The number of COVID-19 deaths continued to climb in the Municipal District of Bonnyville after the region counted its 10th death last week.
Seven of those deaths occurred at the Bonnyville Extendicare, which as of Friday still had three active COVID-19 cases amongst its residents.
Eight infected Extendicare employees are currently in self-isolation.
Since late January, 52 residents and staff members have tested positive with COVID-19.
Local resident angry about M.D. response to COVID-19
M.D. resident Sarah Lavoie told local politicians that she was ashamed of their leadership because, as the outbreak began at the Extendicare in late January, M.D. Reeve Greg Sawchuk, Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski and Lac La Biche Mayor Omer Moghrabi decided to patronize restaurants that had defied COVID-19 restrictions and opened illegally in protest of provincial health restrictions in place at the time on Jan. 27.
Shortly after the protest, Sawchuk told the Cold Lake Sun that he thought any health restrictions should only protect the most vulnerable, like those in care homes, and should not impact local businesses like restaurants, which shouldn’t have to close.
However, Premier Jason Kenney said it is not possible to perfectly segregate the vulnerable.
“The death rate for the elderly and frail is directly correlated to how much spread we get in the general community,” said Kenney. “The ratio between cases and hospitalizations has remained absolutely constant across every age group in Alberta for 11 months.”
Lavoie, who asked to speak to M.D. council at its Feb. 10 meeting, to express her disgust, said the local politicians who participated in the protest demonstrated that they felt money mattered more than someone’s life.
“What many people don’t seem to grasp, especially in this rural community, is that each one of our decisions in this COVID-19 world could have dire consequences, either directly or indirectly,” she said.
Sawchuk responded to her concerns by saying they would be filed as information.
“One thing this council has done is to make sure we have all sides listened to,” he said.
As of Friday, 87 per cent of Bonnyville Extendicare residents had been fully vaccinated.
Assumption school closed until Wednesday
Meanwhile, Assumption Junior/Senior High School returned to online classes after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared by Alberta Health Services.
This means there were between five and nine active cases at the school, according to AHS’ definition of an outbreak.
School officials would not provide the specific number of cases when asked by the Cold Lake Sun.
Parents received notification on Feb. 13 that students would be returning to online learning until Feb. 24.
Students will go back to in-person classes on Thursday.
“Custodial staff have been thoroughly sanitizing and disinfecting,” said school principal Chantel Axani-Rawlake in a statement emailed to the Cold Lake Sun. “Staff and students can feel confident they will be returning to a safe environment.”
Axani-Rawlake said she was proud of how flexible and resilient students and staff have been in returning to online learning.
“We can do this and can do this well,” she said.
Alberta logs 328 new cases Sunday
Alberta detected another 328 cases of the novel coronavirus Sunday from about 7,500 tests, representing a positivity rate of about 4.5 per cent.
The province’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate has seen a small uptick over the past week after gradually declining since the start of 2021. Alberta’s average positivity rate over the past week is now 4.4 per cent, up from a low of 3.7 per cent Feb. 10.
The positivity rate is above 10 per cent in the North zone.
Lakeland almost excluded from provincial easing of restrictions
According to Health Minister Tyler Shandro because Alberta’s northern region, which includes the Lakeland, has the highest case count per province, the area could have been excluded from the easing of restrictions on Jan. 18.
Shandro told reporters at a rural media town hall on Feb. 9 that the province had to find a safe way to lift restrictions that could include the north zone.
“There are lots of interdependencies (between regions),” said Shandro, adding that the north zone continues to see an uptick in new case numbers.
As of Sunday, Cold Lake had 32 active cases. The M.D. of Bonnyville also recorded 32 active cases that day.
Hospitalizations continue to drop
Nine deaths were reported in Alberta Sunday. Only two of those took place in February. Both those deaths linked to long-term care facilities that occurred on Feb. 19.
After a brief plateau, hospitalization rates continued to drop over the weekend. As of Sunday, there are 321 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 53 in intensive-care units. It’s the second straight day Alberta saw a five per cent drop in total hospitalizations, down from 336 patients in hospital Saturday.
Alberta now has 4,758 active cases of COVID-19, down from 4,840 at the start of the weekend.
Through end-of-day Saturday, Alberta has administered 169,441 doses of vaccine, with 66,357 Albertans fully immunized after receiving two doses.
The pace of vaccinations is expected to accelerate dramatically in the coming weeks, as seniors born in 1946 or earlier will be able to book immunization appointments beginning Wednesday amid heightened supply of vaccine.
An online portal to book those vaccines as well as information on booking by phone will be available at that time at alberta.ca/vaccine.
With files from Jason Herring