Editors note: this story initially identified the new Central Zone case as a Calgary Zone Case. The article has been amended to reflect the correct numbers of new cases. Global News regrets the error. This article also originally said Albertans over 65 were advised not to travel outside the province. It has since been updated to indicate Albertans over 65 and those with chronic health conditions are advised not to travel outside of Canada.
In an update Wednesday afternoon, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the province is now 19.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference that five new cases have been confirmed, but all are tied to individuals who had recently travelled.
“At the moment there is no evidence of community spread in the province. All of our cases have been travel-related,” said Hinshaw.
This brings the total of Edmonton Zone cases up to seven, and the total in the Calgary Zone to 11. One of the new cases confirmed Wednesday is in the Central Zone.
One of the new confirmed cases is a man in his 30s in Edmonton who returned from international travel and started experiencing symptoms a number of days after he returned. He visited Misericordia Community Hospital on March 6 and 7 for an unrelated, previously scheduled treatment. He then tested positive for COVID-19 on March 9.
Staff and patients who may have been exposed at the hospital are being directly contacted by public health officials. There is no risk to patients or staff at the hospital at this time, said the province in a news release.
“Public Health is working with Occupational Health and Safety and Infection Prevention Control at that site to make sure that they identify who might be at risk of having been exposed, and then making sure that those individuals know to self-isolate for 14 days,” Hinshaw said Wednesday.
The other new cases involve a man in his 20s and two women in their 30s in the Calgary zone, as well as a woman in her 30s in the Central Zone.
All five new cases had returned from international travel, including to Iran, Egypt, Spain, Mexico and the U.S.
The province also announced Wednesday that all travellers from Italy are now being asked to self-isolate for two weeks after they return, even if they are not showing symptoms.
“COVID-19 is not like other threats that we have seen in the past decades,” said Hinshaw. “It is more severe than seasonal influenza, or the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. And it is more contagious than viruses like SARS.”
“It can be contained– as has been shown in other countries like Singapore. But it will take an effort of all of us to do so.”
Formal screenings will also begin at Canadian airports for travellers returning from Italy starting Friday, said Hinshaw, including in Edmonton and Calgary. There are already screenings in place for Iran or Hubei province in China.
Hinshaw also advised anyone over 65 and with chronic health conditions to avoid travel outside Canada.
Travellers who are concerned or have symptoms should call Health Link by dialing 811. Anyone experiencing potential symptoms of COVID-19 should not go to a doctor’s office or hospital.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1-billion response fund on Wednesday to help fund research, containment, and job loss costs to the country as the virus continues to spread.
The federal funding announcement came the same day the World Health Organization said the virus was now being considered a pandemic.
Rogers Place issues statement amid coronavirus concerns
Late Wednesday afternoon, Rogers Place in Edmonton issued a statement, saying “Oilers Entertainment Group events scheduled at Rogers Place and ICE District are going ahead as planned and the venues remain fully open.”
The statement said the health and safety of employees, fans and players is its No. 1 priority but added that “presently, the current risk of COVID-19 in Alberta is considered low by medical experts.”
“We will continue to monitor the situation and take the necessary steps needed in consultation with Alberta Health Services, the NHL and other stakeholders to keep our people and our fans safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” the statement reads in part.
“Across our venues, we have heightened our hand-washing and cleaning protocols with staff and contractors. Rogers Place undergoes a rigorous cleaning procedure after every event with particular attention paid to high-traffic, high public-contact areas. Many areas will receive additional, enhanced measures throughout the course of events for the foreseeable future.
“We have also added educational signage to the venue as part of our preventative response, placed on the mirrors in all public washrooms throughout Rogers Place.”
To read the statement in its entirety, click here.