Alberta set another record for number of new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 1,854 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday, bringing the active case total to 17,743. This includes 511 people in hospital and 97 in ICU.
“These numbers are very concerning and I know AHS are watching them carefully,” Hinshaw said.
Fourteen Albertans died since the last provincial COVID-19 update.
At her news conference, the province’s chief medical officer turned her attention to rural Albertans and some hesitance to following public health orders.
“COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem,” Hinshaw said. “This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.”
She said the relatively low rates during the first wave in communities with smaller populations or at a distance from urban centres may have lulled some rural Albertans into a false sense of security.
“Unfortunately, our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live… It only takes one case entering the community to cause significant spread,” Hinshaw said.
She also warned that “being further away from health care, especially from advanced services like ICUs, can also make the experience even more daunting for those living in rural areas.”
“That’s why it’s important that all Albertans — rural and urban — take COVID-19 seriously and do everything possible to limit the spread.”
Hinshaw also clarified the guidance for carpooling, saying that where possible, carpooling should be done with members of the same household. Where that isn’t possible, two metres of distancing should be provided, with all occupants masking, washing/sanitizing their hands before and after the drive and even sanitizing the area they sat in.
Hinshaw pointed to the province’s website for more information about carpooling, ridesharing and other services.
“This is a great example of Albertans doing everything in their power to protect one another,” she said. “Knowledge and information from accurate sources is an important part about this.”
The province’s chief doctor also commented on “pushing the ceiling of testing” in the province, with recent days’ tests numbering more than 20,000. But the province isn’t going to increase testing capacity yet.
“The key metric that we’re tracking is the timeliness of testing, and we’ve been working with the lab to shorten the turnaround time between when the swab was taken and when the result is available,” Hinshaw said, noting the province is “hitting our mark” in testing samples.
Hinshaw would not say whether recent public health orders were working, saying the next few days could produce the “early impacts” of the restrictions put in place on Nov. 24.
“No one should be watching these numbers to determine whether or not to change their behaviour,” she said. “Behaviour needs to change and that’s already a mandate.
“What we need to do as we’re watching these numbers is determine whether or not there should be further changes.”