Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll rose by three Thursday, reaching 32 total fatalities from the disease. Twenty-two of those were in the Calgary zone.
The three latest deaths were a woman in her 80s in the Calgary zone, a man in his 70s in the Edmonton zone, and a woman in her 60s in the Calgary zone, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
One death was linked to a continuing care centre in Calgary, but Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the individual was not a resident of McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, where over a dozen deaths have occurred.
So far, 151 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in staff and residents in continuing care facilities.
Alberta Health said Thursday the province had 1,451 confirmed cases. In the last 24 hours, there have been 28 new cases in Alberta.
Of these cases, there are currently 47 people in hospital, 14 of whom have been admitted to intensive care units. Officials suspect 192 cases to be community acquired. The government also said 592 people had recovered.
As of 2 p.m. on April 9, Alberta had completed 70,247 COVID-19 tests. There were 1,333 people tested in the last 24 hours.
Hospital expansion at Peter Lougheed Centre
Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that, thanks to a donation from Alberta-based Sprung Structures, the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary would be temporarily expanded.
The company donated a temporary structure to Alberta Health Services that will add up to 6,000 square-feet of treatment space for COVID-19 patients. It will create about 100 more care spaces for Calgary-area patients.
Planning is already in the works and Shandro said the space will be ready later this month. The structure will be located in the parking lot next to the Peter Lougheed Centre.
AHS will invest up to $3 million to turn the structure into a site for safe, high-quality health-care delivery that meets all standards for infection prevention and control, the government said.
“This new space will provide more options for treatment beyond the scope of our existing facilities as our teams continue to care for Albertans and battle this pandemic,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS president and CEO.
“On behalf of AHS, I’d like to say how appreciative we all are for the generosity of Phil and Tim Sprung, and would like to extend our gratitude to Sprung Structures.”
Golf courses and private gyms
Hinshaw said Alberta Health has been receiving reports of private gyms and fitness centres remaining open.
She said this was a violation of public health orders that are enforceable by law.
Hinshaw said she understand the importance of exercise but the risk of spread is too great at gym facilities.
She was also asked about golf courses preparing to open as the weather warms. Hinshaw said Alberta Health would be releasing guidelines very shortly, but in her view, golf courses are non-essential services. Therefore, they could have workers there maintaining the green — as long as they’re observing physical distancing measures – but courses should not be open to the public.
Signs of hope and message for Easter
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said there are early signs that actions people are taking are making a difference. Hinshaw said there’s been a significant drop in influenza cases over the last few weeks, while the testing for has remained quite constant.
She also had a message for Albertans heading into the holiday weekend.
Hinshaw urged people to remain physically apart during the holidays. She said if attending a drive-in service, only members of the same household should be in the vehicle together.
Expanded COVID-19 testing
Alberta expanded the testing parameters Wednesday to include all residents of the Calgary zone who have a cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath; essential service workers across Alberta with any of those symptoms; and any Albertan with these symptoms who lives with a person 65 or older is also eligible for testing.
Hinshaw said that within two hours of Wednesday’s announcement, the online assessment tool was used over 500 times by people inputting their symptoms and making arrangements for testing.
She said more people have been using the COVID-19 assessment centres but doesn’t expect there to be the delays and waits for tests Albertans experienced at the start of the pandemic.
AHS has “expanded our testing,” has “much more efficient intake for those who are eligible for testing,” she explained.
She added that anyone who fits this description should use the province’s online assessment tool to kickstart the process that leads to getting tested.
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