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Alberta has 195 COVID-19 cases; some child care centres to reopen for essential service workers

WATCH: Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

On Friday, health officials said there had been 49 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Alberta in the last 24 hours, bringing the total up to 195.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the majority of cases are connected to people who have travelled from outside the country or close contacts of those people.

Ten of these individuals are in hospital and five are in the intensive care unit.

“We knew this would happen,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “This is why we’re taking these extraordinary measures. This is a virus to be taken very seriously.

“Every single case is one that could potentially end up in a very serious situation.”

There have been no additional deaths connected to the novel coronavirus in Alberta, Hinshaw said Friday.

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While the investigation into the confirmed cases continues, “we suspect up to 11 of these cases total may be community transmission,” Hinshaw said.

At least 34 cases of COVID-19 came from one Calgary gathering
At least 34 cases of COVID-19 came from one Calgary gathering

READ MORE: Alberta reports province’s 1st COVID-19 death, officials working on plan to enforce new rules

Cases have been identified in all zones across the province. As of Friday, there were 126 cases in the Calgary zone, 43 cases in the Edmonton zone, 17 cases in the North zone, five cases in the South zone, and four cases in the Central zone.

Aggregate data, showing cases by age range and zone, as well as by local geographical areas, is available online at alberta.ca/covid19statistics.

She offered some good news: there are three cases in Alberta that are now listed as recovered.

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Hinshaw asks Albertans to remind people that ‘staying home saves lives’
Hinshaw asks Albertans to remind people that ‘staying home saves lives’

She also shared good news in the amazing work of health-care teams and lab staff. Hinshaw said there’s been quick training of many medical students to help boost the contact-tracing capacity.

“This contact tracing is helping to contain the spread of this virus.”

Some child care centres to reopen

The Alberta government announced Friday it would start contacting some licensed child care centres, asking them to reopen with certain protocols in place to care for children of people working in essential services.

The sites would be chosen based on certain characteristics, including their proximity to health care services.

Alberta to reopen certain child care spaces for front-line workers
Alberta to reopen certain child care spaces for front-line workers

They would be limited to 30 people on site total, including staff, the province said. There will also be other protocols in place, including temperature checks at drop off, a number limit and rules for sanitization.

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READ MORE: University of Alberta med students offer child care to doctors amid coronavirus pandemic

The children services ministry would begin contacting those identified centres Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said.

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They would be reopened in a phased approach starting next week. The province is looking at opening up to 15,000 spaces and will be prioritizing spaces in cities where health-care workers are in high demand.

As Alberta parents scramble to find child care amid coronavirus pandemic, others step up to help
As Alberta parents scramble to find child care amid coronavirus pandemic, others step up to help

Parents will be contacted by their employer to offer these spaces.

He specified the need for child care for Albertans who work in crucial services during the coronavirus crisis, starting with health-care workers, then moving to other essential services like police and other first responders.

“All other licensed child care centres are to remain closed,” he said.

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Day homes with less than six children can remain open.

The premier added a request: “You only use [these centres] if you have no other way that you can get to your critical job.

“We all need to operate in this new normal… using only the resources we need.”

Some Alberta child care centres to reopen for essential service workers
Some Alberta child care centres to reopen for essential service workers

If someone isn’t self-isolating

Hinshaw said Alberta likely won’t be able to set up a phone line to report Albertans not following self-isolation rules after returning from travel or feeling sick. However, she encouraged people to kindly remind them of the immense repercussions.

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“Remind them that this is not something they should be taking lightly. Staying home is saving lives.”

She said that all professional health colleges — that help regulate and monitor health professionals — will take reports of their members not following the rules and remind them of their professional obligation.

The justice ministry is looking at methods of enforcing the rules impacting public places, capacity limits, businesses and schools.

Gatherings must not exceed 50 people, that restriction includes recreation and private entertainment facilities. If Albertans see facilities that are not following these limitations and restrictions, they are asked to notify public health inspectors at Alberta Health Services through the online complaint form.

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Government actions on economy

Kenney also announced actions the provincial government is taking to help the Alberta economy.

First, it is waving the industry levy for the Alberta Energy Regulator for six months. The government is funding the industry levy for the AER for that time, achieving $113 million in industry relief.

The government is also granting extensions for oil and gas tenures. It will extend the term of mineral agreements expiring in 2020 by one year to provide certainty for industry by providing more time to raise capital and plan future activities.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils $82B in aid for families, business amid coronavirus uncertainty

Alberta also formed an Economic Recovery Council.

“Its task is to provide really practical advice to the Alberta government on the path through this economic crisis and to think about the mid- and long-term strategy of recovery,” Kenney said.

“This will include strategies to accelerate economic diversification.”

The council is made up of policy and industry experts:
· Jack Mintz, chair
· Clive Beddoe – former chair, president and CEO, WestJet
· Robert Blakely – Canadian operating officer, Canada’s Building Trades Union
· Brent Belzberg – founder and senior managing partner, TorQuest Partners
· Bob Dhillon – founder, president and CEO, Mainstreet Equity Corporation
· Chris Fowler – president and CEO, Canadian Western Bank
· Hon. Stephen Harper – Canada’s 22nd prime minister
· Peter Kiss – owner and president, Morgan Construction and Environmental
· Zainul Mawji – president, Telus Home Solutions
· Nancy Southern – chair and CEO, ATCO Ltd.
· Kevin Uebelein – CEO, AIMCo
· Mac Van Wielingen – founder, ARC Financial

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“This is the most significant and disruptive economic downturn in generations,” Kenney said. “It will get worse before it gets better. The Government of Alberta will do everything in its power to protect jobs and job creators.”

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

Support for vulnerable populations

During a meeting Friday morning, “the Emergency Management Committee of cabinet decided to support an expansion of the network of homeless shelters” in Alberta to help cities, local agencies and AHS respond to the coronavirus crisis,” Kenney said.

The move will help ensure social distancing measures can be observed in homeless shelters while providing back-up facilities to separate those with symptoms. It will also offer “surge capacity” to house those without symptoms.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Kenney says Edmonton Expo Centre will be used for vulnerable population

Emergency Management Amendment Act

Also on Friday, the province amended the Emergency Management Amendment Act to allow local and provincial states of emergency to exist at the same time.

The government said a provincial state of emergency can now “supplement and reinforce a local authority’s state of emergency, allowing both levels of government to work more closely.”

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The amendments “clarify emergency management responsibilities and ensure that local authorities can remain responsible for their communities in the event of a provincial state of emergency.”

As of March 20, there have been 25 local states of emergency declared in Alberta.

Jason Nixon to explain why the Alberta legislature is adjourned until Friday
Jason Nixon to explain why the Alberta legislature is adjourned until Friday

Rule changes to seniors’ homes

Hinshaw announced new rules surrounding visits to seniors’ facilities in Alberta Friday.

Now, only a single “essential visitor” — designated by the resident or guardian — may visit. They will be screened prior to visiting the individual and that process could include a temperature check or questionnaire. Facilities must have a staff member or greeter at the door to ensure this happens.

Alberta enhances protections for seniors’ facilities against spread of COVID-19
Alberta enhances protections for seniors’ facilities against spread of COVID-19

Exceptions will be made for those who are dying, Hinshaw said. In that case, only one visitor at a time will be allowed to visit.

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“These measures will be extremely difficult for residents of seniors’ facilities,” she said.

Hinshaw, who has been the daily face of the province’s updates, said she’ll be resting this weekend and spending time with her family. A colleague will be handling the daily updates on Saturday and Sunday.

“Thank you for supporting each other,” she said.

For more information on the cases, including their locations in Alberta, head to the government’s website.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.