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Outbreak declared at Edmonton hospital as Alberta sees 45 new COVID-19 cases

Click to play video: 'Northeast Edmonton added to COVID-19 watch list, outbreak confirmed at Misericordia Hospital' Northeast Edmonton added to COVID-19 watch list, outbreak confirmed at Misericordia Hospital
WATCH: Dr. Deena Hinshaw discusses an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Misericordia Hospital and northeast Edmonton being placed on the province's active case watch list. – Jun 23, 2020

UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, an AHS spokesperson said there were six positive COVID-19 patients and five positive staff, all connected to a single unit at the Misericordia Community Hospital. Covenant Health is conducting on-site testing of asymptomatic staff who have worked in the affected area, AHS said. So far, more than 250 tests have been done with no new positive results.

Six patients and two staff at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday.

“This outbreak is confined to a single unit and so far, six patients and two staff have tested positive,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said.

“Outbreak protocols have already been implemented and all staff or patients who may have been exposed are being tested.”

The first case was identified on June 21, AHS said Wednesday.

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Contact tracing for Covenant Health staff is being done by Covenant Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness. There are currently 10 occupational health nurses — who are Covenant Health staff — completing the tracing, with help from Covenant support staff, AHS said.

Contact tracing for patients is conducted by Alberta Health Services and Covenant Infection Prevention and Control.

READ MORE: Alberta records 32 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, 1 additional death

As of Tuesday, there were 45 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta and 532 active cases. The Calgary zone has 230 active cases while the Edmonton zone has 236.

So far, 7,096 people have recovered from the illness. Over the last 24 hours, 6,500 tests were completed. So far, Alberta has done more than 400,000 tests for the novel coronavirus.

As of Tuesday, 37 Albertans were hospitalized with COVID-19, six of whom were in intensive care units.

No new deaths were reported on Tuesday. Alberta’s death toll from the novel coronavirus is 153.

Click to play video: '800 Alberta COVID-19 testing samples delayed due to transportation issue' 800 Alberta COVID-19 testing samples delayed due to transportation issue
800 Alberta COVID-19 testing samples delayed due to transportation issue – Jun 23, 2020

Alberta investing $10M in serology testing

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province will be investing $10 million in targeted serology testing, becoming the first province in Canada to do so.

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Read more: Alberta investing $10M for targeted COVID-19 antibody testing

While a traditional swab test detects if a person currently has COVID-19, the serology test detects if the person has ever been exposed to the novel coronavirus. It detects antibodies in that person’s blood.

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces $10M investment in COVID-19 serology testing' Alberta announces $10M investment in COVID-19 serology testing
Alberta announces $10M investment in COVID-19 serology testing – Jun 23, 2020
“We know that there are people [who] have been infected and were never tested, many of them simply because they never got sick and that’s where serology testing comes in,” Shandro said.

“It detects the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood which can show us if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in the past. That shows us more about how the virus is spreading and how best to contain it.

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“It does not — and I repeat, not — replace swab testing. It doesn’t tell us if you’re currently sick or if you’re contagious and it doesn’t tell us if you’re immune to COVID-19 to a degree, or for how long.”

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Click to play video: 'Alberta collaborating with federal government, other provinces on serology testing' Alberta collaborating with federal government, other provinces on serology testing
Alberta collaborating with federal government, other provinces on serology testing – Jun 23, 2020

Inter-provincial travel

Alberta is still officially asking people to refrain from non-essential travel outside the province.

“There has been no change to our official recommendation, which is that non-essential travel outside of Alberta should be avoided at this time,” Hinshaw said.

She explained Alberta officials continue to have discussions with neighbouring provinces about this recommendation.

Click to play video: 'Alberta investing in COVID-19 serology testing, Misericordia hospital outbreak and more' Alberta investing in COVID-19 serology testing, Misericordia hospital outbreak and more
Alberta investing in COVID-19 serology testing, Misericordia hospital outbreak and more – Jun 23, 2020

Restaurant closures

Hinshaw spoke about several restaurants in Edmonton deciding to close temporarily after staff or patrons tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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Read more: At least 5 Edmonton restaurants temporarily closed due to COVID-19 cases

She said Alberta Health or AHS “did not require closures and to date there are no known outbreaks at these locations.”

Hinshaw explained all businesses are required to have a protocol in place in the event someone there has symptoms or tests positive and the closures were operational decisions made by the owners.

Click to play video: 'Alberta Health Services did not require closures of Edmonton restaurants' Alberta Health Services did not require closures of Edmonton restaurants
Alberta Health Services did not require closures of Edmonton restaurants – Jun 23, 2020

“It’s important to take every case seriously but also to remember one case does not automatically require a business to close for public health reasons. It also does not mean that anyone who visited the same establishment is automatically at risk,” she explained.

READ MORE: Northeast Edmonton in ‘watch’ category on status map for active COVID-19 cases

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Hinshaw said a business choosing to close temporarily is not a sign it’s a risk.

“It’s the opposite. It’s a sign that they care about their patrons and that they’re taking the health of their customers and their employees seriously.”

One-site rule for health-care workers

Hinshaw said the rule limiting health-care workers to one long-term care site to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will likely stay in place for a while.

“At this moment in time, we’re not looking at a timeline for easing that particular restriction,” she said.

“That particular measure is one that has come up as a key one to keep people safe. So at this time, that is a measure we anticipate will stay in place for the foreseeable future.”

For up-to-date stories on the outbreak at the Misericordia Hospital, click here.

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