Since starting to offer COVID-19 tests to anyone, whether or not they have symptoms, on May 12, Alberta has completed 14,853 tests and of those only six have been positive.
The individuals tested showed no symptoms of the virus, had no known contact with a confirmed case, and no connection to an outbreak.
Alberta has also surpassed the 300,000 mark for the number of COVID-19 tests completed.
Since the last provincial update on Saturday, there have been 64 new cases confirmed in Alberta and three deaths. All three fatalities were people at the Extendicare Hillcrest long-term care facility in Calgary.
As of Monday, 149 Albertans have died from COVID-19, according to the province.
“I extend my condolences to the family and friends of these individuals,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
As of Monday, 44 people were in hospital, six of whom were in intensive care units.
Rise in active Edmonton cases
There are currently 355 active cases in the province. Of those, 92 cases are in the Edmonton zone.
On Saturday, there were 76 active cases in the Edmonton zone. The region had 57 cases on Friday.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the “small jump” in Edmonton cases is partly due to two social gatherings she mentioned previously, where physical distancing was not always done and masks were not consistently worn, and secondary spread from those events.
One event resulted in eight COVID-19 cases and the other resulted in 10, Hinshaw said.
“We’ve all been waiting a long time to see our friends and family,” she said.
“Human connection is critical and an important part of all of our health, but we really do need to remember that it can only take one event where you could have one person who may be infectious and not even know it and it can spread to 10 people, 20 people, depending on what the nature of that event is, and then, what we’re starting to see again, is outward spread from the individuals who attended that social event.”
Hinshaw stressed she’s not pointing fingers at these particular people.
“I’m quite confident there were many other gatherings where people did not consistently follow distancing and masking — and these particular groups happened to be the ones where unfortunately the virus had made its way into that circle.”
She commended those who came forward for testing when they felt sick so Alberta Health Service could identify the groups, track transmission and perform further testing. Still, because of the variable incubation period of the virus, AHS is dealing with outward secondary spread and is “racing to catch up.”
“The good thing is they’ve gone in for testing and are now isolating.”
But, she said it could happen to anyone who’s been to any kind of event.
“This is not about judgement… It’s about reminding all of us we need to continually be thinking about: ‘How can we be sure that if I were the one to be exposed, how can it stop with me?
“‘How can I be sure in my actions I’m not putting anyone else at risk?'”
Outbreak at Sofina Foods plant in Edmonton
Hinshaw said the increase in Edmonton cases can also be attributed to an outbreak at a Sofina Foods processing facility in the city.
Six cases were confirmed over the weekend at the company’s Lilydale Plant.
Hinshaw said all cases and close contacts are isolating at home.
“With AHS’ support, the facility has moved swiftly to implement all outbreak protocols. Site-wide employee testing is now being arranged, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Demonstrators should be tested
Hinshaw is asking anyone who participated in rallies for equality recently to be tested for COVID-19.
“This weekend, we saw many people participate in demonstrations to speak out against racism. I want to commended all those who wore masks and stayed two metres away from others while showing up to rally in support of this cause.
“The freedom to protest is a critical one, and yet, we face a challenge in this time of pandemic to do so without risking super spreader events.”
She encouraged everyone who attended a demonstration to register for COVID-19 testing, whether they have symptoms or not.
“Contact tracing would be extremely difficult in large crowds such as this. So please also be mindful of our actions in the coming two weeks. Pay particular attention to staying two metres away from others and wearing a face mask if that is not possible.
“I have reached out to some of the organizing groups with an invitation to talk about how future protests might be able to be structured to reduce the chance of COVID transmission.”
Phase 2 relaunch
Hinshaw said Alberta’s COVID-19 numbers indicate the province is on track to enter Phase 2 of its relaunch plan and that further details would be announced later this week.
Still, she said people should not let down their guard.
“With the slowdown in cases in Alberta, I know it has been tempting to believe we can relax all precautions. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”
Alberta health officials are closely monitoring Phase 1, Hinshaw said. Hospitalization rates remain stable and there has not been a large spike in case numbers.
“As of this morning, I have allowed both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames to begin practising in their home arenas with public health measures in place.”
Premier Jason Kenney and Hinshaw have been saying the date for Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch may be moved up earlier and that some sectors initially included in Phase 3 may be included in Phase 2.
Kenney said there would be an announcement early this week.
“Final decisions have not yet been taken,” he said last Wednesday. Provincial officials previously said the target date for Phase 2 was June 19 but the exact date has not yet been confirmed.
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