104 Albertans have died of COVID-19, 70 new cases confirmed Monday

Alberta announces 9 additional deaths, 70 new cases of COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, issues her COVID-19 update for May 4, 2020.

Nine more people in Alberta have died from COVID-19 and an additional 70 cases have been confirmed by the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday.

Alberta’s chief officer of health said the new confirmed cases bring the provincial total to 5,836, with 2,942 recoveries.

The death toll in the province is now at 104.

“Reaching more than 100 deaths is a sombre milestone,” Hinshaw said.

“Four of the nine deaths reported today occurred within the last 24 hours. The others occurred in the previous days or weeks. Sometimes it takes time to confirm a death was related to COVID-19.”

Of the nine new deaths reported Monday, eight of them were patients in continuing care facilities.

Of the most recent fatalities, four were residents at the Extendicare Hillcrest centre in the Calgary zone: two women in their 80s, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s.

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Three residents at the Intercare Brentwood Care Centre in the Calgary zone also died. The fatalities at that centre involved a woman and man in their 80s and a man in his 90s.

A woman in her 90s at AgeCare Sunrise Gardens in the South zone also died.

The other death was a man in his 80s in the Calgary zone who was not in care.

There are now 621 COVID-19 cases in continuing care centres across the province, and 75 total patients at the facilities have died.

There are currently 89 people in hospital, 21 of whom are in intensive care.

According to Alberta Health, 733 cases are suspected of being community acquired.

Hinshaw also gave updated numbers from several meat-packing plants that have experienced outbreaks in the province.

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She said that at the Cargill plant in High River, which reopened Monday, there have been a total 936 cases confirmed, 810 of which have now recovered.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Alta., reopens amid ongoing talks with union

At the JBS plant in Brooks, there have been 469 cases. Hinshaw said the city of Brooks itself now has confirmed 998 cases.

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“This is not an outbreak limited to a worksite,” she said. “Employees at these plants should not be blamed or shamed for the spread of this virus.”

Hinshaw added that she has heard stories about employees and their families at the plants being stigmatized by the community.

“People who are cases or close contacts will be supported by public health to self-isolate, but this is not required of all employees or families.

“When people are stigmatized or targeted, it blocks our collective ability to control the spread, as people may fear getting tested or talking to public health.”

She said there is an outbreak at the Purolator distribution centre in Calgary, with 30 cases now reported in employees. Hinshaw said that Alberta Health Services is working with the company to test all employees at the centre, not just those with symptoms

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Low risk of COVID-19 transmission from packaging: Hinshaw
Low risk of COVID-19 transmission from packaging: Hinshaw

Hinshaw said that it’s “possible” for the virus to survive on some surfaces.

“I think that with respect to receiving packages, the safest thing to do would be to open the package, dispose of the packaging… and then wash hands immediately before touching any of the contents in the package,” she said.

Hinshaw added there is little evidence to indicate infections have occurred in the province through delivered packages.

Expanded testing

Hinshaw also announced that testing would be further expanded in the province, including all asymptomatic contacts of people who are confirmed to have the virus.

“While most people who get infected will eventually feel sick, there are some who do not,” Hinshaw said.

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“Considering what we now know about how this virus spreads, including that people can pass it on before they feel sick… this is a necessary step.”

Albertans with any of the following expanded symptoms can now be tested:

Fever, chills, a new cough or worsening of chronic cough, new or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, stuffy or running nose, headaches, sore throat or painful swallowing, muscle or joint aches, feeling unwell in general, new fatigue or severe exhaustion, gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or unexplained loss of appetite), loss of smell or taste, or pink eye.

Alberta expands COVID-19 symptoms eligible for testing
Alberta expands COVID-19 symptoms eligible for testing

“This expanded list is based on new and emerging information on the virus. The AHS self-assessment tool online has been updated to include all of these symptoms,” Hinshaw said.

She added that all newly-admitted patients to continuing care facilities will now be tested, as well as all residents who are admitted to hospital or discharged from hospital and return to the facility.

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Risk is not eliminated, but reduced

Hinshaw said that her office is continuing to work with the province in continuing to monitor the relaunch plan as the May 14 date for possible further reopening approaches.

She noted that May 14 is still a target and not confirmed as the next important relaunch date yet.

“The message as we look towards this relaunch is not that we have eliminated the risk — we have not. We have reduced it by our actions together by limiting the spread.”

Hinshaw said that even if the relaunch goes as planned, Albertans will still need to keep at least two metres apart and follow guidelines to prevent spread.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Alberta phased relaunch strategy will see some restrictions eased Friday

“Any business that is going to be allowed to reopen must demonstrate that they have measures in place to prevent the spread in that particular location,” she said.

“We need to continue to be cautious together. These businesses cannot open in the way that they used to operate.”

Alberta cannot wait until there are no COVID-19 cases to reopen: Hinshaw
Alberta cannot wait until there are no COVID-19 cases to reopen: Hinshaw

Hinshaw said that Albertans should be encouraged by the lower number of daily confirmed cases, but should also remain vigilant about preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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Chiropractors, psychologists, other health professional services to resume

At Monday’s update, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro also announced that chiropractors, psychologists, physiotherapists and other regulated professionals will now be permitted to resume operations.

“The decision to reopen a clinic remains with the operator, as does the responsibility to determine their ability to keep themselves, their patients, and their staff safe,” Shandro said.

Independent allied health clinics allowed to resume services in Alberta
Independent allied health clinics allowed to resume services in Alberta

The professionals who reopen will follow approved guidelines set by their professional colleges.

READ MORE: AHS starts to work through backlog of surgeries after pause due to COVID-19

Non-urgent scheduled and elective surgeries also resumed Monday.

More to come… 

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