No new COVID-19 deaths in Alberta as province eases reopening requirement for businesses

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

There have been no new COVID-19-related deaths in Alberta over the past 24 hours but it is still too early to assess the impact last week’s relaunch of the economy is having in the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.

“So far, the numbers are good, they’re very stable,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said at a news conference in Edmonton. “That’s what I would want to see.

READ MORE: Province to decide Friday whether Calgary, Brooks will move to next phase of Stage 1 relaunch

Hinshaw said because of the COVID-19 incubation period, it will still be a few days until her team can start getting a sense of how the relaunch is going. She also thanked citizens of Calgary and Brooks, whose reopening has been delayed because of higher coronavirus case numbers, for following public health orders and recommendations to mitigate the spread of the virus.

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Alberta businesses no longer required to complete planning template

On Tuesday, Hinshaw also told reporters that a requirement for businesses looking to reopen is being lifted.

“[On the Biz Connect website, a planning template is] available to help employers plan to reduce transmission risk in their businesses,” she said. “At my last update on Friday, I said this plan was mandatory for businesses that are reopening at this time.

“After hearing feedback from many stakeholders, we have altered this requirement. Completing the template is now recommended but voluntary for all businesses.”

READ MORE: Alberta businesses must detail health and safety approach after reopening during COVID-19

Hinshaw said despite the change, every business in the province “must have measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“I apologize for any confusion this [change with regard to the planning template] may have caused,” she said.
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“We are working to determine the best course of action to keep case numbers low and support businesses in meeting the requirements to prevent spread of disease while also not placing undue burden on struggling business owners.”

Hinshaw said she still recommends that people work remotely if they can, to reduce the potential of spreading the novel coronavirus.

“For businesses looking for information on how to protect their staff and the public, please consult the workplace guidance on the Alberta Biz Connect website,” she said.

“Sector-specific guidance is available and my team is working hard to develop more of these documents.”

Alberta government announces money to help long-term care centres amid pandemic

Alberta’s government announced Tuesday that it is investing $170 million to “help keep residents and staff in long-term care, designated supportive living facilities and seniors lodges safe from COVID-19.”

“Funding will be used for enhanced staffing and extra cleaning supplies and will address lost accommodation revenue,” the government said in a news release.

“We know from our experience over the past few months that seniors are most at risk from COVID-19,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro. “If our province is to carefully and gradually lift public health restrictions, we must first make sure our most vulnerable will remain safe.

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“This funding is another step in that direction and complements ongoing efforts.”

READ MORE: Alberta government announces $170M to support seniors amid COVID-19 pandemic

The government said a total of $14.2 million will be allocated per month and that funding is retroactive to March 15.

“There will be a requirement to report on the use of these funds, and facilities will need to return money not spent on COVID-related purposes,” the government said.

“Funding will continue until the orders from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health are lifted.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Health said the province had 95 active COVID-19 cases and 599 recovered cases at continuing care facilities. In total, 94 residents of such facilities have died since the pandemic hit Alberta in March.

Hinshaw compares Alberta’s COVID-19 response to Sweden’s

At her news conference, Hinshaw said she has received many questions about Sweden’s response to COVID-19, which has seen far less strict orders in terms of social distancing and business closures.

“Sweden’s advice-based rather than regulatory-based approach has come at a cost,” Hinshaw said, noting that country’s COVID-19 death rate is 12 times higher than Alberta’s and its ICU-admission rate is 18 times higher.

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Despite this, Hinshaw said Sweden’s “economy has shrunk in a similar way to neighbouring countries” who employed a more aggressive response to the pandemic.

READ MORE: Sweden took a softer COVID-19 approach. Has it been effective?

She noted that every jurisdiction has different demographics that also help inform its decision-making with regard to responding to the pandemic, and added that Sweden is different than Alberta in a number of ways, including that it has a much higher rate of single-person households.

When asked about Canada’s deal to extend the closure of the country’s border with the U.S., Hinshaw noted the U.S. is still “having some difficulties” with responding to COVID-19.

She added that Alberta still has a 14-day quarantine rule for anybody coming in from out of country and it will remain in place for the near future.

Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta

As of Tuesday afternoon, Hinshaw said there had been 33 new COVID-19 cases confirmed over the past 24 hours. Because there were no new COVID-19 fatalities, the pandemic death toll in the province remains at 128.

Hinshaw said there are currently 1,004 active COVID-19 cases in the province but noted 5,584 people have now recovered from the illness.

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Of the actives cases, 810 are currently in the Calgary zone, 107 are in the South zone, 58 are in the Edmonton zone, 17 are in the North zone, seven are in the Central zone and in five cases the zone has yet to be determined.

Sixty-one people are currently in hospital with COVID-19 in the province, eight of those people have been admitted to an ICU.

Of the COVID-19 recoveries, 3,732 have been recorded in Calgary, 1,097 in the South zone, 448 in the Edmonton zone, 197 in the North zone, 91 in the Central zone and in 19 recovery cases, the zone has yet to be determined.

Of Alberta’s total number of COVID-19 cases, 641 cases “have an unknown exposure.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 asymptomatic tests: 48 positive cases in Calgarians with no known contact with virus

As of Tuesday afternoon, 201,283 Albertans had been tested for the novel coronavirus, with 2,428 tests completed in the last 24 hours.

ABTraceTogether, Alberta’s voluntary contact-tracing app, had 178,492 registered users as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hinshaw said Tuesday that for the first time, a person who had the app was identified as a positive COVID-19 case. She said information from the app validated the contact-tracing process.

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Click to play video: 'No new COVID-19 deaths in Alberta on Tuesday' No new COVID-19 deaths in Alberta on Tuesday
No new COVID-19 deaths in Alberta on Tuesday – May 19, 2020

Watch below: View Tuesday’s news conference in its entirety below.


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