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Alberta

Province will begin to ease restrictions at long term care homes

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Relaxing restrictions on continuing care visits

High rates of vaccination among residents and staff at continuing care facilities means families will soon be able to more easily visit their loved ones.

 

Starting May 10, updated public health measures will come into effect for continuing care facilities in Alberta. These protocols will increase the number of designated family/support persons for each resident, expand the number of people who can attend outdoor social visits and allow limited indoor social gatherings.

Active cases in long-term care have declined from the peak of 831 on Dec. 27 to 44 as of April 24. Hospitalizations have decreased by 93 per cent and fatalities due to COVID-19 have declined by 94 per cent.

“Long-term care residents need joy, hope, and connection just like everyone else. They have shouldered the burden of this pandemic and sacrificed important time with their loved ones and I’m glad that we are able to ease these restrictions, but we will continue to move cautiously, as evidence is still emerging on vaccines and their ability to both protect residents from variants and limit transmitting the virus to others.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“We know the ability to connect in-person with loved ones is important. Alberta was one of the few provinces that still allowed visitors in continuing care facilities even during the most difficult points throughout the pandemic, because we understand how important seeing loved ones is. We continue to work to strike a balance between protecting residents from infection and sustaining their overall health and well-being.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“We have worked closely with family, residents and operators on the best way to move forward with changes. Based on the feedback of those most impacted, the available data and the power of vaccines, we are striking the right balance between protecting residents and staff from COVID-19 and enabling their quality of life.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

In April, town halls were held with continuing care operators, residents and staff to discuss the impact of vaccinations and concerns over COVID-19 variants. The majority of participants indicated that they were ready for eased restrictions but wanted some safety measures to remain.

Starting May 10, the following changes to visitation policy will take effect:

  • Where possible, and provided the majority of residents agree, indoor social visits with up to four visitors will be able to resume again, as long as they are from the same household and distancing, masking and other health measures remain in place.
  • Outdoor social visits in these facilities can expand to up to 10 people, including the resident. This is double the current limit of five and brings the limit in line with the current outdoor limit for the rest of the province.
  • Residents may name up to four designated family/support persons for unrestricted access, and visitors will continue to be able to visit when residents are approaching the end of their lives or suffer a change in health status.

These changes are not mandatory and will vary by site based on the design of the building, wishes of residents and other factors.

Each site must develop their own visiting approach that falls within the guidelines set out in the order and reflects the risk tolerance of the residents who live at that site.

All other COVID-19 measures remain in place, including:

  • Mandatory order restricting staff from working at more than one designated supportive living or long-term care facility to help prevent the spread of illness between facilities.
  • Symptom and exposure checks for all who are entering a continuing care facility.
  • Continuous masking and distancing during indoor visits.

As Alberta’s vaccination program expands and community transmission lowers, consideration will be given to easing additional restrictions.

Alberta’s government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting lives and livelihoods with precise measures to bend the curve, sustain small businesses and protect Alberta’s health-care system.

Alberta

Demand increasing: Canadian Blood Services watching supply as COVID-19 rules eased

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CALGARY — A return to a somewhat normal summer as COVID-19 restrictions are eased is putting a strain on Canada’s blood supply.

Several provinces have started lifting restrictions — most notably Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan — and demand is up as a result.

“As provinces slowly open up, there’s some return to normal activities. Hospital demand is increasing,” said Tracy Smith, the Prairies and Northwest Territories donor relations director for the Canadian Blood Service.

“You can imagine that they are trying to catch up with some of the backlogs, some of those surgeries that were put on hold during the pandemic. They’re trying to get those in … (and) blood products are becoming more in demand.”

The need for blood products tailed off dramatically 16 months ago as the pandemic brought travel to a near standstill and all but the most critical surgeries were cancelled.

At the same time, Canadian Blood Services wasn’t able to accommodate as many donors because of physical-distancing requirements at clinics, so the two balanced each other out.

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million population give blood on a regular basis. 

Canadian Blood Services operates a national inventory that allows products to be regularly shifted around the country to meet hospital and patient needs. 

But the inventory has a shelf life — a year for frozen plasma, 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets — so it takes some work to ensure supply continues to meet demand. 

Smith said the blood agency has made some changes in anticipation of an increased need, including extending hours at some donation centres and mobile clinics, but many pandemic safety precautions remain in place, including limiting the number of donors allowed inside at one time.

“We’re only accepting appointments from donors. We’re not accepting walk-ins in order to manage our physical distancing,” Smith said. “It’s more important for donors to fill the appointments for us.”

Smith couldn’t say how much the demand for blood has increased in the last six weeks, but she said the need is evident in supplies of O negative blood, the universal blood type used primarily in emergency rooms.

“We have just over four days supply and at times it’s dipped to between three and 3 1/2,” she said. “That gives you an indication of the increase in demand that we’ve seen.”

A Calgary vascular and trauma surgeon said operating rooms have been a lot busier in the last six weeks.

“There’s certainly no slowdowns. It’s more in the other direction trying to catch up,” said Dr. Paul Cantle.

“At certain times of the year, (blood supply) is always a concern, but very few of us have ever run into a situation where we haven’t had what we’ve needed at the end of the day.”

Cantle said people go out more in the summer, drive more on highways and spent more time in physical activity, so it’s not a surprise blood demand has gone up.

“It was inevitable. People just try and get out there and enjoy their summers: getting out on their ATVs and their horses and their mountain bikes,” he said.

“It’s the same every year, but it’s maybe just a little more extreme this year with people trying to make up for lost time.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

UCP backbencher fined $15K by Elections Alberta for funding violations

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EDMONTON — A United Conservative backbencher has been fined $15,000 by Elections Alberta for a variety of offences including filing false financial statements.

Devinder Toor, the legislature member for Calgary Falconridge, was penalized for fundraising and spending infractions both as a candidate for the party nomination and well as in the 2019 election.

The 10 violations also include exceeding expense limits and accepting a prohibited contribution from a numbered company of which Toor had been a director.

Toor, a first-time MLA, won the constituency seat by just 91 votes over the rival NDP.

The NDP,  in a news release, called on Toor to resign, saying the infractions display a conscious effort to circumvent the rules and call into question his integrity and fitness for public office.

Toor could not be immediately reached for comment. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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