Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Tuesday that while the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the province has risen to 14, all cases so far have been connected to patients travelling.
“I want to assure Albertans that all these cases are travel-related,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at an afternoon news conference in Edmonton. “Our public health measures are doing precisely what they were intended to do: detect new cases and take immediate action.
“This means that the number of confirmed cases will likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead. But it’s important to remember that every new travel-related case that is confirmed represents another case where we can take an action to isolate the virus and prevent its spread.
“These are not cases that are spreading within the province. We’re not seeing that transmission at this time.”
The new confirmed cases of COVID-19 involve three new patients in the Edmonton Zone and four new patients in the Calgary Zone. The Edmonton Zone cases involve a man in his 70s and a woman in her 60s who had travelled together, as well as a woman in her 30s who had also recently travelled outside of Canada.
The Calgary Zone cases involve a man in his 50s, two women in their 30s and a woman in her 40s.
The cases involve people who were travelling in either France, the Netherlands, Egypt, Iran, Taiwan, Germany, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Philippines and the United States.
In many cases, Hinshaw said the people who contracted the virus had travelled to more than just one country.
“It is too early to know where each person contracted the virus,” she said, adding that all new cases are now recovering in isolation at home and that health officials are working to speak to anyone who may have come into contact with them.
“Albertans planning travel in the coming weeks should monitor Health Canada advisories,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said Albertans who are returning to Canada from abroad should closely monitor for any signs of illness for 14 days. She noted that even a mild cough or fever in such a case warrants a call to Health Link by dialing 811. Anyone experiencing potential symptoms of COVID-19 should not go to a doctor’s office or hospital.
“Take seriously the role that all of us now play in protecting our fellow citizens,” Hinshaw said. “If you are feeling ill and you’re not sure if you should stay home or not, think about the people in your life who have a medical condition or who are elderly, and think about the action you would want others to take, protecting your loved ones, and take that same action.
“We all need to be vigilant.”
In order to avoid having people potentially infected with COVID-19 show up in health-care settings, Hinshaw said Albertans who believe they may have coronavirus symptoms should call Health Link. Then, paramedics or public health nurses have been going to homes for testing and a determination is made to follow up.
Hinshaw added that anyone feeling ill should not visit a long-term care facility or seniors’ accommodation. She said Albertans need to be vigilant in terms of taking steps to avoid potential spread of the virus “in case we do get local spread, to set that new normal: that we need to have enhanced barriers between ourselves and others.
“We can only be successful in this response if we do this together.”
One of the previously confirmed cases is now receiving treatment in hospital, Hinshaw told reporters as she provided an update on the provincial response to the virus.
“The individual who is receiving treatment is someone with a pre-existing chronic health condition.”
While most people will only have minor symptoms, Hinshaw pointed out that “COVID-19 can be extremely serious and even fatal for seniors and those with underlying health conditions.”
One of the Alberta cases involves a person who contracted the virus was also on the same MS Braemar cruise ship in the Caribbean.
In a news release, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said: “Alberta is well-prepared for this challenge, and our system continues to respond quickly and effectively to every confirmed case.”
“I want to thank all of our health professionals for their continued dedication,” he added.
“We will ensure that our public health professionals and the health system overall have the resources they need to protect Albertans, now and in the days ahead.”
The Alberta government said Tuesday that the risk level in the province is currently low although it is possible that could change in the future.
“However, it’s a bit too early to say. We need to wait until we see definitive evidence of that.”
CBE issues letter to parents
The Calgary Board of Education said Tuesday that it is setting up an internal task force to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter to parents, the board said it understands school communities are growing increasingly concerned with the announcement of local cases of the virus.
It said that if your child is sick, do not send them to school, and if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, call Health Link as school staff are not qualified to answer medical questions.