The Alberta government announced 61 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday — the largest day-over-day increase yet — and introduced enforcement measures to penalize those who break self-isolation and physical distancing rules.
The province now has a total of 419 cases of coronavirus. There are 20 patients in hospital, including eight in intensive care.
Out of the 419 cases, the province believes 33 were spread in the community, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
"These are significant cases numbers, and they underscore the seriousness of the situation that we face," Hinshaw said.
ENFORCEMENT MEASURES TO CURB COVID-19
Premier Jason Kenney introduced new enforcement measures in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Police and community peace officers can now issue $1,000-tickets to Albertans who violate self-isolation rules after returning from abroad, after coming into contact with a person with COVID-19, or when displaying symptoms, such as fever or cough.
It is now mandatory to self-isolate after coming back to Alberta from outside of Canada.
"If you violate the rules that we have laid down, you will now be subject to stringent penalties and fines with rigorous enforcement behind them," Kenney said.
"These new enforcement measures are a reasonable, prudent but necessary response to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta."
The fines will begin to be enforced in the coming days.
MORE CASES AT SENIORS' HOMES
Hinshaw announced two more COVID-19 cases at Calgary's MacKenzie Towne Long Term Care Home where a woman died and three other already contracted the virus.
The virus has also found its way into two Edmonton seniors' homes, with two cases at Shephard's Care Foundation in Kensington Village and one case at Rosedale on the Park.
"I know that many Albertans are concerned about these cases and about the spread of COVID-19," Hinshaw said. "I am concerned as well, which is why, as Premier Kenney has outlined, public health orders will now be enforced by law. This step is essential to protect the health and safety of Albertans."
Last week, the province asked seniors' homes residents to designate one essential visitor who would be screened before entering the facility.
"Despite the aggressive measures already in place, it's become clear that additional measures are needed."
As a result, Hinshaw said facilities such as nursing homes, designated supportive living and long-term care facilities, seniors' lodges and addiction treatment facilities would have new mandatory guidelines around enhanced cleaning, more direction around the use of shared spaces and mandatory health screening for staff, residents and visitors.
NEW RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FAMILIES
In addition to practicing good hygiene, such as often washing your hands and covering coughs and sneezes, Dr. Hinshaw is now asking families across the province to do more to prevent spreading the virus — even at home.
This includes not sharing snacks from a bowl — such as popcorn — cups, drinks or utensils.
"Have one person as the designated person to serve all others so that a serving utensil is handled only by one person," Hinshaw added.
"I know it might seem strange to limit these activities in your own home; however, this is important modeling that we as parents can share with our children, and it is another step that we can take to keep each other safe."
Hinshaw also suggested partnering up with a second, "cohort" family to get through this self-isolation period with more support.
"Children would have opportunities to play in a controlled environment and parents would have opportunities to connect," Hinshaw said.
"I must be clear: This only works if both families are completely committed and as long as members in both families remain healthy, don’t have underlying medical conditions, aren’t at high risk like seniors, have not recently travelled outside of the country and are not showing any symptoms."
In addition, with Easter and Ramadan approaching, Hinshaw has met with provincial faith leaders to plan how these religious events will be celebrated differently during the current pandemic.
"We must maintain social distancing practices, even when we are together with family. It's not the time to visit grandparents for Sunday dinner. Now is not the time to host or attend a potluck with friends. Now is not a time to plan for a family reunion. It's just the time to stay home and work together to limit the spread."
As of 4:35 p.m., there were 3,409 COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths in Canada.