Alberta confirmed five COVID-19-related fatalities on Wednesday, bringing the province’s total number of deaths from the virus to 66.
According to Alberta Health data, two victims were in their 70s and three were in their 80s.
There were 306 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Wednesday, bringing the total to 3,401.
A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the first COVID-19 case on an Alberta First Nation was recorded – on Sucker Creek First Nation in northern Alberta near High Prairie.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said even though it is a single case in that community and not an outbreak, Alberta Health is disclosing the confirmed case at the request of the First Nation.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the confirmed case is a contact of a previously confirmed case in High Prairie and is now self-isolating.
Premier Jason Kenney said 70 Albertans are in hospital with the virus; 18 of whom are in intensive care units.
“The number of hospitalizations has risen recently but is still well below the modelling released by AHS,” he said.
The premier said Alberta is “still doing a good job” and must “stay vigilant,” by practicing good hygiene, physically distancing and wearing face masks when appropriate.
If people maintain these habits, “we’ll be able to look at cautiously restarting our economy” when health officials determine it is safe to do so.
Kenney said he’ll be meeting with the relaunch working group on Thursday and hopes to update Albertans on the relaunch strategy next week.
“To think that if we were to reopen everything today and the numbers would stay where they are today, has no basis in science,” he stressed.
“We would have to shut down more of our economy, more harshly… causing even more damage,” Kenney said.
“I do believe we can see the light at the end of the tunnel here… Albertans have risen to the challenge… and we must continue to meet that challenge.”
As of Wednesday, 1,310 Albertans had recovered from the novel coronavirus and a total of 113,499 tests had been completed. Between 2 p.m. Tuesday and 2 p.m. Wednesday, 4,484 tests were done.
Hinshaw was asked what numbers Alberta would have to maintain in order to ease some restrictions.
“What we want to see is stable or declining hospitalizations and ideally stable or declining total number of cases over the course of one to two weeks.”
Hinshaw also explained the decision would depend on how outbreak locations were managing.
Sharing medical supplies
The premier said Alberta sent more medical supplies to Quebec earlier this week, as that province is being particularly hard-hit by the novel coronavirus and is estimated to be about three weeks ahead of Alberta on the curve.
Kenney said Quebec has over 1,300 people in hospital, “more than 10 times the number in Alberta … Our numbers are much, much lower and far below what we’ve modelled.”
He said Alberta sent 25 ventilators to Quebec on Monday “to save the lives of Canadians.” The premier added Alberta still has “hundreds more ventilators than we expect to need.”
Kenney said Alberta has 600 ventilators on hand. On average, patients (COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) would use about 100 ventilators a day in the province.
The premier asserted Alberta’s stockpile of equipment remains much larger than the province’s current and anticipated needs, which is why Alberta has shared equipment like masks and gloves with other provinces.
“Later this week we’ll be sending 20,000 procedural masks to the Northwest Territories,” Kenney said.
Outbreaks at meat plants and oilsands site
Hinshaw said Wednesday there are 96 COVID-19 cases in workers linked to the JBS plant.
Hinshaw said there are 440 cases in workers from the Cargill meat plant. There are 580 cases in the community, including households, connected to the outbreak at the plant, but not necessarily workers.
AHS teams are working to reduce spread in households connected to both the Cargill plant and the Brooks outbreak, she said.
Occupational Health and Safety is conducting investigations looking into “potential exposure of workers” to the novel coronavirus at both the Cargill and JBS plants.
Hinshaw confirmed one JBS worker had died but the cause of death is not known. It is not known to be a case of COVID-19, she said, so an investigation is taking place to determine the cause.
When it comes to the Kearl Lake oilsands site, there are 25 cases in Alberta, 10 of whom are currently isolating at the work camp, 15 off site. There are also seven cases connected to the plant outside Alberta – five in B.C., one in Saskatchewan and one in Nova Scotia.
The premier said the two meat facilities dealing with outbreaks represent about one per cent of meat processing plants in Alberta.
“And, we have hundreds of oil field sites… and to the best of my knowledge, we’ve only seen an outbreak in one,” Kenney said.
While the facilities represent essential work for Alberta’s economy, the outbreaks are reminder of the virus’ severity.
“We won’t – and can’t – reopen everything at once,” the premier said.
If you’re healthy, consider volunteering
The province launched a website that will connect people who wish to volunteer with organizations needing help.
The site is called Alberta Cares Connector.
“During this unprecedented crisis, Albertans understand that the need for volunteerism and social support is urgent,” Minister of Culture Leela Aheer said. “And, once again, they have demonstrated their commitment to their neighbours and communities through selfless acts of service.”
Ways people can help include:
- Volunteering at food banks
- Sewing masks or scrub bags for front-line health-care workers
- Providing meals for essential service workers, like truckers
- Picking up groceries for those unable to leave their homes
- Packing and delivering essential needs for vulnerable Albertans
- Donating blood through myaccount.blood.ca
- Donating items to shelters in need
- Reaching out to seniors through positive messages or phone calls.