Churches in Edmonton and Calgary continued to hold services that contravene social distancing orders, while Alberta recorded 328 new cases of COVID-19 plus 9 additional deaths on Sunday.
That took the total number of active cases in Alberta to 4,758, down just from 4,803 active cases recorded the previous day.
As of now, 321 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 53 in ICU beds, compared to 336 individuals in the hospital reported yesterday with 51 in ICU beds.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, 1,827 people have died from COVID-19 in the province.
Out of the nine deaths reported on Sunday, 4 were in the Calgary zone, 3 were in the Edmonton area, 1 was in the North zone, and 1 was in the Central zone. Two of the deaths were associated with outbreaks at continuing care facilities. The deaths took place between November 29 and February 19.
Provincial labs took 7,541 tests for the disease on Saturday, down from 8,380 tests from the former day, with a positivity rate of around 4.4%, down from 4.6% on Friday. The ongoing vaccination program has now delivered 169,441 doses.
Churches accommodate beyond capacity
One church from the Edmonton area has repeatedly defied public health orders since December and once again it held a service on Sunday 21.
RCMP said in a press release that observations were made that the GraceLife Church in Parkland County west of Edmonton held service beyond the recommended capacity. Restrictions call for attendance to be capped at 15% of capacity and attendants to practice social distancing and wear masks.
“The investigation continues into this situation with the intention of determining, through consultation with AHS, the next course of action for the RCMP,” the Sunday release said.
Pastor James Coates was brought into custody this week following his arrest on 2 counts of flouting the Public Health Act and on one criminal charge for not complying with a condition of an undertaking.
This weekend, protestors gathered outside the Edmonton Remand Centre demanding for the pastor’s release. A judge’s order was given compelling the pastor to attend court on February 24.
Elsewhere in Calgary, Alberta Health Services confirmed that a public health inspector visited Fairview Baptist Church on Sunday for a talk with church leadership regarding public health measures.
Back in January, Pastor Tim Stephens was fined $1,200 by Calgary bylaw officer for breaking public health orders. However, the church has continued to encourage attendants to break rules by holding fellowships larger than allowed capacity and neglecting the wearing of masks.
“It is … Jesus Christ, not civil government, that defines what is essential for the gathered church,” Stephens said in a blog post on the church’s site on Saturday.
On Sunday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reminded the locals to continue following all health measures.
“With many places warming up this week, I hope many of you will get the chance to get outside and enjoy the nice weather,” she said in a Tweet. “Please continue to follow all health measures and remember that outdoor social gatherings are limited to ten people and must not have an indoor component.”
Below is the breakdown of Alberta’s 4,758 active COVID-19 cases:
Calgary zone: 1,669
Edmonton zone: 1,115
North zone: 865
Central zone: 758
South zone: 324
The next live update from Hinshaw will be issued on Monday.