Advertisement

Alberta adds 358 COVID-19 cases since Friday, no plans to further restrict gatherings like Ontario

Click to play video 'Alberta has no plans to reduce gathering limits at this time: Hinshaw' Alberta has no plans to reduce gathering limits at this time: Hinshaw
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw says there are no plans at this time to reduce the restrictions on gathering limits, but she will contin ue to watch the data. – Sep 21, 2020

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.

READ MORE: New COVID-19 gathering restrictions expanded to all of Ontario

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.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.”

Click to play video 'Alberta adds 358 COVID-19 cases since Friday' Alberta adds 358 COVID-19 cases since Friday
Alberta adds 358 COVID-19 cases since Friday – Sep 21, 2020

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.”

Story continues below advertisement

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.”

Clarifying cohorts

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.

“[A family cohort is] a small group whose members can regularly interact without staying two metres apart,” she said.

“This should be the same 15 people at all times.”

Story continues below advertisement

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.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“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.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.

READ MORE: Alberta teacher’s social media posts about ‘lonely’ school year, COVID-19 cohorts gaining attention online

Two schools are currently under a watch status, she said: Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton and Springfield Elementary School in Peace River.

Click to play video 'Positive start to school year in spite of outbreaks: Dr. Hinshaw' Positive start to school year in spite of outbreaks: Dr. Hinshaw
Positive start to school year in spite of outbreaks: Dr. Hinshaw – Sep 21, 2020

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.”

Story continues below advertisement

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.”

“Each one of those [school-related] numbers represent inconvenience for those individuals,” she said. “What I think is important to remember is that the vast majority of [COVID-19 cases in schools]… acquired their cases somewhere in the community.

Read more: Alberta records 1st ‘likely’ case of in-school transmission of COVID-19

“We’re not seeing a significant onward spread in the school [right now].”
Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Alberta has 19 schools with COVID-19 outbreaks, 2 more likely in-school transmissions' Alberta has 19 schools with COVID-19 outbreaks, 2 more likely in-school transmissions
Alberta has 19 schools with COVID-19 outbreaks, 2 more likely in-school transmissions – Sep 21, 2020

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.

READ MORE: 5 people test positive for coronavirus at University of Alberta residence 

“We’re watching Edmonton closely,” Hinshaw said. “About a third of the cases in Edmonton… are of an unknown source.

Story continues below advertisement
“[We’re] looking to see if there’s trends in those individuals… Many of the transmission events do seem to be linked to more social events.”

Hinshaw said about half of all active cases in the Edmonton zone are someone who was a known close contact of a confirmed case.

Click to play video 'Most COVID-19 transmissions in Edmonton associated to social settings' Most COVID-19 transmissions in Edmonton associated to social settings
Most COVID-19 transmissions in Edmonton associated to social settings – Sep 21, 2020

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 1 patient dead, 18 active cases linked to Foothills hospital outbreaks

“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.

Click to play video 'No determination of causes of COVID-19 at Foothills hospital despite reports: Hinshaw' No determination of causes of COVID-19 at Foothills hospital despite reports: Hinshaw
No determination of causes of COVID-19 at Foothills hospital despite reports: Hinshaw – Sep 21, 2020

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video '1 patient connected to COVID-19 outbreak at Foothills Medical Centre dies' 1 patient connected to COVID-19 outbreak at Foothills Medical Centre dies
1 patient connected to COVID-19 outbreak at Foothills Medical Centre dies – Sep 21, 2020

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.

Advertisement