Alberta’s hospital system under significant strain, says Edmonton medical director

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Alberta’s hospital system is under “significant strain” and is adding intensive care beds as it faces an increase in COVID-19 cases, a medical director for the Edmonton area says.

Health officials reported 1,733 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, a record high that brought the number of active cases in the province to 16,454. The province also saw record-high COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 453 people in hospital, including 96 in ICU.

Dr. David Zygun, of Alberta Health Services, said Monday that the province had planned for the increased demand and was now “executing those plans as the demand increases.”

The province has 173 general adult ICU beds and has plans to expand up to 425 ICU beds, Zygun said at a COVID-19 briefing.

“Over the last week in Edmonton, we’ve added an additional 20 beds,” he said. “Over the weekend in Calgary, we have another 10 beds.”

Hospitals are also cohorting patients and making use of decomissioned and unused spaces as health services works to add beds to help with the COVID-19 response.

“Obviously we hope that they won’t be needed but we are working not only to supply them but also to staff them,” Zygun said.

Alberta’s leaders have faced criticism from some in the medical community who say that public health measures imposed by the province aren’t strong enough to slow the spread of the novel virus.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 10:20 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 379,846 with 66,364 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,137.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday that the province reported 1,707 new cases of COVID-19, with 727 in Toronto and 373 in Peel Region.

In British Columbia, the province announced the highest number of COVID-19 deaths for a three-day period as it recorded 46 fatalities over the weekend.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, saying “we all feel your loss and mourn with you.”

“These people have faces, have names, have stories. This tragedy is all of our tragedy,” Henry said. “If you are thinking it may be OK to bend the rules, please remember this virus takes lives.”

As of Monday, a statement from Henry and Dix said there were 316 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Monday it’s too early to say whether COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened in time to allow families to gather for the holidays. Moe said residents can expect to see high COVID-19 case numbers for the next few weeks, as officials wait to see if the latest public health measures have been effective.

The province reported 325 new infections on Monday and said there are 123 people in hospital, 23 of whom are receiving intensive care.

In Manitoba, health officials reported 343 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 11 additional deaths. The province, which has been dealing with a surge in cases, said 342 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 43 in intensive care units.

LISTEN | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins host Matt Galloway to talk about COVID-19, vaccines and the cost of fighting the pandemic:

The Current13:17Justin Trudeau on the cost of fighting the pandemic

After yesterday’s fiscal update, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins Matt Galloway to discuss the cost of fighting COVID-19, and how his government plans to roll out the vaccines that could finally subdue the pandemic. 13:17

Quebec reported 1,333 new COVID-19 infections and 23 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Monday.

The province’s Health Department said there are 693 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 28 more than the previous day. Ninety-four people were in intensive care, an increase of two.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, New Brunswick reported six new cases and Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.

Across the North, there were four new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nunavut on Monday, while one new case was reported in Yukon. A mask mandate for indoor public spaces goes into effect in Yukon on Tuesday. 

There were no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories, which has seen 15 cases to date.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 63.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 40.6 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.4 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam reported two more coronavirus cases on Tuesday linked to a rare domestic infection in its commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City, while the government urged public vigilance and tighter enforcement of health measures.

The Southeast Asian nation is back on high alert after confirming on Monday the country’s first community infection in 89 days, prompting the closure of several places in the densely populated southern city.

The latest cases have been traced back to a flight attendant, who had been kept inside a quarantine facility for five days before being released to self-isolate at home.

“The flight attendant contracted the virus inside the quarantine area then spread it to others during his home-quarantine time,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a government statement.

“It’s the first ever time such a thing happened. The flight attendant seriously violated quarantine regulations.”

A woman wearing a face mask checks her smartphone while waiting on her scooter along a street in Hanoi on Tuesday, a day after Vietnam reported its first local transmission case of COVID-19 in nearly three months. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

With its usually strict quarantine and tracking measures, Vietnam has managed to quickly contain its coronavirus outbreaks, allowing it to resume its economic activities earlier than much of Asia.

Vietnam crushed its first wave of coronavirus infections in April and went nearly 100 days without local transmission until the virus re-emerged in the central tourist city of Danang in July and spread widely, before being contained in a few weeks.

Late on Tuesday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam would suspend all inbound commercial flights following the new outbreak. Flights for some foreign experts who do business in Vietnam had been operating throughout the pandemic.

In Europe, nonessential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.

The government is fearful, however, that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centres and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

A shopkeeper wearing a protective mask adjusts a display before the reopening of the shops qualified as non-essential in a shopping mall in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Under the new rules, shopping has to be done alone or with a minor or a dependant person. Time in a shop is limited to half an hour. Restaurants and bars remain closed.

France, meanwhile, recorded 4,005 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, the smallest rise since August, even as hospitalizations remained high.

In the Americas, the United States entered the final month of the year hoping that promising vaccine candidates will soon be approved to halt the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus after 4.2 million new cases were reported in November.

The new COVID-19 cases were more than double the previous monthly record set in October, as large numbers of Americans still refuse to wear masks and continue to gather in holiday crowds, against the recommendation of experts.

In an aerial view from a drone, cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

With outgoing President Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy relying heavily on a vaccine, a Food and Drug Administration panel of outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to recommend the FDA authorize emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.

A second candidate from Moderna Inc. could follow a week later, officials have said, raising hopes that Americans could start receiving inoculations before the end of the year, although widespread vaccinations could take months.

California’s governor, meanwhile, said he may renew a stay-at-home order in coming days, while families of 15 public school students sued the state, saying it has failed to provide equal education to poor and minority children during the pandemic.

In the Middle East, Lebanon’s economy faces an “arduous and prolonged depression,” with real GPD projected to plunge by nearly 20 per cent because its politicians refuse to implement reforms that would speed up the country’s recovery, the World Bank said Tuesday.

It said Lebanon should quickly form a reform-minded government to urgently carry out changes. The crash of the local currency has already led to triple-digit inflation. The dire projections by the World Bank, including a 19.2 per cent drop in gross domestic product this year alone, come as Lebanon suffers its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, posing a threat to the country’s stability.

The crisis began a year ago and worsened with the spread of coronavirus and the massive blast at Beirut’s port, which destroyed the facility, killed more than 200 people and caused widespread destruction.

Iran remained the hardest hit country in the region, with more than 975,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 and more than 48,600 deaths.

In Africa, deaths from malaria due to disruptions during the pandemic to services designed to tackle the mosquito-borne disease will far exceed those from COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization warned. South Africa remained the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 790,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 and more than 21,500 deaths.

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