EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally said one of the deaths announced on Monday was a man at Edmonton’s Rosedale on the Park facility, based on information provided by Alberta Health. On Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she has since found out the man had not been at Rosedale since March 17 and that no other resident or staff member there has been identified as having COVID-19. She apologized for any concern she may have caused with her comments Monday. The article has since been updated to reflect the new information. On Monday, Hinshaw said Shepherd’s Care Foundation- Kensington Village in Edmonton had six active COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday she announced that she has since been made aware that their number remains at four which had been previously reported.
Five more deaths in Alberta have been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to eight.
“This has been one of the hardest days yet,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said with a grim face as she updated media on the province’s response to the health crisis. “I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families.
“Each of these individuals had a life that mattered,” Hinshaw said, adding it was hard to see so many deaths in a single day.
Hinshaw said the new deaths involved people with risk factors like old age or chronic medical conditions.
Of the five new deaths, Hinshaw said those who died are a woman in her 70s at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, two men in their 80s in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 50s in the Calgary zone and a man in his 30s in the North zone.
The death at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre marks the second COVID-19-related fatality at the facility. In a news release, the government said Monday that 41 people at that facility have tested positive for COVID-19: 36 residents and five staff. However, at her news conference, Hinshaw said the number included probable and confirmed cases.
Alberta Health Services vice-president Mark Joffe also offered his condolences to friends, family and loved ones of the people who died.
“It’s a very sombre reminder… that every case is a case we’d like to avoid,” Hinshaw said. “But it underlines the actions all of us must take to reduce the spread.”
Watch below: Some videos from Monday’s news conference where Alberta’s chief medical officer of health provided an update on the province’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Hinshaw added that 29 new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 690.
Of the confirmed cases, 422 are from the Calgary zone, 164 are from the Edmonton zone, 46 are from the Central zone, 45 are from the North zone, 12 are from the South zone and there is one case for which the zone has yet to be confirmed. In total, there have been 47 hospitalizations because of COVID-19 and 28 people remain in hospital currently. Eleven of those people are in intensive care units.
Hinshaw acknowledged that the number of confirmed cases in the last few days has been “less than what we’ve seen previously,” but she noted there are a few reasons for that and it is not clear yet whether a new trend is emerging.
“We have stopped testing returning travellers, so we knew that our daily positive numbers would go down,” she said.
“We have also had a decrease in the total daily tests in the lab over the past few days given some challenges with lab-testing supplies.”
As of last week, Alberta tweaked its approach to COVID-19 testing, implementing a new protocol that prioritizes at-risk populations and those at the highest risk of exposure.
“It will take us several days more of this new testing protocol to get enough data to understand our trends,” Hinshaw said Monday.
She added that health officials believe up to 65 cases in the province are believed to be the result of community transmission, something Hinshaw called “a concerning number.”
The total number of Albertans who have now recovered from COVID-19 stands at 94.
“Following the public health guidelines will save lives,” Hinshaw said, adding that Albertans need to take social distancing measures seriously.
Hinshaw also told Albertans who are under mandatory self-isolation — because of close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or because of recent travel — that unlike before, they can no longer go for walks. She said anyone self-isolating for these reasons must now remain on their property. For people in apartment buildings, they cannot use elevators or stairwells in the building or leave their units.
She also pleaded with Albertans not to go to summer cottages or remote areas during the crisis as health-care facilities and staff there will have limited capacity for dealing with the pandemic.
Hinshaw also thanked Albertans who are following health measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. She expressed gratitude for Albertans who are delivering essential services during the pandemic, and for doing so safely.
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.
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