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Alberta

COVID-19 Friday update, 4 new deaths, 58 new case, outdoor gatherings upped to 50 people, Dr. Hinshaw cutbacks & more

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In the government’s COVID-19 Friday May 15th update, chief medical officer of health for Alberta Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported four more deaths, 58 new case, changes to the outdoor gathering rules now up to 50 people and she plans to cutback her attendance at the daily reports, among other information.

There have been four new deaths and 58 new case since Thursday’s report. Alberta has now had a total of 125 deaths and 6,515 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began here in early March. The four latest victims were residents of continuing care facilities in the Calgary Zone. There are currently 1,073 active cases across the province, 62 of them in hospital, and nine of those in intensive care units.

Dr. Hinshaw had a message for Albertans as they head into a long weekend, “Even while we begin to enter Stage 1 of our relaunch, let us remember this virus still poses a risk, particularly to the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions,” Adding, “We need to remember that no Albertan is expendable.”

“The better that we can collectively hold our infection rate stable and low as we move into this Stage 1, the quicker we can move into Stage 2,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds over City of Edmonton as part of cross country tour to thank essential workers, Hugo Sanchez Photography

 

Updated guidelines for outdoor gatherings to 50 people

“As we start to ease certain restrictions, it is increasingly important that we all continue to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Hinshaw said As the weather continues to warm up and just in time for the long weekend, the limit for outdoor gatherings has increased from 15 to 50 effective Friday May 15.

  • Albertans are still asked to keep a two-metre distance from others and practising proper hygiene.
  • If you’re holding a gathering in your backyard, you’re encouraged to sanitize doorknobs and washrooms if guests are going inside and have hand sanitizer available. Indoor gatherings are still limited to a maximum of 15 people or fewer.
  • Physical distance of two metres must remain between people from different households, and attendees must follow proper hygiene practices.
  • Attendees should not share food or drinks.
  • Indoor gatherings are still limited to fewer than 15 people, except when otherwise identified in public health orders such as workplaces, places of worship, and in restaurants.
  • Download the ABTraceTogether app and turning it on when leaving home.

Staying safe over the long weekend

Provincial parks are open, but some facilities remain closed, campfires are not permitted, and camping does not open until June 1.

Albertans should follow public health guidelines and take extra steps to keep members of their household safe when heading to provincial parks, cottages, and onto public land this weekend.

This includes:

  • Respecting the health and safety of small communities along the way by planning their trip without stops for gas or food, where possible. Continuing to practise physical distancing and proper handwashing.
  • Respecting municipal restrictions for playgrounds. If playgrounds can be accessed, encourage children to play with children in the same household or their cohort family, sanitize hands before or after playing on a play structure, and remember to wash everyone’s hands thoroughly as soon as possible.
  • Download the ABTraceTogether app and turning it on when leaving home.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided update on Friday, May 15th. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Dr. Hinshaw to reduce her attendance at media updates

In a surprise announcement, the stoic, confident, strong face and voice Albertans have grown accustomed at the daily Covid-19 update, Dr. Hinshaw announced she is cutting back her attendance after this long weekend.

Explaining, “The pandemic is far from over,” Hinshaw said. “However, in consideration of the reduced number of cases overall and the fact that we have begun to resume operations under Stage 1 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy, I made the recommendation to scale down the frequency of my availabilities.”

“I know many have become accustomed to these daily updates. I ensure you I remain committed to transparency and while the number of availabilities may decrease, I will continue to provide the information you rely on.” She said

Hinshaw new schedule for attending news conferences will be every other weekday, starting Tuesday, but of course would revert back if Covid-19 numbers or policies changed significantly. Updates on numbers will be provided daily in online reports throughout the long weekend.

Coviod-19 by the numbers. Alberta cases as of Friday:

  • 58 new cases reported, bringing the number of total active cases to 1,073.
  • There are 103 active cases and 576 recovered cases at continuing care facilities; 91 residents at these facilities have died.
  • The total deaths are 125. With 89 in the Calgary zone, 15 in the North zone, 12 in the Edmonton zone, eight in the South zone and one in the Central zone.
  • Calgary zone: 870 active, 3,505
  • South zone: 106 active, 1,069
  • Edmonton zone: 61 active, 444 recovered.
  • North zone: 18 active, 195
  • Central zone: 13 active, 85 recovered.
  • Five active cases and 19 recovered cases in zones yet to be confirmed
  • There have been 189,225 people tested for COVID-19, with a total of 204,723 tests performed by the lab. In the last 24 hours, 4,505 tests have been completed.

Interactive aggregate data on COVID-19 cases in Alberta
https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm
Daily updates from Alberta Government https://www.alberta.ca/news.aspx

Alberta Connects hours of operation

  • The Alberta Connects Contact Centre (310-4455) has resumed normal operating hours and is available to Albertans Monday to Friday, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The centre will not be operating over the long weekend. Service will resume on May 19.

Stage one of relaunch has begun

  • Stage one of Alberta’s relaunch strategy puts safety first as restrictions are gradually lifted and Albertans begin to get back to work. Calgary and Brooks will see a more gradual reopening, taking into account higher case numbers in these two cities, to balance public safety with the need to get businesses open and services restored for Albertans.

    Businesses and locations that are reopening can access a template on at BizConnect

Supporting Alberta businesses through relaunch

  • The Alberta Biz Connect web page provides business owners with information on health and safety guidelines for general workplaces and sector-specific guidelines for those able to open in stage one of relaunch to ensure businesses can reopen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Businesses and locations that are reopening can access a template on at BizConnect to publicly post how employees and patrons are protected from the spread of infection. The timeline to complete this template has been extended from seven to 14 days.
  • This template is voluntary for locations that have remained open.

Limited road tests to begin

  • Alberta Transportation is developing a plan to safely resume all road tests while preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • As part of the Government of Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a limited number of road tests are available.
  • Information on the limited road tests can be found on the COVID-19 Commercial Carrier Information

Access to justice

  • The Court of Queen’s Bench will extend its limitation of hearings to emergency and urgent matters only to June 26, and the adjournment of criminal jury trials and jury selections to September 8.
  • More information can be found online.

Albertans are encouraged to download and use ABTraceTogether app

  • The ABTraceTogether app will enhance current manual contact tracing and capacity, and facilitate early detection to help reduce the spread of the virus and better protect Albertans. It means Albertans will be contacted more quickly if they are at risk.
  • Use of the app is voluntary; users must opt in.
  • The app does not track the user’s physical location and does not use GPS. Protecting privacy is paramount; all contact data is only on the user’s phone and is deleted after 21 days.
  • Secure contact tracing is a cornerstone of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy. More information on the app, including links to download it, can be found online.
  • The app currently has 171,884 registered users.

Mental health supports

  • Confidential supports are available to help with mental health concerns. The Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 and the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2322 are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Canadian Mental Health Association has a variety of resources available at mentalhealthweek.ca
  • The Kids Help Phone is available 24-7 and offers professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people by texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • Online resources provide advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

Family violence prevention

  • A 24-hour Family Violence Information Line is available at 310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages.
  • Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at 1-866-403-8000, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • The requirement for in-person Emergency Protection Order (EPO) applications for those fleeing family violence has been temporarily suspended; provincial courts can now hear applications for EPOs via telecommunication.
  • Information sheets and other resources on family violence prevention are available at alberta.ca/COVID19.

Quick facts

  • The most important measure Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene. This includes cleaning your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, and disposing of tissues appropriately.
  • Any individual exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath, is eligible for testing. People can access testing by completing the COVID-19 self-assessment online. A separate self-assessment tool is available for health-care and shelter workers, enforcement and first responders. After completing the form, there is no need to call 811.
  • Albertans are asked to share acts of kindness they have experienced in their community during this difficult time by using the hashtag #AlbertaCares.

Alberta

New year, old issues: Enbridge, state of Michigan renew Line 5 hostilities in court

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WASHINGTON — Enbridge Inc. and the state of Michigan are renewing their legal hostilities over the future of the controversial Line 5 pipeline — and their latest court battle looks an awful lot like the last one.

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were dealt a setback last November when District Court Judge Janet Neff granted Enbridge’s request that the case be removed to federal court, a decision that prompted Michigan to abandon that particular challenge.

Instead, the state is focusing its efforts on a separate but similar circuit court action filed in 2019 that spent last year in a state of suspended animation, and which Enbridge is once again arguing should be heard by a federal judge because it comprises an important foreign policy question.

Too late, Nessel argues in her latest tract of court documents, filed Friday with the very same judge who heard the original arguments.

“The present action was pending in state court for nearly two and a half years before (Enbridge) removed it to this court,” she says. Federal law makes it clear that cases can only be removed to federal jurisdiction within 30 days of a complaint being filed, the documents note.

“It is more than two years too late, and federal courts do not condone this type of gamesmanship and abuse of the removal statutes.”

By Nessel’s logic, Enbridge knew perfectly well it could have petitioned to have the case removed when it was originally filed but opted not to do so until now — a “remarkably dilatory” act based on an argument that “defies the facts, the law and basic common sense.”

Enbridge has yet to file a response to Nessel’s latest brief. However, the company has repeatedly indicated it has no plans to shut down Line 5 voluntarily and will continue to fight in court to keep it running.

The overarching question — whether a dispute over the lawful operation of an international, cross-border pipeline should be heard by a federal judge or at the state court level — is a carbon copy of the battle the two sides fought in front of Neff for the better part of last year.

The clash first erupted in November 2020, when Whitmer abruptly revoked the 68-year-old easement that had long allowed Calgary-based Enbridge to operate the line. She cited the risk of environmental catastrophe in the Straits of Mackinac, where Line 5 crosses the Great Lakes.

The pipeline ferries upwards of 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids across the Canada-U.S. border and the Great Lakes by way of a twin line that runs along the lake bed beneath the straits linking Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Proponents call Line 5 a vital and indispensable source of energy, especially propane, for several Midwestern states, including Michigan and Ohio. It is also a key source of feedstock for critical refineries on the northern side of the border, including those that supply jet fuel to some of Canada’s busiest airports.

Enbridge and its allies, including the federal Liberal government, insist that the pipeline is too vital an energy artery to both countries for it to be suddenly shut down, and the question of its continued safe operation is one to be settled between Ottawa and the White House.

Central to that argument is a 1977 bilateral treaty that was conceived to avoid disruptions to the cross-border flow of energy, one that proved to be a key element in Enbridge’s strategy to convince Neff that the controversy should be adjucated by a federal judge.

Canada said late last year that planning was “well underway” for bilateral treaty talks between Canada and the United States in the dispute over the pipeline, although the timeline for formal negotiations has never been publicly disclosed.

Last year, lawyers for the federal government also filed a statement in court expressing support for Enbridge’s argument, known in legal parlance as an amicus brief. It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether Ottawa expects to do so again.

The White House has acknowledged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting an environmental assessment on Enbridge’s plans to encase the underwater portion of the twin pipeline in a deep, fortified underground tunnel. But they have so far resisted pressure to get involved in the dispute itself.

Critics want the line shut down, arguing it’s only a matter of time before an anchor strike or technical failure triggers a catastrophic environmental disaster in one of the area’s most important watersheds. Michigan has every right to take whatever steps are necessary to protect it, the National Wildlife Federation said in a statement.

“This motion is critical because if successful, it will allow the state courts to consider for the first time whether the risks of a rupture of Line 5 in the Great Lakes justify the continued operation of the pipeline,” said federation attorney Andy Buchsbaum.

“If Enbridge’s gamesmanship is successful, it would allow Enbridge to circumvent Michigan’s ability to protect the Great Lakes and to tie the case up in federal court by months, if not years, leaving the Great Lakes in great danger.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18,2022.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Monahan's two-goal performance powers Calgary Flames past Florida Panthers 5-1

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CALGARY — Sean Monahan’s first two-goal game of the season helped the slumping Calgary Flames to a surprise 5-1 victory over the NHL-leading Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

After scoring a power-play goal on a deflection at 16:03 of the second period to make it 3-1, Monahan put the game away in the third, making it 5-1 at 6:43, taking a drop pass from Johnny Gaudreau and neatly beating goaltender Spencer Knight on a move from in-close.

Rasmus Andersson, with his first of the season, Matthew Tkachuk and Blake Coleman also scored for Calgary (18-11-6), which snapped a four-game losing streak and won on home ice for the first time since Nov. 29. 

The Flames entered the night 2-7-1 in their previous 10 games.

Sam Bennett scored the lone goal for Florida (26-8-5), which had its four-game winning streak and nine-game points-streak (8-0-1) snapped.

The next outing for both teams will be in Edmonton with the Panthers’ second stop on a five-game road trip taking place on Thursday. Calgary isn’t back in action until Saturday when the Flames play the Oilers at Rogers Place.

Markstrom, who has given up four or more goals in four of his previous five starts, made 28 stops to improve to 13-8-5.

After starting the last seven games, Sergei Bobrovsky got the night off with Knight getting his first start since Dec. 30. Knight made 26 saves. His record falls to 7-5-2.

Calgary got off to a fast start, getting a power play four minutes into the game and taking just 23 seconds to take advantage with Andersson knocking in his own rebound from the slot.

The Flames extended their lead to 2-0 at 11:36 of the first. A stretch of prolonged pressure by Calgary’s newly formed second line culminated in Coleman’s seventh goal, the assists going to his linemates Andrew Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund.

But Bennett, in his first game back in Calgary scored 12:36 into the second to cut Florida’s deficit in half. Bennett was traded to Florida ahead of the trade deadline last season after logging 402 games with Calgary over six seasons. He’s been a revelation since joining the Panthers scoring 22 goals in 40 games.

The power play was key for the Flames striking twice on three opportunities after entering the game 0-for-10 during the losing streak.

Gaudreau had his first four-assist game ever on home ice and just the second of his career. Tkachuk also kept his offensive hot streak going with three points. He has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) over his last eight games.

Although the Panthers own the league’s best home record at 21-3-0, they haven’t enjoyed the same success away from FLA Live Arena, now 5-5-5.

For the Flames, they have struggled similarly at the Saddledome, picking up their first win since Nov. 29. They’re 5-4-4 on the year.

Notes: Gaudreau’s only other four-assist game was in Nashville on Feb. 21, 2017… It was the first time this season Florida did not get a point from a defenceman… Mason Marchment returned to the Panthers lineup for the first time since Jan. 1. An assist gives him a five-game point streak.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2022.

Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press

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