Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Friday she would be shifting the way she presents the province’s daily COVID-19 numbers.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said a key measure health officials are watching ahead of Alberta’s relaunch strategy are hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions.
“We are seeing a decline in these numbers,” she said.
On Friday, 80 Albertans were in hospital, 17 of whom were in ICU.
“It is encouraging to see these numbers coming down from last week because it means fewer people are experiencing severe outcomes from this virus,” Hinshaw said.
“It also means our health-care system has the capacity to handle potential additional COVID-19 cases, if needed.”
Hinshaw said Friday there were 81 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, which means there are currently 1,883 “active” cases in the province. In total, Alberta has confirmed 6,098 cases and 4,020 have recovered.
One additional person died from the virus, Hinshaw said Friday. Alberta’s 115th COVID-19 fatality was a woman in her 80s at Millrise Place continuing care facility in the Calgary zone.
“I struggle every day when reporting this number to not have it blend in as just another statistic,” she said.
“We are forced to grieve differently in this time of pandemic… I offer my sympathy to all those who are navigating that difficult terrain right now.”
Hinshaw announced the first COVID-19 case in an Alberta correctional facility on Friday. An inmate at the Calgary Remand Centre had tested positive, she said.
“The individual was admitted directly into the quarantine unit of the facility upon arrival.
“He did not report any symptoms upon arrival, and was quarantined with one cellmate who was quarantined at the same time and who also had no symptoms.”
The centre proactively implemented outbreak processes as a precaution and is working with Alberta Health Services.
As of Friday, there were 95 active COVID-19 cases in workers from the Cargill meat plant and 849 who have recovered. There were 96 active cases in workers from the JBS plant in Brooks and 497 who have recovered. The Harmony Beef plant has 21 active cases and 16 workers who have recovered.
As Alberta approaches Stage 1 of its relaunch plan which begins May 14, the province’s top doctor has been asked what activities are OK to do and under what circumstances.
“Spending time outside and enjoying outdoor activities is a great thing to do, both for mental and physical health,” Hinshaw said. “But we need to do so while being mindful of each other’s health and safety, and while maintaining distances of two metres between ourselves and anyone from outside our household.”
Some outdoor activities that she said are permissible with restrictions in place include golf and driving ranges, outdoor gun ranges and camping – all with precautions.
On May 14, online provincial campground reservations will open for bookings for select campgrounds. Campsites will be open June 1, with restrictions. Private and municipal campgrounds can open as early as May 14, as long as they follow health and safety guidelines, Hinshaw said.
“Physical distancing and restrictions on groups of 15 or more still apply.”
She said a family going to a summer home, cabin or cottage within the province “is permissible with consideration to community guidelines.”
When planning a trip, think ahead, make limited stops and bring your own food, Hinshaw said. She discouraged using shared features like inflatables or trampolines.
Travel outside the province is still not recommended.
“Pools and gyms must remain closed due to the high risk inherent in these activities,” Hinshaw said.
Public health officials are working on advice and guidelines for businesses and workers as they consider how to reopen. Hinshaw said those guidelines would be shared “in the days ahead” on the Alberta Health website in the Alberta Relaunch section.
She explained the timing of Stage 2 would depend on Albertans’ collective ability to keep infection rates low.
Contact tracing will also play a huge role as the economy begins to reopen, Hinshaw said, and she encouraged people to download and use the ABTraceTogether app.
Since its launch, the app has attracted 146,221 registered users.
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