Alberta adds 89 new COVID-19 cases as Edmonton remains under health watch
EDMONTON -- Alberta reported 89 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday as the number of active infections in Edmonton continued to increase.
A total of 1,169 Albertans are currently battling the coronavirus, with 48 of them in hospital, including 11 in ICUs.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, also reported one more death as a result of COVID-19.
"We're currently sitting at an average of about two new cases per 100,000 population over the past week per day," Hinshaw said. "This compares with average new daily case rates of over 25 per 100,000 in Florida, Georgia and Texas, where school reopening issues have been identified."
To date, Alberta has reported 12,419 cases, 11,025 recoveries and 225 deaths.
Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Edmonton is experiencing its highest active case count, doubling that of the city of Toronto.
Edmonton, with a population of 1,021,628, has 572 cases of the coronavirus — 56 active cases per 100,000 people.
For comparison, Toronto alone, where 2,956,024 people live, currently has 264 cases with 8.93 infections per 100,000 residents.
The Ontario capital has had a total of 15,622 cases, whereas Edmonton has counted 2,128.
The entire Alberta capital is now under Alberta Health's watch category for having a rate of more than 50 active cases per 100,000 people.
The city's northeast is experiencing the worst of the local spike, where the rate is 136.1 active infections per 100,000, followed by Edmonton – Northgate (94.7 per 100,000) and Edmonton – Castle Downs (92.2 per 100,000).
"It's too soon to determine whether we need to do any additional public health interventions in Edmonton," Hinshaw said. "There's not a specific number that we're watching for at which level we would implement more restrictions."
Hinshaw said much of the COVID-19 spread is connected to indoor social gatherings, but not at businesses. She highlighted two "distinct private gatherings" where 26 and 17 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.
"This may be an Edmonton-specific wake-up call with respect to realizing that within these pockets of transmission, these social gatherings that it's critical that each one of us thinks about our activities."
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson says he's "concerned and disappointed" with the spike in cases.
As Edmonton's case count increases, Calgary, Alberta's hardest city region so far in the pandemic, continues to see a drop in active infections with a total of 259.
A Grey Nuns Community Hospital staff member tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Hinshaw said the member was working in a unit caring for three patients who contracted the virus in the community.
Covenant Health closed that unit to transfers and discharges, enhanced cleaning and limited visitors, she said.
The two church outbreaks in Edmonton and Deadwood, Alta., continue to grow. A total of 15 people who attended the Bible Pentecostal Church in north Edmonton between July 26 and Aug. 12 have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 32 people — 15 in Alberta and 17 in British Columbia — contracted the disease at the It Is Time Canada event over the August long weekend.
Hinshaw said around 200-300 people attended the Deadwood event, and that Alberta is working with B.C. to manage the outbreak.
"It is a stark reminder that coming together in large gatherings risks sharing more than fellowship. It risks sharing the COVID-19 virus," Hinshaw said.
Anyone who attended the Bible Pentecostal Church or It Is Time Canada, or people who came into close contact with attendees, is encouraged to monitor for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19.
By the start of next month all Shoppers Drug Marts and Loblaw pharmacies will offer COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic Albertans.
Hinshaw wants all teachers and school staff to book a test as soon as possible to make sure they can get one before school begins.
The chief medical officer of health said these pharmacies will increase the province's testing capacities by 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day.
"That would serve half or more of Alberta's teachers and school staff," Hinshaw said. "We will need this added capacity plus that of all community pharmacists who are already testing for COVID-19 if we are to test these 90,000 teachers and school staff in just a few weeks."
She also asked Albertans who don't work at schools, are not showing symptoms or have not come into close contact with a confirmed case to wait to get tested later in September.
Young students should only get tested if they display virus symptoms, Hinshaw recommended.
Pharmacy testing is only for asymptomatic Albertans, Hinshaw said. Those who have COVID-19 symptoms should book a test online.
Alberta has conducted more than 800,000 tests since the pandemic began.