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Alberta has 754 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 9 deaths total

Alberta sees 64 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total number to 754
WATCH: Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announces 64 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday that a third death related to the novel coronavirus had occurred at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities in Alberta to nine.

Alberta has 754 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 9 deaths total
Alberta has 754 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 9 deaths total

It is the third death at that Calgary seniors’ home.

“This is another tragic case of COVID-19 at its worst,” Hinshaw said.

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

The province saw 64 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 754, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said.

Hinshaw said 77 of the confirmed cases involve health-care workers, including staff at continuing care facilities.

Province announces third patient has died of COVID-19 at McKenzie care facility in Calgary
Province announces third patient has died of COVID-19 at McKenzie care facility in Calgary

She said the majority of the cases involving health-care workers were returning travelers or someone who attended the March bonspiel, and not acquired while they were providing care.

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Alberta Health later clarified: “There were 22 positive cases among the 47 Albertan health-care workers who attended the bonspiel. Only the three Red Deer physicians previously announced saw patients while symptomatic. There have been no cases to date among any patients.”

Hinshaw said 75 of the total 754 cases are believed to be the result of community transmission.

“This is concerning,” Hinshaw said.

READ MORE: Alberta’s top doctor says province has 5 new deaths tied to COVID-19

Of the total confirmed cases, as of March 31, 453 were in the Calgary zone, 187 in the Edmonton zone, 51 in the central zone, 12 in the south zone, 50 in the north zone and one in an unknown zone.

There are currently 26 people in hospital, with 11 admitted to intensive care units. Alberta has seen 120 people recover from the virus.

‘It’s something we are monitoring very closely’: AHS on contingency plan amid health-care worker illnesses
‘It’s something we are monitoring very closely’: AHS on contingency plan amid health-care worker illnesses

Continuing care homes

Hinshaw said health officials consider the situations to be outbreaks at McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, Carewest Glenmore Park Centre in Calgary and Shepherd’s Care Foundation Kensington Village in Edmonton.

“These outbreaks remain worrisome. We know seniors and those with chronic health conditions are at greatest risk.”

Hinshaw said Tuesday there were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Kensington Village.

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Forty-one people at McKenzie Towne tested positive for the virus, including five staff.

Dr. Hinshaw clarifies inaccuracies in previous COVID-19 update in Alberta
Dr. Hinshaw clarifies inaccuracies in previous COVID-19 update in Alberta

Hinshaw said Tuesday it appears outbreak protocol wasn’t implemented immediately at McKenzie Towne and now, the priority must be preventing any further spread.

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“There are protocols with respect to testing and making sure that we quickly identify if that is a case of COVID. In the case of McKenzie Towne, unfortunately that outbreak protocol seems to not have been implemented immediately. So there does seem to have been a significant amount of exposure.

“And so really, the critical piece of response in that particular outbreak is making sure that everything is done to prevent any further exposure,” Hinshaw said. “So any residents who are feeling ill are kept in their rooms and make sure that they are not interacting with others.

“Any staff members who are ill are kept at home. Staff members who were exposed are allowed to work in that facility in order to keep that facility open and running… but they must wear masks while providing care and they must not work in any other facility.”

Hinshaw details protocols for outbreak control at Alberta care facilities
Hinshaw details protocols for outbreak control at Alberta care facilities

She also said Alberta Health officials have legally required some seniors’ facilities to change their outbreak protocols.

“We’ve been trying, over the past weeks, to put in additional restrictions. Some of those were recommendations and guidelines. More recently, over the last week, we’ve actually created legal orders that require changes of practice for these facilities. And I think we’re seeing heightened awareness of the importance that these aren’t just suggestions; they’re actually legal requirements.

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“We are seeing enhanced ability to implement those quickly,” Hinshaw said.

Health-care system capacity

Alberta Health Services vice-president Mark Joffe said they are looking at all possibilities in both hospitals and in the community in terms of bed capacity.

“There has been… an incredible amount of planning, ongoing, in Alberta Health Services, for what we anticipate to be an increasing number of individuals who will require care.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Canadian companies now manufacturing ventilators, surgical masks

Joffe said AHS was already planning to have 2,250 beds available for the COVID-19 health response and it will expand beyond that capacity. He said he’s heard some hospital staff saying “they’ve never seen as many beds open in our facilities as there are right now.”

Joffe said AHS is looking at other opportunities for different types of care. For instance, secondary assessment centres are being set up.

Hinshaw sends a message to younger Albertans about COVID-19
Hinshaw sends a message to younger Albertans about COVID-19

Hinshaw also pointed to a change in the assessment process. Currently, a positive novel coronavirus case is determined by a positive test result. She said, in the future, they may turn to diagnosing more “probable cases” through symptoms and a person’s close contact with a confirmed case, without requiring a swab.

Hinshaw said over the weekend, there was a delay in a chemical required for testing being delivered, which reduced the number of swabs Alberta could do. The shipment arrived Monday, she said, and so it’s expected Alberta will return to its previous level of lab testing (up to 3,000 swabs a day).

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On Tuesday night, AHS CEO Verna Yiu tweeted that 50,000 COVID-19 tests have now been conducted in Alberta since the health crisis began.

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions as of March 31

Alberta Health provided data on the ages of those Albertans admitted to hospital (general and in intensive care) on March 31.

Ages of those admitted to hospital to date (49):
· 1-4 years: 0
· 5-9 years: 0
· 10-14 years: 0
· 15-19 years: 1
· 20-24 years: 0
· 25-34 years: 1
· 35-44 years: 9
· 45-54 years: 12
· 55-64 years: 7
· 65-79 years: 12
· 80+ years: 7

Ages of those admitted to ICU to date (17):
· 1-4 years: 0
· 5-9 years: 0
· 10-14 years: 0
· 15-19 years: 0
· 20-24 years: 0
· 25-34 years: 1
· 35-44 years: 0
· 45-54 years: 3
· 55-64 years: 4
· 65-79 years: 7
· 80+ years: 2

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‘Kindness matters’

In addition to observing physical distancing, practicing good hygiene and staying at home, Hinshaw said there are other ways to support your community.

“Now, more than ever, kindness matters.”

She suggested supporting organizations like Meals on Wheels, the food bank, and if healthy, inquiring as to whether these groups need volunteers.

READ MORE: Edmonton charities launch ‘urgent’ campaign for cash-only donations to buy clothing for homeless

Donating blood is another way to help, Hinshaw said.

“Donations have declined and we still need blood to support Albertans suffering from other health conditions.”

She added physical distancing measures have been put in place at Canadian Blood Services facilities.