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6 new coronavirus cases in Alberta, bringing province total to 29
EDMONTON -- Alberta has six new COVID-19 cases, the province announced Friday afternoon.
Five of the new cases are in the Calgary Zone, and the other is in the Edmonton Zone.
The case in the Edmonton Zone involves a man who recently returned from a conference in Vancouver. He attended a number of dental offices before he tested positive for coronavirus, the province said. Everyone who came into contact with him has been contacted to be tested.
The patients in the Calgary Zone include a traveller who recently returned from Florida and four people who live with a previously-confirmed case.
"I expect new cases will continue to be identified in the coming days," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said.
On Thursday, Alberta announced aggressive new measured to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Mainly, the province recommended suspending large gatherings with 250 people or more, and advising Albertans against travelling outside of Canada.
With all 29 coronavirus cases being travel related, the province is asking people returning from any international destination to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are feeling well and not showing any symptoms.
"The measures we are taking will help protect Albertans, especially those who are most vulnerable to severe disease."
On Friday, Hinshaw said she's granting this self-mandatory exemption to pilots and flight attendants.
Hinshaw added non-travellers are also being tested to ensure there is no community spread.
SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
Ontario and Manitoba have decided to close all public schools as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Hinshaw said she is not recommending K-12 and post-secondary closures.
"School closures are not universally agreed on as an effective intervention to prevent spread," Hinshaw said. "Any school closure would need to be in place for months, not weeks, to be effective."
On Friday, the University of Alberta suspended all classes, and will provide an update on its plan going forward on Sunday.
The province is working with post-secondary institutions on a plan to offer large classes online or remotely, if needed, and Hinshaw will meet with education officials Saturday to provide more information about Alberta's COVID-19 plan.
Albertans who need to self-isolate or care for a family member with coronavirus can now take 14 days of paid leave, Premier Jason Kenney said.
Employees will not need a medical note two take two weeks off, or have been at their job for 90 days.
"Our priority is public safety and health and we will make sure that no one has to choose between work and doing what is necessary to protect public health," Kenney said. "We don’t want Albertans impacted by COVID-19 to feel that they must go to work to sustain their income so they can pay their bills and take care of their family."
The province said it will work out the employment details in the coming days.
HEALTH LINK CALL VOLUME
Health Link, where Albertans are encouraged to call if they are feeling COVID-19 symptoms, is receiving more than 6,300 calls daily, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said. As a result, Alberta Health Services has double staff to answer these calls and tripled call lines to 182.
"It is understandable that the callers might be frustrated or stressed about the time that it takes to get through, but please continue to be patient and stay on the Health Link phone line," Shandro said.
AHS has also created an online self-assessment to help Albertans decide whether they need to call 811 and be tested for coronavirus.
ALBERTA'S SELF-ISOLATION TIPS
Self-isolation means staying home for 14 days and avoiding situations where you are putting others at risk.
In its information sheet, the province advises against having visitors but says it's OK to have family, friends or delivery drivers to drop off food or other things needed.
Hinshaw has continuously reminded Albertans to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands for 20 seconds and covering your coughs and sneezes.
"Most importantly, I want to really underline anyone who is feeling ill with cough or fever to stay home," Hinshaw said.
"The spread of COVID-19 is evolving daily, and we cannot predict what the outbreak will look like next week or the week after."