After being in effect since March 15, the state of public health emergency in response to the novel coronavirus in Alberta has come to an end.
The decision comes as the province confirmed another 20 cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
“As we enter Stage 2 of the provincial relaunch, the state of emergency is no longer needed to protect Albertans,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said.
“We faced an enormous test and our province passed with flying colours.”
Declaring a public state of emergency gives the government far-reaching powers so it can take centralized control while in a crisis.
While this state of emergency has come to an end, Shandro urged it doesn’t mean prevention measures will change.
“While the state of emergency is lapsing, it does not remove or impact the existing orders that Dr. Hinshaw has put in place nor does it impact her ability to issue additional orders as may be needed in days ahead.”
Shandro also said the provincial government would be introducing new legislation this week to give it power to respond to COVID-19 as needed.
“We’re going the extra mile as a government, but we’re all still each other’s best defense against the virus.
“We all still need to follow the public health guidelines that Dr. Hinshaw has put in place.”
He also added any ministerial orders issued during the COVID-19 state of emergency will be in effect for another 60 days, unless they’re cancelled sooner.
On top of the 20 new cases, Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed one additional death related to COVID-19. Alberta Health said a woman in her 70s from the South Zone has died. She was not in a continuing care facility.
That brings the number of Albertans who have died related to COVID-19 to 151.
There are 440 active cases with 31 people in the hospital and seven in intensive care units. To date, 6,862 people have recovered.
“I know some people are wondering when we will stop identifying new cases,” she said. “The reality is, the more you test, the more cases you’re likely to find.
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“It is a good thing to find cases and Alberta continues to test more broadly than any other jurisdiction in Canada.”
To date, Alberta has conducted more than 343,000 COVID-19 tests.
Last week, the province tested 11,341 asymptomatic people with no known exposure. Of those, four positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
During the same time period, 300 asymptomatic people with close contact of a confirmed case were also tested. Hinshaw said 41 new COVID-19 cases were identified in that group.
“This highlights why it is so critical that close contacts of cases stay in self isolation for 14 days, even if they are feeling well. It also underscores why we ask close contacts and anyone in an outbreak setting to be tested promptly.”
A relaunch map on Alberta Health’s website has been posted to show active cases in municipalities across the province. If a local district has 500 active cases per 100,000 population, it is moved into the “watch” category.
That means local authorities will work with public health officials to see if additional measures are needed.
“It’s important to remember this threshold of 500 cases per 100,000 population is simply one point on a spectrum of local risk,” Hinsahw said. “While this metric helps provide transparency to the process of determining any need for extra local measures, in areas below that threshold, we still need to continue our precautions.”
There are two districts currently in the watch category – Clear Hills County and Cardston County – though Hinshaw said further prevention measures are not recommended for either area at this time.
While still in the “open” category on the map, confirmed case numbers have continued to climb in Edmonton. There are now 167 active cases in the city.
“What we know from the patterns we are seeing in the transmission is that social events where people are not keeping two metres distant or wearing masks are high-risk activities.”
She said transmission seems to be happening in social settings and urged Albertans to be careful and smart, regardless of their age.
“Please remember when you’re making decisions, who you’re protecting,” she said.
“We have to make sure that the transmission of the virus remains low.”
Free non-medical masks are available to all Albertans. Last week, the province shipped 18 million masks to participating A&W, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s drive-thru locations for Albertans to pick up.
Shandro said more than nine million masks were distributed last week. The province has also shipped 2.3 million masks to municipalities, First Nations, Metis settlements, seniors organizations, shelters and addiction treatment facilities.