of the 2022 season. 

Berna, Jake Thiel and Andrew Coe are the only Olympians on the current Canadian squad although Morra has also played in the World Series. Thiel is serving as the team’s vice-captain. 

Due to the pandemic, the World Series ground to a halt after the Canadian men finished third in Vancouver in March 2020. The men got in six of 10 planned tournaments and the women five of eight before the schedule stalled. A women’s event in Langford, B.C., scheduled for early May last year was one of the tournaments cancelled. 

Only seven of the men’s core teams are taking part in the Canadian events with New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Argentina, Japan, France and Samoa among those missing due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. 

Like Vancouver, Edmonton has a four-team women’s competition that features Canada, Britain, Mexico and the U.S. 

Canada will face the U.S. in Sunday’s semifinal after drawing 26-26 in the opening match of the day. The Canadian women also defeated Mexico 40-12 and played to a 7-7 tie with Britain, the winners in Vancouver who will face Mexico in the other semifinal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Judge says unvaccinated prospective jurors in sex assault trial will be excused

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CALGARY — An Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench justice has ruled that prospective jurors in an upcoming sexual assault trial in Calgary will be excused if they’re not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Justice N.E. Devlin wrote in his ruling Thursday that allowing unvaccinated people to serve on the jury could unfairly compromise the health of other jurors, court staff and anyone else connected with the trial.

Further, Devlin said an unvaccinated juror could be a distraction to other jurors by causing them to fear for their health, and he said a juror who developed symptoms could scupper the entire proceedings.

A recent decision in Ontario saw an Ottawa judge rule that all jurors participating in a murder trial would need to be fully inoculated with two doses of vaccine.

But a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled earlier this month that a juror did not need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in a Montreal fraud trial, citing privacy concerns and jury representativeness in his ruling.

Devlin, however, wrote that during juror selection for the sexual assault trial in Calgary this week, the “handful” of people who were not fully vaccinated “spanned the age, gender, and ethnic spectrum” and that excusing them would not reduce the jury’s representativeness.

“Factually, I am satisfied that vaccination is a safe and highly effective means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the development of COVID 19 infections, and severe illness in those who do become infected,” Devlin wrote.

“The public and judicial resources dedicated to a jury trial are both scarce and precious, especially right now. Needlessly increasing the risk that a trial run under these circumstances is aborted due to a COVID 19 infection would bring the administration of justice into disrepute in the eyes of the public.” 

A decision from B.C. Supreme Court last month did not allow the Crown to ask jurors questions about their vaccination status, citing privacy.

Devlin wrote that “judicial discretion to safeguard the proper administration of justice is paramount over any provincial privacy legislation.”

He noted that when he asked whether unvaccinated jurors should be excused from serving, neither the Crown nor the accused took a position.

In the Quebec case, Justice Mario Longpre noted that provincial jury law only allows those with mental incapacity or impairment to be exempted.

Longpre wrote that Quebec law, unlike Ontario’s, does not permit jurors to be disqualified by reason of physical incapacity “even if it were to be concluded that the fact of not being adequately vaccinated constitutes such an incapacity.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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