Where do we stand a year after Alberta's first presumptive case of COVID-19?

Alberta confirmed the first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus 12 months ago, sparking a public health response including lockdowns, masks mandates and thousands of deaths.

On March 5, 2020, the first case of the disease in the province – a woman in her 50s who had returned from a cruise ship off the coast of California – was announced.

Other Canadian passengers who had been on board were asked by public health officials to self-isolate, but the spread was inevitable.

By mid-month, the province and Alberta's major cities declared states of local emergency.

The province closed schools and shifted to online learning as businesses shuttered and social distancing measures were implemented.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, addressed the first year of the province's pandemic response during Thursday's briefing.

"Together we've navigated the uncertainty of COVID-19 and living in a global pandemic. We've had to find new ways to work, socialize and look after our health, all while researchers, scientists and health professionals from around the world have worked to learn as much as they could, about this new virus and how best to treat and prevent it."

Friday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CTV Calgary he was thinking of the nearly 2,000 Albertans who had lost their life.

"Every one of them had family, friends and loved ones," Nenshi said. "Their loss is incalculable to our community."

As of Friday, the province has recorded 134,785 total cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-COV2.

The current state of Alberta's pandemic situation includes:

  • 331 new cases have been reported after nearly 9,500 tests were conducted Wednesday;
  • 4,613 active cased reported province-wide as of Wednesday;
  • Variant cases are up by 33 to a total of to 541 (531 are B.1.1.7.);
  • Nearly 10 per cent of active case are variants;
  • 245 people are in hospital, 47 of those patients are in intensive care and;
  • Nine additional deaths have been reported, bringing the total number of lives lost to 1,911.

VARIANTS LIKELY TO EXTEND PANDEMIC

As the city enters its second year of the virus, Nenshi believes if not controlled, variants of the disease could pose a major threat.

"So let's make sure we finish strong and get through this homestretch strong," he told CTV News. "As long as the variants don't really take root and we don't see huge numbers, we should see a gradual easing of restrictions."

A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

At the one-year mark since the first diagnosed case in Alberta, more than 266,000 doses of vaccine have now been administered to Albertans.

This week, the province announced the distribution of the second dose will be intentionally delayed in order to give more people the chance to receive their first dose.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the decision is based on evidence observed in the U.K., Quebec and British Columbia where second doses are also being delayed.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations announced Wednesday the recommended interval between doses had been extend from approximately four weeks to four months.

Alberta now says anyone over 18 who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will receive their first dose by June 30. To date, approximately 96 per cent of the province's vaccine supply has been utilized.

Alberta is currently in Phase 1 of vaccine rollout for seniors born in 1946 or earlier as well as providing shots for First Nations and Métis people age 65 or older.

Phase 2 is scheduled to begin March 10 with Albertans between 50 and 64 years old given the AstraZeneca vaccine.

And that phase could see some changes in Calgary.

Chief Sue Henry with Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency says the city will be looking at additional public facilities to use to administer the shots.

Other cities -- notably Edmonton -- have pledged space to the effort.

"We're hopeful that we will be able to land what will be happening in Calgary in the coming days and weeks, but it's a little premature for me to name those facilities," Henry said.

Nenshi said the plan is an important one. So too is what happens after the shots are given.

"Don't go to your vaccine appointment and then rip off your mask and go hug random strangers because we're not quite there yet," he said.

"You don't want to be the soldier that gets injured in the last week of the war."