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Alberta records 727 cases of COVID-19 Sunday, 6 deaths as officials push for reduced social circles

Click to play video 'Alberta businesses urge people to follow voluntary regulations to avoid lockdown' Alberta businesses urge people to follow voluntary regulations to avoid lockdown
WATCH ABOVE: As B.C. adds increased COVID-19 restrictions around some businesses, Alberta business owners are hoping the same won’t happen here. Michael King reports. – Nov 8, 2020

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Alberta, with 727 additional cases identified Sunday as well as six additional deaths.

The six deaths reported Sunday were seniors either in hospital or in continuing care centres.

Four were in the Edmonton zone: a woman in her 90s at the University of Alberta Hospital outbreak as well as three women — one in her 70s and two in their 90s — at the Edmonton General Care Centre.

Two were in Calgary zone — a man and a woman, both in their 80s, at the Agecare Skypoint care centre in Calgary zone.

Click to play video 'What should Alberta do to lower COVID-19 case numbers?' What should Alberta do to lower COVID-19 case numbers?
What should Alberta do to lower COVID-19 case numbers? – Nov 7, 2020

The COVID-19 death toll in the province has now reached 363.

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This weekend saw record-high case numbers reported in Alberta: on Saturday, there were 919 new cases, which was the highest number reported in one day since the pandemic began.

Read more: Alberta reports 919 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, 5 deaths

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on social media Sunday that “now is the time to reduce your social circle.”

It echoes a sentiment that she and Premier Jason Kenney pushed Friday when they asked Albertans to stop holding social gatherings at their homes. 

“It will take all of us working together and being as careful as possible to reverse this trend,” Hinshaw said.

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Read more: Alberta doctor calls for more restrictions, data as hospital COVID-19 outbreaks and case numbers spike

Restrictions increasing in other provinces

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The voluntary request from Alberta officials comes as other provinces implement stronger rules around gatherings. On Saturday, B.C. announced an order that bans residents of the Lower Mainland from visiting each others’ private homes for two weeks.

The order applies to social gatherings of “any size” with people other than one’s immediate household, regardless of whether it is fewer than 50 people or physical distancing is observed. Indoor group physical activities like yoga or spin are also banned until they have updated COVID-19 safety plans approved by their regional medical health officer. B.C. restaurants were not affected by the order.

Click to play video '‘Limiting contact’ the only way to stop COVID-19 spread: Alberta infectious disease researcher' ‘Limiting contact’ the only way to stop COVID-19 spread: Alberta infectious disease researcher
‘Limiting contact’ the only way to stop COVID-19 spread: Alberta infectious disease researcher – Nov 6, 2020

Read more: B.C. bans all social gatherings, indoor group physical activities in Lower Mainland amid surging COVID cases

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In Ontario, that province has added a “tiered” restriction system that classifies regions as yellow, orange or red depending on their case numbers. Regions in the red category have, among other things, indoor restaurant dining limited to 10 people and gyms limited to 10 people indoors.

Here in Alberta, businesses are hoping the lack of spread reported at restaurants and gyms will allow them to continue running even if restrictions increase.

“The first shutdown was a challenging four months for us, I’m sure a second one would be no different,” said Grady Topak, the co-founder of YYC and YEG Cycle, a spin company with four locations in the province.

“I think there’s a level of risk that happens when you go out anywhere right now, but I think it’s a low risk at a lot of businesses these days.

“I think the business owners are among the people who have the most to lose right now.”

Topak said that there were two cases confirmed in staff members at one of its Calgary studios in July, but that they did not spread to any gym-goers.

“We do track every single person that walks through, and we were kind of able to do our own contract tracing,” he said. “Businesses are all taking care to make sure that people are safe, people are distancing, that they’re following all the protocols.”

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Topak added that since the company opened its four locations in June, there have been 35,000 visits to the spin classes, and just the two staff cases.

However, there was an outbreak at a different company’s Calgary spin studio in July that saw dozens of people infected. 

Technical issues continue with Alberta numbers

The province is still working through technical issues in its COVID-19 website, so this weekend’s updates from officials included only new case numbers and deaths.

The site is expected to be updated with full information, including case numbers by zone and hospitalization numbers, on Monday.

Click to play video 'Hinshaw concerned about number of COVID-19 cases that worked, attended gatherings while symptomatic' Hinshaw concerned about number of COVID-19 cases that worked, attended gatherings while symptomatic
Hinshaw concerned about number of COVID-19 cases that worked, attended gatherings while symptomatic – Nov 5, 2020

Dr. Deena Hinshaw is also expected to hold a live update Monday afternoon.

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