Alberta Health confirmed Saturday afternoon that there are 10 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, bringing the total to 39.
Six of the new cases are in the Calgary zone and four are in the Edmonton zone, Alberta Health said.
Two of the new cases — one in the Edmonton zone and one in the Calgary zone — have been admitted into intensive care, according to Alberta Health. Both patients are in their 60s. All other new cases are self-isolating at home and expected to make a full recovery.
Alberta Health said eight of the new cases are related to international travel or to a previously confirmed case, adding that the other two cases are being investigated.
School closure discussion
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, addressed school safety concerns amid the virus’ spread, saying the province is monitoring the situation carefully.
“I understand that parents are concerned about their children going to school, and they, along with teachers, school administrators and boards, have questions and concerns,” she said.
”I cannot emphasize enough the time and discussion that continues about this decision. If we do make the decision to close schools, it will be considering long-term closure. This pandemic will not end in a matter of weeks and there won’t be a clear opportunity to reopen schools likely not until September at the earliest.”
Hinshaw explained that for school closures to be effective in mitigating virus spread, they need to go on for eight to 12 weeks.
“What we’re asking is for parents who know their children best to assess them before sending them to school,” she said. “We’re asking parents to help us because again, this is an effort that will only be successful if all Albertans pitch in and make sure that we’re taking responsibility when we or our family members are feeling sick, that they do not go out in public.”
Hinshaw’s children are still going to school, she said.
“I would never make a decision for my own children that was different from what I felt was necessary for the whole population,” she said.
‘The new normal’
Hinshaw said it’s our social responsibility to protect each other as the situation changes “dramatically and rapidly every day.”
“I know many Albertans may be alarmed at the increasing number of cases in Alberta,” she said.
“As I’ve said before, we need to get used to a new normal. The reality is that we can expect cases of COVID-19 to continue in Alberta and around Canada for months. We have taken aggressive measures to limit the acceleration of spread. But we will not be able to completely stop it. I want to emphasize that we cannot be complacent. We must be vigilant.”
Hinshaw said she is monitoring Alberta’s situation on a minute-by-minute basis.
“This is not something that the health system or any other system can do alone,” she said. “This is something that every Albertan needs to be a part of to make sure that we’re collectively managing to reduce the spread to others.”
Travel outside Canada is not recommended, and if you return to the country after March 12, Alberta Health says to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
The province said it will be posting flight information, including the flight number, date and any seats on the flight, where passengers may have been exposed to the virus.
Hinshaw said in the first 24 hours of the self-assessment tool launch on Friday, more than 300,000 Albertans completed assessments.
“By using the self-assessment tool, you have helped to ease the pressure on health link 811 phone lines,” she said.
Hinshaw stressed the importance of practicing good hygiene during the pandemic and staying away from others if you develop symptoms.
“The most important thing I want Albertans to do is to stay home when feeling sick,” she said.
“Even if you have not travelled, if you have symptoms of cough or even mild cold-like symptoms, you need to stay home and away from others. This is critically important. Although most of those cases would not be COVID-19, we want to make sure we are all practicing the new normal, which is not being out in public when sick.”