22 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta; Hinshaw says community spread is 'concerning'
EDMONTON -- Alberta has confirmed another 22 cases of COVID-19, bringing the province's total to 119.
There are six patients in hospital, with three in intensive care. Two of the patients in ICU are in their 60s, while the third is in their 40s and has a pre-existing health condition.
Alberta's top doctor Deena Hinshaw said six coronavirus cases came as a result of community spread: three in the Edmonton zone, two in the Calgary zone and one in the North zone, who appears to have contracted coronavirus in Edmonton.
"This is concerning and we are working to make sure that our testing and our testing availability is adjusted to make sure we are understanding where cases of transmission are happening," Hinshaw said.
PACIFIC DENTAL CONFERENCE
More than seven of Alberta's coronavirus patients acquired the virus at the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver on March 5-7.
Other provinces have confirmed cases from the same dental conference.
As a result, Hinshaw is asking people who attended the conference to self-isolate immediately, even if feeling well, until March 22.
DENTAL TREATMENT POSTPONED
The province is postponing non-urgent dental treatment and services, but emergency procedures will continue. A day earlier, Alberta also postponed non-urgent and elective surgeries.
"This is not just about increasing bed capacity. We need adequate numbers of frontline health care workers, as well as personal protected equipment to handle the anticipated demand."
Alberta Health Services will also now further restrict the number of visitors to hospitals, Hinshaw said. Visitors must be symptom-free and only one person will be allowed in at a time. Children won't be allowed to visit loved ones in hospitals.
Alberta has conducted close to 15,000 COVID-19 tests and nearly 1.3 million people have completed the province's self-assessment test online.
'THERE ARE NO EASY SOLUTIONS'
The aggressive measures the province has taken in recent days — such as cancelling events of 50 people or more or restricting restaurants and similar gathering places to no more than 50 people — have come at Hinshaw's recommendation.
She understands that Albertans are having to make great sacrifices and are suffering during this pandemic.
"In order to save lives, I have had to make recommendations that will take away livelihoods from many Albertans for the next several weeks to months," Hinshaw said. "I ask that we all reach out to our neighbours and networks for the next while with compassion and support."
The doctor also thanked the Albertans who have gone into self-isolation to protect others.
"We need to face this together, and respond to this extraordinary crisis with extraordinary kindness."