230 COVID-19 cases over weekend, government urges Albertans to use masks
EDMONTON -- Four months since the province first counted its first case of COVID-19, the chief medical officer of health says the virus is beginning to spread quicker again.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were 230 new cases confirmed since Alberta’s last update: 62 added Friday, 96 on Saturday, and 72 on Sunday.
“Spread of the virus is growing... There are also more cases with unknown sources now than there was a week ago,” Hinshaw said.
Her team continues to notice an uptick in cases among those aged 20 to 39.
Of the active cases, 267 are in the Calgary health zone, 199 in the Edmonton zone, 35 in the central zone, 110 in the south zone, and 53 in the north zone.
In a news conference alongside Hinshaw, Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro implored Albertans to wear masks in public.
Commenting on photos taken at Sylvan Lake in central Alberta over the weekend, which showed a crowded beach, Kenney said foregoing public health advice was a risk to the province’s handling of the pandemic.
“That kind of conduct, unfortunately, could jeopardize the progress that we have made. We are not done with COVID, but we are learning how to live with it and our future success depends entirely on not letting our guard down.”
Hinshaw said her team would be setting up meetings this week with municipalities who feel under-resourced to enforce the public health measures, but the officials reiterated the importance of practices like hand washing, mask wearing, and physical distancing.
ALBERTA DISTRIBUTES ANOTHER 20 MILLION MASKS, ‘STRONGLY’ RECOMENDING USE
On Monday, the government began distributing a second round of 20,000,000 free masks via McDonalds, A&W and Tim Hortons drive thrus and service counters.
“My message to Albertans is simple: You’re doing a great job so, please, stay the course,” Shandro said.
“I am strongly recommending that all of us wear masks any time we are out and can’t maintain a two-metre distance form others, especially in indoor spaces,” Hinshaw added.
“Wearing a mask is a common-sense precaution that should be part of everyone’s new normal.”
According to the premier, there is neither a date nor timeline for Alberta to move into Phase 3 of its reopening but that it depends on several triggers, including the rate of hospitalizations and used ICU beds.
Both rates are half of what the health care system was handling at the peak of provincial public health emergency: there are 45 Albertans currently hospitalized, and 10 ICU beds being used, due to COVID-19.
Three areas with more than 10 active cases or more than 50 active cases per 100,000 in the region remain on a “watch” list and are being monitored by Hinshaw’s team. Possibly, the government will enact further health measures locally if the situation escalates, Kenney said. The data is available on an online interactive map and being distributed by email notifications.
‘LEARN FROM OUR SUCCESS’: KENNEY TELLS U.S.
The province has been averaging 6,892 tests per day, and last week reached a milestone of more than a half-million tests.
Alberta’s testing capacity, which Kenney called the cornerstone of his government’s COVID-19 response, is one of the things the U.S. could take notes from, the premier said.
Referencing America’s 3,300,000 confirmed cases, and Florida’s day-over-day increase Sunday by 15,000, he said, “That is the worse case scenario, and we need to avoid it in Alberta.”
The U.S. is Canada’s single largest trading partner.
“Both of our recoveries depend on getting business humming again and getting people back to work, neither of which can happen in places suffering large outbreaks,” Kenney commented.
“So I urge our American cousins to look north and learn from our success.”