Hinshaw provides update on school outbreaks as Alberta records 173 new cases of COVID-19

Click to play video 'Greater than 99% of children who go for COVID-19 testing are negative: Hinshaw' Greater than 99% of children who go for COVID-19 testing are negative: Hinshaw
WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Deena Hinshaw discusses an upward trend in school-related COVID-19 cases and why she doesn’t think it’s alarming.

Alberta reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three additional deaths from the disease.

Two of the people who died were from the Edmonton zone — a man in his 80s who was not linked to a continuing care site, and a man in his 90s from the Millwoods Shepherds Care Centre in south Edmonton, according to Alberta Health.

Read more: 2 deaths, 24 cases in Mill Woods care centre COVID-19 outbreak

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Mill Woods care facility on Sept. 22, according to Alberta Health Services. As of Thursday afternoon, 26 residents and 14 staff at the centre have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Shepherds Care.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she was also made aware Thursday of a death related to the COVID-19 outbreaks at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. Hinshaw said that death will be included in Friday’s COVID-19 data.

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Hinshaw provided Thursday’s COVID-19 update virtually from home — as she did on Monday because she had a sore throat. She said she was feeling a bit better, but will stay home until she is well.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 1,596 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. Sixty-four people were in hospital with COVID-19, with 12 people receiving treatment in intensive care.

On Wednesday, 14,678 coronavirus tests were completed. Hinshaw said while the province moved away from testing asymptomatic people about two weeks ago, the number of tests being performed has not slowed down.

Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta Health issues guidelines for a safe and ‘scary for the right reasons’ Halloween

She said this is partly due to a “slow and steady rise” in the presence of rhinovirus and enterovirus, which is typical for this time of year. Hinshaw said these viruses are “key players” for causing the common cold.

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“These infections are almost always mild but the symptoms are identical to what a mild COVID infection looks like, so it is not possible to tell them apart without testing,” Hinshaw said.

With cold and flu season right around the corner, Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to get their influenza vaccine. Alberta’s immunization begins Monday, Oct. 19.

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Read more: ‘When can I get the flu shot in Alberta?’ And other questions, answered

Outbreaks at Alberta schools

Now four weeks into the school year, Hinshaw said 28 of the schools that were previously placed on alert have come off of the alert status with no transmission and students and staff are back in the classroom.

As of Thursday afternoon, Hinshaw said 133 schools have active alerts (one case of COVID-19) or outbreaks (two or more cases of COVID-19), which represents about five per cent of all schools in the province.

She said there were 257 active cases in these schools.

Read more: To isolate or not? Alberta Health aims to clarify confusion about COVID-19 symptoms in K-12 students

Of the 52 schools with outbreaks, Hinshaw said seven were on the “watch” list, which means the school has five or more cases of COVID-19. There were 11 schools with at least one case that was “likely” acquired in the school setting, Hinshaw added.

“I want to remind everyone that a school outbreak is called with just two cases in a school and does not mean the school is unsafe,” Hinshaw said.

More than 101,000 tests have been administered to school-aged children since Sept. 1, Hinshaw said, with a positivity rate of less than one per cent.

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Hinshaw said she knows parents have questions about whether symptoms such as a runny nose will be removed from the province’s “stay-home checklist,” or how long entire classes will be required to self-isolate as close contacts of a single case.

“We continue to monitor the spread of the virus in school cases and watch the developments in other provinces. As soon as we have enough evidence to update these approaches, we will do so,” she said.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 or a cold? Alberta Health aims to help confused parents understand symptoms in K to 12 students' COVID-19 or a cold? Alberta Health aims to help confused parents understand symptoms in K to 12 students
COVID-19 or a cold? Alberta Health aims to help confused parents understand symptoms in K to 12 students

MyHealth Records now available for all Albertans

Hinshaw also provided an update on the MyHealth Records system in the province. Effective Thursday, Albertans of all ages can now access their coronavirus test results through MyHealth Records.

Previously, the portal could only be accessed by Albertans who were 14 years old and older.

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Read more: Albertans push for online access to health records for those under 14

Hinshaw said the province has been working very hard to streamline every step of the testing process and admitted that the timeline to get results isn’t as fast as health officials would like it to be.

“Work continues to shorten this,” she said.

Hinshaw has said MyHealth Records is the fastest way to get test results, as Albertans can see them online as soon as they are available.

“All parents and guardians in Alberta can now access COVID-19 results for their children through MyHealth Records. Once a child is tested, parents will be able to log in and see their children’s results as soon as they are available, anytime day or night,” she said.

“As an added feature, parents will also be able to print their children’s COVID-19 test results and show them to others if needed… I encourage all parents to sign up.”

Information on MyHealth Records can be found on the government’s website.