Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta would be amending some of its restrictions relating to long-term care sites to address residents’ quality of life and the negative impacts of isolation.
“Outbreaks in these facilities remain a concern for many,” the chief medical officer of health said Wednesday.
“At the same time, I’ve heard the preventative measures … have had negative effects.
“The measures we have put in place over these last weeks are necessary… but I also know they are causing residents to feel further isolation.”
Hinshaw announced the following public health orders to amend directives for continuing care facilities:
– Anyone with even mild symptoms must immediately be tested for COVID-19 and isolated until results come back
– As soon as a case is identified, all residents in that unit must be tested even if asymptomatic
– Any staff caring for an isolating client must wear PPE including glasses, masks, visors, gloves, gown
– Continuing care staff must only work at one location
– Residents of long-term care facilities who are not in isolation can enjoy outdoor visits with a designated essential visitor. All must wear masks and adhere to physical distancing
“I am issuing a second new order,” Hinshaw said. “It will allow residents of these facilities who are not in isolation to enjoy outdoor visits with a designated essential visitor and one other person.
“These are important to the mental health of residents and families.
“Of course, even while outside, all appropriate precautions must be taken to prevent exposure to COVID-19. This includes physical distancing and requiring all visitors to wear a mask or face covering.”
Visits inside these facilities are still restricted.
Hinshaw clarified Wednesday that end-of-life visits apply to any patient whose death is estimated to be in two weeks or less.
“We expect that individuals who are dying should have the opportunity to have their loved ones at their side, while following the guidance in place to ensure everyone’s safety.”
She said in those cases, two visitors will be allowed at a time as long as the can keep two-metres apart.
“Stand-alone hospice facilities are not affected by these orders,” Hinshaw added, saying there are no visitor restrictions on hospice sites.
The chief medical officer of health also signed a new order for residential addiction treatment facilities.
Under previous standards, these sites would have had to follow the continuing care centre rules. The change will mean patients can continue to receive treatment as these centres follow new measures that allow for group therapy and shorter residency for clients.
On Wednesday, seven additional deaths were reported; all of them were in Calgary continuing care centres. Six of them were at Clifton Manor.
“I want to emphasize that this sad news is not a reflection of the work that has gone into managing this outbreak at the site, where my local colleagues tell me the site responded promptly, created an isolation ward and worked hard to prevent the spread.
“This shows the power of this virus in a closed environment,” she added.
“We have taken every outbreak seriously and have used our fundamental outbreak control principles to limit spread in settings of concern.”
Alberta’s death toll stands at 87.
More than 5,200 tests were done over the last 24 hours.
Alberta has 315 new cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the provincial total to 5,165.
Of these cases, there are currently 86 people in hospital, 22 of whom have been admitted to intensive care units.
Alberta Health said 580 cases are suspected of being community acquired.
There are 503 COVID-19 cases in long-term care centres. Fifty-nine residents at these facilities have died.
Hinshaw said 1,953 people had recovered.
As of Wednesday, Alberta Health confirmed 821 cases in workers at the Cargill meat plant and 276 cases in employees and contractors at the JBS plant in Brooks.
The Kearl Lake oilsands site has done significant testing, Hinshaw said.
“There have been a total of 83 confirmed cases identified, 65 of those are in Alberta and of those, 33 are on the site.
“This particular work site has lots of measures in place to make sure anyone who is a confirmed case and anyone who has symptoms are isolated and away from others.”
Alberta’s outbreak strategy
Hinshaw stressed that Alberta Health has “taken every outbreak seriously.”
She said officials have “also continually refined our strategy… as new information becomes available.”
The outbreak response requires close co-ordination with all involved parties, Hinshaw explained, adding there are three parts of the plan: prevention and preparedness, rapid response and outbreak management.
Under that estimate, 298 Albertans will require hospitalization and 95 will require critical care when the virus reaches its peak.
“If current trends continue, this scenario will become the most likely scenario for Alberta,” the government said.