Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says while her team is closely monitoring COVID-19 transmission patterns, the province is not currently planning to further restrict limits on gatherings as Ontario did this weekend.
On Saturday, Ontario announced that gatherings would be capped at 10 people indoors (down from 50) and 25 outside (down from 100), in response to rising coronavirus case numbers. Alberta currently has indoor gatherings capped at 50 people and outdoor gatherings capped at either 100 or 200 depending on the type of event.
At a news conference in Edmonton on Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta’s approach is aimed at balancing the need to be open to activities that support general health and well-being with the need to mitigate any potential spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I recognize that Ontario has decreased their gathering limits,” she said. “At this time we are not doing that in Alberta. What we are doing is watching… where we see patterns of transmission and really encouraging Albertans, as every single one of us has a responsibility to our community, to make it possible for us to continue with this balance of being as open as possible with all the activities that support our health while at the same time protecting each other from the spread of COVID-19.
“We will continue with that approach while watching our data. If our data indicate that we need to consider other restrictions, we will at that time have that discussion.”
Hinshaw added that while law enforcement agencies and other entities are tasked with trying to ensure gatherings don’t see size limits be exceeded, “we all have a responsibility to each other to limit the spread.”
On Monday, Hinshaw said Alberta recorded 358 new COVID-19 cases since Friday (119 on Friday, 102 on Saturday and 137 on Sunday) but added that over 15,000 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.
Of the province’s current COVID-19 cases, 51 involve hospitalization and nine people are in intensive care units.
However, Hinshaw noted that “hospitalization numbers have generally been declining or stable” since July 22, and that Alberta’s current caseload is “well within our health system’s capacity.”
Hinhshaw reminded Albertans who are part of a cohort or bubble of the rules behind the concept as the province continues to work to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“This should be the same 15 people at all times.”
Hinshaw also noted there are other types of cohorts like people at schools or on sports teams, and reiterated that church attendees and co-workers cannot be considered cohorts. She added that there are currently no plans to expand maximum cohort sizes.
There’s been confusion over sport cohorts. Throughout the summer months, many local sports organizations, including Edmonton Sport Council, understood that athletes could only be in a single sport cohort of 50 people.
“The Alberta sport community has been seeking clarification on this for – I’m going to say, months,” said Gary Shelton, the council’s executive director.
The UCP minister responsible for sport, Leela Aheer, said there is not a limit on how many sport cohorts people can belong to – that’s being left as a personal choice.
“It’s a risk analysis that you have to take as a family and as a person, as a coach, as an organization and as a province,” Aheer said.
The minister also noted that taking part in multiple cohorts would make it more challenging for contact tracers in the event of a positive test.
“The recommendation is to minimize as many cohort interactions as you can,” Aheer said.
Shelton said his advice is to find an activity the whole family can enjoy – and stick with it.
“The frustration is, the more cohorts one is in, the more likely COVID-19 is going to spread throughout Alberta.”
Update on COVID-19 in Alberta schools
Alberta continues to watch the progress of recently reopened schools and the number of COVID-19 cases among students and staff, Hinshaw said, but pointed out that some data indicates the province is off to a “positive start.”
“Only three per cent of all schools have had any COVID-19 exposure to date,” she said.
“Overall, only just over one school in a thousand has had a transmission episode in the last three weeks.”
As of Monday, there are 81 schools with active alerts or outbreaks involving one or more COVID-19 cases, Hinshaw said, adding that there are currently 126 cases linked to these schools and a total of 19 school outbreaks.
Two schools are currently under a watch status, she said: Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton and Springfield Elementary School in Peace River.
She said this means an outbreak involves five or more cases but reminded Albertans that this only reflects case numbers, and is not a measure for “ongoing risk.”
Hinshaw said the province continues to work to speed up testing and lab analysis but noted that the process is complex and “not something that can change overnight.”
Hinshaw said the most school-aged COVID-19 cases that Alberta saw at any one time was in April when case numbers surged.
“Even with school reopening, we actually have seen the numbers not go that high.”
Edmonton zone continues to have more cases than other zones in Alberta
Of the 1,459 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta on Monday, the Edmonton zone accounted for more than half of those cases with 747.
On Monday, the University of Alberta issued a statement saying it was suspending all varsity athletics activities for 14 days after five people at the men’s residence of St. Joseph’s College tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We’re watching Edmonton closely,” Hinshaw said. “About a third of the cases in Edmonton… are of an unknown source.
Hinshaw said about half of all active cases in the Edmonton zone are someone who was a known close contact of a confirmed case.
Outbreak at Calgary hospital
On Monday, Alberta Health Services confirmed it had declared two COVID-19 outbreaks on three units at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
Hinshaw said Monday that 14 patients and four staff had now tested positive for the coronavirus. An investigation is still underway, she said, but there are some reports of inconsistent masking use in visitors and noted that a staff member may have worked while symptomatic.
“There is no increased risk to patients coming to the hospital,” Hinshaw said, pointing out that people are being treated and isolated in designated rooms.
She added that all necessary outbreak protocols have been implemented.
Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
Alberta recorded one COVID-19-related death since Friday, Hinshaw said.
“I would like to extend my condolences to this individual’s family and loved ones,” Hinshaw said.
The woman who died was in her 70s and from the Calgary zone. Alberta Health said the fatality was linked to the outbreak at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre. The woman’s death brings Alberta’s total number of pandemic-related fatalities to 256.
As of Monday, Alberta had recorded 16,739 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Of those, 15,024 have recovered.
A total of 1,215,672 coronavirus tests have now been administered in the province on 932,912 people.View link »