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COVID-19: What’s behind Calgary’s recent rise in active cases?

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta' Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta
Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw isn’t ruling out increasing restrictions in the province if spread escalates and pressure on the health-care system grows. – Mar 24, 2021

Officials say there’s no one source to point to that can explain the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Calgary, and the Calgary Zone, compared to the rest of the province.

As of Wednesday, the Calgary Zone has 2,910 of Alberta’s 6,534 total active cases, compared to 1,455 active cases in the Edmonton Zone.

The case numbers linked to Calgary’s outbreaks are also significantly higher, with 640 in Calgary and 201 in Edmonton Zone, as of March 23.

Read more: Alberta records first 2 cases of Brazil COVID-19 variant due to community spread

According to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the source of the disparity “goes back to no single particular setting, no single particular activity.”

“What we are seeing in many of the cases that are reported to us is that people are tired, and so some of the public health restrictions slip aside and when that happens over time, then the virus – whether it be variant or the wild-type COVID – have an opportunity to spread further,” she said Wednesday.

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Read more: No Step 3 but where is Alberta headed when it comes to COVID-19?

Hinshaw said while the Calgary Zone in particular is seeing a spike in cases now, it doesn’t mean other parts of the province are immune to a similar change in numbers.

“It’s also important to remember that while one particular part of Alberta, there may be increased spread right now, that doesn’t mean that other parts of Alberta are safe from the virus,” she said.

“And the virus can spread very quickly if given the chance. And so I would say to all Albertans, no matter where they live, every day, we all need to be cautious, following the precautions and keeping our communities safe.”

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw reminds Albertans there is still risk of COVID-19 transmission outside' Hinshaw reminds Albertans there is still risk of COVID-19 transmission outside
Hinshaw reminds Albertans there is still risk of COVID-19 transmission outside – Mar 24, 2021

Hinshaw said officials are also looking at several outbreaks in the Calgary area, at worksites, restaurants and linked to social gatherings.

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According to Alberta Health, several outbreaks in Calgary also have variants of concern, including 21 of 34 cases linked to Joey Eau Claire, and 10 of 11 cases linked to an outbreak at Engineered Air, as of Wednesday.

Hinshaw said the impact of an outbreak can be contained, provided the people linked to it are doing the right things in other parts of their lives, but that essential component of containment isn’t being done by everyone.

“What we’re seeing, again, wherever the initial spread happens is that the magnitude of the number of people who are essentially impacted in the generations of spread that follows is amplified when people are not following public health measures in multiple aspects of their lives,” she said.

Read more: ‘It can take off’: Variants could drive spike in severe outcomes for young people

“We’re seeing that the biggest risk is when people are tired and leaving aside those public health measures and spread happens, not just in a single setting, but it happens in that setting and then it happens in households and then it happens in other workplaces from other people in those households, and it can continue to spread with multiple generations of spread happening even in a single week.”

Hinshaw said if a variant strain — which are more contagious than the original virus strain — does become dominant in Alberta, additional restrictions may need to be reintroduced to contain the spread.

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Click to play video: 'Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta' Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta
Hinshaw does not rule out increased COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta – Mar 24, 2021

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Alberta, said the COVID-19 variants are “very unforgiving of small lapses.”

“So doing all the (health measures) very well and kind of giving yourself a little bit of a quality check about how am I doing with these things?” Saxinger said.

“Am I using a well-fitted mask? Am I handling the mask properly? Am I doing hand hygiene? Am I mindful of high-touch surfaces? Am I being very choosy of how many people to see? How to see them? Where to see them? Outdoor is better than indoor. Then how long to see them for.

“Any interactivity should be in the areas that have the best personal value for you and if they don’t have extremely high value for you, we should be pretending that we’re in lockdown more often.”

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Calgary also has a significantly higher number of schools in either outbreak status or with active alerts.

As of Wednesday, 109 schools in the city of Calgary had either an outbreak of 10 or more cases, or an alert, which means there are two to four active cases. In Edmonton, there were only 32.

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta expands rapid testing to schools, oil and gas, meat-packing plants

As of Monday, 85 schools in Alberta had a total of 145 cases of variants of concern, with 21 transmissions having been reported in 21 schools.

Hinshaw said Wednesday that so far, there hasn’t been a significant difference between the level of transmission of variants and the original dominant strain.

“For that reason, again, we have continued the measures in place in schools to protect students, teachers and staff,” Hinshaw said.

“I would remind everyone that the actions that are taken both outside of school and inside of school matter, and that safe actions outside of school will protect those inside of school.”

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