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Edmonton zone makes up almost 66% of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, experts plead for public health measures to be followed

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Edmonton continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the province. On Wednesday, the zone made up almost 66 per cent of new cases in the entire province. Julia Wong reports – Aug 19, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Edmonton zone continues to rise, and the city is now a hotspot for the virus.

RELATED: Alberta records 82 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, along with 2 additional deaths

On Wednesday, there were 52 new cases of COVID-19 in the Edmonton zone, making up almost two-thirds of all the new cases in the province that day. As of Wednesday, there have 2,499 total cases identified in the zone with 631 of them that are active.

The Edmonton zone has also seen an upward trend: there were 688 total cases on June 13, 1,252 total cases on July 13, and 2,166 total cases on Aug. 13.

READ MORE: Edmonton zone has more active COVID-19 cases than any other zone in Alberta

“I am concerned as mayor. It’s disappointing because our performance has been so good up to this point. I think perhaps a false sense of security has built up,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

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“This is, as Dr. Hinshaw said, a serious wake up call for Edmontonians.”

Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary said, the increase isn’t surprising.

“We only have to go back a few weeks and Calgary was higher than Edmonton. When the numbers are small, it’s easy to see rankings shift so 20 additional cases in Edmonton, perhaps two localized outbreaks are more than enough to put Edmonton higher than Calgary,” he said.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday that many of the cases in Edmonton are linked to social gatherings, particularly indoor ones. She cited one social event that resulted in 26 cases and another that led to 17 cases.

READ MORE: Hinshaw pleads with Albertans to take COVID-19 seriously, ‘concerned by continued rise in active cases’

“This is a little bit more of a… lifestyle choice — choosing to go out to a bar or restaurant or large social gathering seems to be supporting at least a sizeable percentage of the new viral cases,” Jenne said.

Dean Eurich, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, said the cases the city is currently seeing are the result of transmission from several weeks ago.

“I think we’re going to see this continued high number of cases within the Edmonton region reflecting that transmission,” he said.

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“Moving forward, I think it’s really important we try to put in place those public health measures we know can help slow the spread of transmission.”

Eurich said eased restrictions as the province entered Stage 2 of relaunch likely contributed to the increase.

“The public did take it as a, maybe a bit too liberal, in terms of, ‘It is opening up so we can take advantage of it’ as opposed to, ‘Yes, it has opened up but we should still try and limit our contact,’” he said.

Jenne said test results can fluctuate based on the number of tests done every day so it will be important to keep an eye on other metrics.

“If hospital occupancy goes up, if ICU occupancy goes up, those are really the warning signs we need to be careful of,” he said.

READ MORE: All Loblaw pharmacies, Shoppers locations in Alberta to offer asymptomatic COVID-19 testing

Eurich said while the case numbers in hospitals are manageable right now, it is critical to remember the facilities are already busy with non-COVID related issues.

“I think it’s very important we try and keep this curve as flat as possible because hospitals are already working at very high capacity rates for general heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, diabetes, etc and all the day surgeries that are happening as well,” he said.

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“We can’t afford to have COVID cases start to creep into the hospital system because I think it will quickly overwhelm the system.”

Jenne said Edmontonians can stay vigilant while they are out and about by removing a mask at a restaurant only when they are eating, avoiding long line-ups and not hosting any large gatherings right now.