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.
While the investigation into the confirmed cases continues, “we suspect up to 11 of these cases total may be community transmission,” Hinshaw said.
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.
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.
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.
The children services ministry would begin contacting those identified centres Friday, Premier Jason Kenney said.
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.
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.
Day homes with less than six children can remain open.
“We all need to operate in this new normal… using only the resources we need.”
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.
“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.
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.
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
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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