With new public health restrictions set to take effect this weekend, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health is urging people to stay home as much as possible. The province recorded 1,738 new COVID-19 cases Friday and linked 18 more fatalities to the disease.
“We do not need to wait for the clock to strike midnight on Saturday and for those public health orders to go into effect to begin doing our part,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference in Edmonton.
“This weekend, please do not rush into malls or cram into businesses tomorrow before the restrictions kick in. Don’t host a holiday or Hanukkah party just because you don’t think you’ll get caught.
“We all need to start changing our behaviour right now.”
While some new public health restrictions were already implemented this week, at midnight on Dec. 13, other measures, including the closure of restaurant dining rooms and other businesses and services like libraries, entertainment venues, gyms and personal care services, will also take effect.
The measures are part of sweeping new restrictions being brought in as Alberta is being hit hard by the so-called “second wave” of COVID-19. It has overwhelmed the contact-tracing system and put incredible strain on hospitals and health-care workers in the province.
“We must do everything possible to bend down the curve,” Hinshaw said. “It’s been a challenging week in our province and it’s easy to feel hopeless and powerless, but there is hope.
“The future is up to all of us.”
New restrictions for hospital visitors
Hinshaw said Alberta Health Services is further limiting the number of visitors allowed in health-care settings as the province copes with a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
While the new restrictions were already in effect at acute care facilities under outbreak or in communities in “enhanced zones,” they now apply to the whole province.
Visits to patients from “designated support people” will be limited to just one for each patient beginning on Monday for acute health-care settings like ambulatory care, emergency departments, urgent care, maternity or post-partum (wards) and other in-patient areas.
Hinshaw said access will be limited to two designated support people for each patient in critical care, pediatrics and the neo-natal intensive care unit. She described the restrictions on visitation as a “difficult decision.”
“We know these restrictions will be difficult, especially in the holiday season, but they are needed,” she said.
For more information on visitation rules, click here.
Hinshaw expresses confidence about safety of World Juniors
When asked whether she had any concerns about the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship tournament, which begins in Edmonton on Christmas Day, Hinshaw expressed confidence in how the event was being planned.
She said the tournament’s safety protocols have been modelled on the NHL’s successful “hockey bubble” at Rogers Place earlier this year in which no COVID-19 cases were recorded.
“The protocols that were in place effectively separated the players from the surrounding community,” she said, adding it will be “critical” to ensure arriving teams don’t pose a risk to the public before entering the bubble.
“It’s my job to make sure this does not pose any risk to the public, and I’m confident that is the case,” Hinshaw said.
Watch below: Some videos from Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s news conference on Friday.
Latest COVID-19 numbers in Alberta
The 1,738 new COVID-19 cases announced Friday came about after the province conducted about 21,000 coronavirus tests over the past 24 hours, Hinshaw said.
As of Friday afternoon, she said the province’s positivity rate was about 8.3 per cent and the province had 20,161 active COVID-19 cases.
Of those active cases, 684 people are in hospital and 123 in intensive care units.
With the 18 additional deaths reported to Alberta Health on Friday, the provincial death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 684.
The people who died were a man in his 40s from the Edmonton zone with no known comorbidities, a man in his 60s in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 60s from the North zone, a woman in her 70s in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 70s in the North zone and a man in his 60s in the Edmonton zone.
Of the fatalities, 12 were connected to outbreaks: man in his 80s linked linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Lynnwood in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 90s linked to the outbreak at The Hamlets at Cedarwood Station in the Calgary zone, a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in the Edmonton zone, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Bethany, Calgary in the Calgary zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at AgeCare Walden Heights in the Calgary zone, a man in his 80s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in the Edmonton zone, a man in his 90s linked to the outbreak at AgeCare Walden Heights in the Calgary zone, a woman in her 70s linked to the outbreak at Capital Care Lynnwood in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 60s linked to the outbreak at Rivercrest Care Centre in the Edmonton zone, a man in his 70s linked to the outbreak at Shepherds Care Vanguard in the Edmonton zone, a woman in her 80s linked to the outbreak at South Health Campus in the Calgary zone and a woman in her 90s linked to an outbreak at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in the Edmonton zone.
“My sympathies go out to those mourning their loss,” Hinshaw said, recognizing the fact that public health restrictions are making it difficult for people to “grieve the way that they’re used to.”
Hinshaw said there were alerts or outbreaks in 458 schools across Alberta on Friday, about 19 per cent of schools in the province.
There were 1,947 active COVID-19 cases in schools.
Hinshaw talks about vaccine rollout
After Health Canada approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this week, Alberta continues to prepare for its rollout. The province expects to receive its first vaccines next week which will be given to “critical health-care workers at the highest-risk facilities.”
“Eligible groups of health-care workers, including staff at long-term care and supportive living facilities, will be offered vaccinations starting in early 2021,” Alberta Health said in a news release on Friday.
Hinshaw reminded Albertans on Friday that the vaccine was given to tens of thousands of people in test trials and was found to be 95 per cent effective without any signs of serious side effects.
However, she noted that “public health measures will need to stay in place even for people who have received the vaccine” because of the five per cent for whom the vaccine was not effective and out of an abundance of caution.
–With files from Global News’ Emily MertzView link »