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COVID-19 discussions in Alberta ongoing to decide if Thursday relaunch can proceed: Hinshaw

WATCH ABOVE: Some videos of Dr. Deena Hinshaw speaking at a news conference in Edmonton on Tuesday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw told reporters on Tuesday that she expects the province to announce a decision on Wednesday regarding whether Alberta will move forward with Phase 1 of a proposed relaunch of the economy on May 14.

At a news conference in Edmonton, the province’s chief medical officer of health said health officials and cabinet members would be meeting Tuesday night to discuss the latest figures on how the coronavirus pandemic is playing out in Alberta and noted that “a final decision has yet to be made.”

“Be patient, because we need to make sure we have the most up to date information,” Hinshaw said, acknowledging it is not easy for businesses to still not know if they should plan to open on Thursday.

According to Hinshaw, there are a few factors health officials need to look at before deciding on whether to endorse Stage 1 of Premier Jason Kenney’s relaunch plan moving forward on Thursday, including whether there are any serious or concerning outbreaks.

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She also said the hospitalization rate in Alberta needs to be stable and that ICUs need to have more than 50 per cent of their beds empty for relaunch plans to move forward.

“Once we reopen, we want to stay open,” she said, adding that a final decision has not been made over whether relaunch rules or timelines will be different for parts of the province that have been harder hit by COVID-19 than others, should the relaunch move forward.

“There is no one perfect way to do the relaunch,” Hinshaw said.

She noted that some jurisdictions across the world have not seen significant issues with increased spread of the novel coronavirus after reopening their economies but that others have seen setbacks in their response to the pandemic.

“We’ve been looking very closely [at other jurisdictions],” Hinshaw said. “We’ll be watching very closely to monitor for any uptick in cases.”

READ MORE: Alberta releases business guides for COVID-19 reopening plan

When restaurants do reopen, Hinshaw said Albertans should only go dine at eateries with people living in the same household as them or with a designated cohort. She reminded Albertans that two families can form a cohort for the purpose of allowing for some in-person socializing or to arrange child care but reminded people that everyone in the cohort needs to agree to only be in a cohort with the one other family to mitigate the chance of spreading COVID-19.

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Alberta has seen another fatality related to COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, Hinshaw said, bringing the pandemic death toll in the province to 118 people. The latest person to die of the disease is a man in his 90s who was living at the Intercare Chinook Care Centre in Calgary, according to an Alberta Health spokesperson.

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“I wish to extend my condolences to the friends and families of these individuals as well as to all Albertans who have lost a loved one recently,” Hinshaw said.

Of Alberta’s COVID-19 deaths, 83 have occurred in the Calgary zone, 15 in the North zone, 12 in the Edmonton zone, seven in the South zone and one in the Central zone.

She added there have been 45 additional COVID-19 cases confirmed over the past 24 hours and that there are currently 1,361 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. To date, 4,866 people in Alberta who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus have recovered.

Of active cases, there are currently 1,017 in the Calgary zone, 237 in the South zone, 60 in the Edmonton zone, 26 in the North zone, 15 in the Central zone and there are six active cases where the zone has yet to be confirmed.

Of the current cases, Hinshaw said 73 people are in hospital and 12 are in intensive care units.

In total, 178,208 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in Alberta and 3,173 of those were conducted in the past 24 hours.

Alberta Health said Tuesday that the province’s voluntary contact-tracing app now has 162,686 users.

Update on COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta

Hinshaw provided an update on Tuesday about a number of ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in the province.

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At the Cargill meat plant in High River, there are still 25 active confirmed cases among workers while 920 workers have now recovered. Two workers at that plant have died of COVID-19.

At the JBS meat plant in Brooks, Hinshaw said there are 44 active COVID-19 cases among workers and 582 have now recovered.

At the Harmony Beef plant near Calgary, there are now 12 active cases among workers and 28 workers have recovered.

At the Cascades Recovery Recycling Facility in Calgary, Hinshaw said 14 workers have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

There are 105 active cases in outbreaks at continuing care facilities in the province. At those facilities, 559 residents have now recovered.

Alberta Health provides update on mass gathering restrictions

When the province begins Stage 1 of its relaunch strategy, places of worship that had been restricted to fewer than 15 people will be allowed to operate like some businesses, according to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan.

Restrictions on other mass gatherings will remain in place over the summer and limit groups to a maximum of 15 people.

McMillan said the province will allow places of worship to have up to 50 people or one-third of their normal attendance during services, whichever is smaller.

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They must also follow guidance that’s been issued by the province to ensure safety, including physical distancing, measures to maintain cleanliness and food restrictions.

Al-Rashid Mosque in Edmonton said it is holding a meeting Wednesday to iron out details over how services will be held.

The spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese said there will be no public masses this weekend and a task force has been created to develop plans to reinstate services.

–With files from Global News’ Julia Wong