Speaking to reporters via video conference because she is self-isolating while experiencing cold symptoms, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Monday that for the first time, there are confirmed novel coronavirus cases now in all Alberta Health zones.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number to 74 across the province.
Hinshaw said that five COVID-19 cases in the province are people being treated in hospital. All are in stable condition. She added that all other cases are self-isolating at home and are expected to make a full recovery.
As of Monday afternoon, the Alberta government said cases of COVID-19 in the province include 52 cases in the Calgary zone, 18 cases in the Edmonton zone, two cases in the Central zone, one case in the South zone and one case in the North zone.
Hinshaw said she did not appear at the news conference in person because she felt “it is important to follow advice I have been giving to others” with regard to her self-isolating.
“I felt well yesterday but woke up with a sore throat, and although my symptoms are mild, it is important to note that no one is exempt from staying home, even when they have mild symptoms,” she said.
“I would like to thank all of those that have reached out to me and expressed well wishes.”
Hinshaw said her symptoms do not appear to be consistent with those normally attributed to the novel coronavirus, like a fever and cough, but that it’s important for people to stay home right now if they feel sick.
She added that senior provincial leaders asked her to be tested for COVID-19 so she can come back to work in person without waiting for a 14-day quarantine if she tests negative for the illness.
“You don’t need to wait for lab results to do what’s right,” she said. Hinshaw added she will continue to fulfil her duties from home while she is self-isolating.
When asked whether Alberta may begin calling for restaurants and bars to temporarily close, a policy some other jurisdictions across North America have recently adopted to address the health crisis, Hinshaw said those discussions are ongoing and that she is concerned about the potential for community spread.
On Monday, Hinshaw acknowledged the difficulty some Alberta parents may have in finding child care for their children after the province decided over the weekend to cancel school classes and the operations of licensed child-care facilities, out-of-school care programs and preschools in the wake of the pandemic.
She advised parents to limit the length of playdates until further notice.
“I know the situation can be overwhelming and create anxiety as we watch the global effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Hinshaw said. “We as Albertans and Canadians must come together and support one another.
“We must continue to be compassionate and do what we can to help one another.”
Hinshaw added that she has heard Canadian Blood Services is seeing a decline in blood donations and reminded Albertans that “the need for blood donors remains strong, and it’s safe to donate blood during COVID-19.”
Changes at Canadian airports
Hinshaw was asked about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision Monday morning to close Canada’s borders to most foreign travellers and to restrict incoming international flights to just a few Canadian airports.
“I think from my perspective, the federal government has taken these additional measures to emphasize the seriousness,” she said. “With respect to the impact of those, I think that remains to be seen.
“Certainly having targeted airports where international flights come does help to make sure that any international flights arriving, that the resources are focused on those locations and people can be sure to get the information that they need.
“But we need to remain vigilant for what unintended consequences might be.”
A government official noted that the province is co-ordinating with Alberta’s major airports to ensure all arriving travellers are aware of the “current state of events” in Alberta.
When asked if the risk of contracting the coronavirus remains low, Hinshaw said that “we’re beyond a low, medium and high ranking but the risk has increased, of community transmission, and Albertans need to be mindful of the things that they do every day — the choices they make in their everyday life — can save lives.”
WATCH: Global News coverage of the novel coronavirus
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.