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‘Small number’ of ER staff members at University of Alberta Hospital confirmed to have COVID-19

Click to play video: 'University of Alberta hospital not on COVID-19 outbreak list despite ER staff illnesses' University of Alberta hospital not on COVID-19 outbreak list despite ER staff illnesses
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw explains why the University of Alberta hospital is not on the outbreak list, even though some emergency department staffers have tested positive for COVID-19. Hinshaw said their location of exposure does not appear to be linked to the Edmonton hospital. – Oct 13, 2020

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that an Alberta Health Services medical officer of health was the person who determined it did not meet the criteria for an outbreak.

Alberta Health Services has confirmed a “small number” of staff members who work in the emergency department at the University of Alberta Hospital have been confirmed to have COVID-19.

Despite this, an AHS medical officer of health is not declaring an outbreak at this time.

Read more: Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

According to guidance from Alberta Health, an outbreak is usually declared when two people at an acute care facility — like a hospital — have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

But a statement from AHS says there are no apparent links between cases at the hospital, so it was determined it doesn’t fit the criteria for an outbreak. No patients have been exposed or infected as a result of these cases, according to AHS.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases' Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus: Canada’s top doctor says country has close to 19,000 active COVID-19 cases – Oct 13, 2020

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw agreed with the reasoning behind the decision in her provincial COVID-19 update on Tuesday afternoon.

“(It’s) my understanding that there have been no patients who have been exposed, there is no transmission that has been documented through this investigation and that these seem to be unrelated cases, in which case it would not meet our definition of an outbreak,” Hinshaw said.

Out of an abundance of caution, AHS said the emergency department has been put on “watch” status.

“A unit under ‘watch’ is closely monitored to ensure any potential exposures that may have occurred are fully investigated,” AHS said. “A unit or department can be on watch without having any active patient or staff cases.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Where Alberta’s COVID-19 outbreaks are

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AHS wouldn’t say how many people had tested positive.

“The number is too small for us to disclose without potentially breaching privacy.”

AHS stressed the emergency department at the University of Alberta Hospital remains a safe place to visit and receive care. The health agency said there is no increased risk to patients coming to the hospital.

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