City stresses vigilance against COVID-19 as variants, vaccines get attention

Vigilance, variants and vaccines. 

Those were three key topics discussed as Edmonton City Council received the latest information on the community’s fight to stop COVID-19. 

The City Manager, Andre Corbould, said it appears Edmonton has passed the peak of active cases for the second wave. But now is not the time to ease up on restrictions. 

“Current restrictions to minimize social gatherings will likely be in place until the strain on the health system is reduced further,” Corbould told a physically distanced meeting of City Council. 

“Recent data show the trend for active number of cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions is tracking in the right direction but they are still too high.” 

Physically distanced meeting of Edmonton City Council, January 27, 2021.

New variants in province, more contagious

Council also heard that two COVID variants—from the United Kingdom and South Africa—have recently been identified in Alberta. Most of the two dozen cases are linked to international travellers. But, earlier this week, Alberta Health reported the first case with no known link to travel. 

“This presents a significant concern for possible acceleration of active cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions,” said Corbould. 

Dr. Chris Sikora is the Edmonton Zone Chief Medical Officer of Health. He reminded councillors that variants are not new diseases. They are still COVID. They are not more powerful than the main version of COVID. 

But they are more contagious.

Dr. Chris Sikora, City Hall, Edmonton, spring 2020.

“The difficulty with this new variant is that it has an observed greater chance of transmitting from person to person, roughly 30 to…60 per cent higher probability of really moving from person to person,” Sikora said. 

Current, Health Canada-approved cleaning practices used by the City and many businesses are “perfectly valid” against the new variants, Sikora said.

Vaccines schedule, supply

Council heard the supply of vaccines in the province continues to be the factor that will determine the final immunization schedule. 

“We wish that everybody would be able to be immunized in phase 1 but there just isn’t enough product for that,” said Sikora. “There is a need to be able to do this prioritization. As more product becomes available, we fully do expect that things will open up to be a little bit more accessible.” 

Council heard the plan is to continue to vaccinate at-risk Albertans from February through September. This includes: seniors 75 years of age and older; First Nations, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Métis Settlement; and, healthcare workers in medical, surgical and COVID-19 units or operating rooms. 

Not yet finalized is when all staff working at Tipinawâw (the Edmonton Convention Centre homeless shelter), and municipal first responders, will be scheduled for immunization. 

The vaccine is expected to be available to the general public starting this fall.

Mayor Don Iveson, foreground, City Manager Andre Corbould, translator Kevin Colp, City Hall, Edmonton, January 27, 2021.

City ready to help

The City is studying a plan to establish one or more vaccination sites in Edmonton, said Corbould. 

“We are ready, willing and able to provide the province with local support in the areas of transportation, facilities and communications,” said Corbould.

Tragic reminder

At a news conference after the City Council meeting, Mayor Don Iveson remembered those whose lives have been changed forever by COVID.

“A tragic reminder of the stakes we are dealing with is the outbreak here in Edmonton at the Capital Care Lynnwood long-term care facility, considered the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in our province,” Iveson said. 

“As we near the one year anniversary of COVID-19, my thoughts go out to all the families who have lost a loved one to this terrible virus, and to those who continue to endure the full effects of this virus.” 

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows City Manager Andre Corbould at Edmonton City Hall, January 27, 2021.