The update for Thursday, March 11 started off with Education Minister LaGrange announcing, "That we are launching the pilot for schools experiencing outbreaks starting as early as next week. A testing team will be set up at two Calgary schools to screen students and staff that do not have symptoms." The government will be providing 100,000 kits for the pilot program. Rapid tests will be offered every week for up to three weeks. The specific schools have not been announced.
Health Minister Shandro followed and announced that more testing kits will be rolled out to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks in business sectors as well. This is how they will be distributed:
- 325,000 tests to Suncor, Syncrude and CNRL
- 267,000 to long-term care, designated supportive living and hospice facilities
- 100,000 for a new pilot program offering rapid tests in schools
- 100,000 to rural and remote hospitals, assessment centres, and other health care sites
- 76,000 to WestJet
- 56,000 to various other industries and groups across the province
Finally, Dr. Hinshaw took to the podium and started by addressing reports that a limited amount of cases in Europe may have been linked between the AstraZeneca vaccine and people experiencing blood clots. "I want to assure everyone that the current doses of COVIShield AstraZeneca vaccine offered in Alberta have not been linked to these issues. We are currently using COVIShield, the brand name of a vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India that is considered equivalent to AstraZeneca by Health Canada. Health Canada authorized these vaccines after independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy, and quality, and Canada has a robust surveillance system in place to detect rare occurrences following vaccination. Canadians can feel confident that the review process for each vaccine was rigorous. They can trust that there are systems in place to continue monitoring the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines after authorization."
Dr. Hinshaw also reported that as of Thursday afternoon, over 23,000 Albertans have signed up to receive the COVIShield AstraZeneca vaccine and that once again the eligibility parameters will be expanded. Starting Friday morning, "Albertans born in 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960 will be all able to book appointments online or by calling 811, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975 can all book by calling 811."
The COVID-19 numbers update was as follows.
- There were 364 new cases reported with 10,200 tests performed for a positivity rate of 4%.
- There are 259 people in the hospital with 38 of those in ICU.
- On this day national Day of Remembrance marking one year since the pandemic began, five more deaths were reported bringing the total deaths in the province to 1,933.
- There are 256 schools with active alerts or outbreaks. Which accounts for approximately 11% of schools. To date, 1,017 cases have been reported in schools since January 11.
- There were 41 new cases of the UK variant reported.
- Cochrane saw an increase of three active COVID-19 cases for a total of 39 while Rocky View County also added three for a total of 28.
- To date, 317,574 Albertans have been vaccinated with close to 91,000 being fully immunized with two doses.