Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed Friday that Alberta saw seven additional deaths from COVID-19, four of which were at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.
The seniors’ home has recorded 17 fatalities connected to the disease to date.
She also said another long-term care centre, Shepherd’s Care Kensington in Edmonton, had 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death.
The seven individuals who passed away included five from the Calgary Zone: a man in his 80s, two men in their 70s, a woman in her 80s, a woman in her 90s — and two from the Edmonton Zone: a man in his 80s and a man in his 60s.
“This is the highest number of deaths we’ve seen in a single day,” Hinshaw said.
“I extend my deep condolences. I know that many people are concerned of the health of residents at continuing care facilities and I am as well.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Friday there were 49 new cases in the province, bringing the total to 1,500.
To date, 164 cases have been confirmed at continuing care facilities. Clifton Manor in Calgary confirmed to Global News Friday that a third resident there had tested positive for COVID-19.
A total of 39 Albertans have died. As of Friday, there were 48 people in hospital, 13 of whom have been admitted to intensive care units.
Hinshaw said 713 people had recovered from COVID-19.
She said Alberta Health believes 201 cases are the result of community transmission.
Hinshaw said 2,123 COVID-19 tests had been done in the last 24 hours.
“This does not fully reflect the number of Albertans who have had testing scheduled,” she said.
“As of last night, I was told more than 6,000 people had been referred for testing in the last 24 hours.”
Earlier this week, testing eligibility was expanded to include anyone in the Calgary zone with COVID-19 symptoms, anyone in Alberta over the age of 65 (or who lives with someone over 65) with symptoms, essential workers who have public contact/access.
Albertans must still use the online assessment tool, call 811 and follow instructions to book a test.
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Further restrictions/protocols at continuing care facilities
Hinshaw said Alberta is exploring every option when it comes to controlling spread in seniors’ care homes. The province is looking at other jurisdictions and is implementing new restrictions and rules at these types of facilities.
– All workers at sites must wear masks at all times when near patients or near others
– Continuing care staff must only work at one site
– Expanded testing eligibility. List of symptoms for those in long-term care expanded to include:
- Any new or worsening respiratory symptoms: cough, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, runny nose or sneezing, nasal congestion, hoarse voice, sore throat, difficulty swallowing
- Any new onset atypical symptoms including but not limited to: chills, muscle aches, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, feeling unwell/fatigued/malaise, headache.
Hinshaw explained that continuing care staff were previously required to wear masks when working with residents displaying any symptoms. Now, the rule change will protect residents and other staff members from employees who may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.
She explained the one-site rule was already implemented at outbreak locations but would be expanded to include all continuing care sites. The change will take effect “late next week.”
The delay, Hinshaw said, was to give officials time to look at compensation and salary concerns with workers who may rely on shifts at multiple sites for their livelihoods.
“We will be looking at making sure that when workers are assigned to a facilities – one of the terms being used is ‘they’re made whole,'” Hinshaw explained, adding officials want to ensure “people are not significantly disadvantaged.”
She said lodges with no supportive living designation and group homes are also encouraged to implement these changes but, at this time, it is voluntary.
Alberta Health will work to mitigate concerns about staffing levels at these sites, Hinshaw added.
The top priority, she stressed, was the health and safety of elderly Albertans, who are “at high risk of severe illness from this disease.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Alberta Health Services is in charge of the stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Alberta Health will be providing AHS with a list of continuing care facilities while shipments will be assembled this weekend and shipped out early next week, likely Monday. The legal requirement for masking will take effect early next week, Hinshaw said.
She announced another rule change Friday.
Effective immediately, Hinshaw said health-care workers who provide direct patient care or work in patient-care areas must wear a surgical or procedural mask continuously at all times in the workplace when social distancing is not possible.
AHS is making this change to protect patients from inadvertent exposure to potentially asymptomatic workers.
Alberta Health said officials will provide an in-person update on Monday but not Saturday or Sunday, when new statistics and situational reports will be posted online instead.