OHS Canada Magazine

COVID-19 killed more Albertans than flu did in past 10 years

Outbreaks at Suncor's Fort Hills site, Syncrude's Aurora site


By Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

FORT MCMURRAY TODAY

More Albertans have died from COVID-19 since March than have died from the flu in the past 10 years.

During her Wednesday media conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 16 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing COVID-19’s death toll to 760. To compare, CTV reports that influenza has killed 562 Albertans since 2010. Hinshaw called these numbers “sobering.”

“This virus does not discriminate and it can have long-term and potentially devastating impacts on all of our health,” she said.

Hinshaw also said 32,000 COVID-19 cases have been found in people between the ages of 20 and 39. Of those, 380 people have been hospitalized and eight have died.

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Alberta’s health care system is expanding available acute care and ICU beds in hospitals. Some beds will be new and others will be made available as patients are moved into continuing care beds in their community.

Health-care workers vaccinated

Hinshaw also assured Albertans the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe. On Tuesday evening, the first group of health-care workers in Edmonton and Calgary began getting vaccinated against the virus.

The vaccines will be shipped to health care workers in other parts of Alberta next week. By the end of December, 29,000 health care workers will have received the vaccine. Priority is going to doctors and nurses in intensive care units, respiratory therapists and eligible long-term care workers.

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections,” said Hinshaw. “We are taking every precaution and acting on clear evidence showing this vaccine is safe for Albertans and it works.”

Locally, Alberta Health has declared COVID-19 outbreaks at Suncor’s Fort Hills site and Syncrude’s Aurora site.

At Fort Hills, a Suncor spokesperson said there have been 32 COVID-19 cases reported at the site. Of those, 14 remain active. Three active cases are employees and 11 are contractors.

None of the active cases are from out of province, but a Suncor spokesperson did not know if any of the 18 recovered cases were from Alberta or elsewhere.

At Aurora, Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson did not know the specific details of the outbreak at the site.

But across Syncrude’s operations, he said there have been 210 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. There are 70 active cases and 140 recoveries. The cases have been found in employees and contractors.

Health authorities have determined the virus spread among Syncrude workers in the community and not at the workplace.

With reporting by Vincent McDermott