Alberta confirms 42 new COVID-19 cases; total up to 301
EDMONTON -- Alberta now has more than 300 cases of COVID-19 after the province confirmed 42 more on Monday.
The province has 301 cases, with 18 patients still in hospital — including seven in ICU — and one death.
Up to 24 of these cases may be a result of community spread, Alberta suspects.
Of the 301 cases, 188 are in the Calgary zone, 68 in the Edmonton zone, 19 in the North zone, 17 in the Central zone and eight in the South zone.
11 ALBERTA HEALTH CARE WORKERS CONTRACTED COVID-19 AT EDMONTON BONSPIEL
Eleven of the 47 Alberta Health Services workers who attended a bonspiel at Edmonton's Granite Curling Club between March 11 and 14 tested positive for the coronavirus.
A number of the cases include physicians who went to work early last week and treated patients before they were diagnosed with COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
All attendees are currently self-isolating, and the province is reaching out to the people those 11 cases came into contact with last week.
"The key messages that we can take away from this event are, number one, even mild symptoms, minor sore throat or runny nose can result in the spread of infection," Hinshaw said. "Number two: commonly touched surfaces, like serving spoons at a buffet, can be a mechanism for spread."
UPDATED SELF-ISOLATION TIMELINE
Previously, Alberta was asking people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough or fever, to self-isolate for 14 days after the onset. Now, following new research, Hinshaw is asking those Albertans to self-isolate for 10 days instead.
"Again, provided symptoms have resolved," the doctor said. "If symptoms continue past 10 days, self-isolation should as well."
Travellers returning from abroad, or Albertans who have come into close contact with a COVID-19 patient, are still asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
"Should they start to experience symptoms, they must also follow the same 10-day guideline," Hinshaw went on to say. "This means that if a person returned from abroad and experienced symptoms after seven days of self-isolating, they will be required to self-isolate for 10 days from the start of those symptoms."
In that scenario, a person would be in self-isolation for 17 days — if symptoms disappear.
Earlier Monday, the province announced it would shift its testing approach to prioritize those who need it most.
That includes patients hospitalized with a respiratory illness, continuing care residents and travellers who returned to Canada between March 8 and 12. For seniors, Hinshaw said, "COVID-19 remains a dangerous illness and access to testing can make all the difference, especially in a setting like long term care."
Travellers who have mild symptoms won't be automatically tested anymore.
"Individuals with mild symptoms who do not fit these categories will not be tested," Hinshaw said. "I understand some Albertans may be upset with this change … it is important to remember the majority of people who get COVID-19 will experience minor symptoms. For those who do experience these symptoms, there is nothing better you can do for yourself and others than to stay home and self-isolate away from others."
Alberta has conducted 29,757 people so far.
MORE RESTICTIONS AT HOSPITALS
All staff at health care facilities will now be screened before they go inside, Hinshaw said.
The screening will include a temperature check and a questionnaire to assess health risks. If employees are deemed unfit to work, they will be sent home and asked to self-isolate.
"This is necessary to keep both our patients and health care workers safe," Hinshaw said.
AHS will also begin to expedite the return of health care workers who have been self-isolating, only if they're no longer showing coronavirus symptoms.
"This will only be done in exceptional and limited circumstances where it is absolutely necessary for that frontline care provider to work and where there are no other alternatives for coverage," Hinshaw said.
Those workers will undergo "rigorous" screening.
TEXT 4 HOPE
Feeling stress or anxiety during this pandemic? Hinshaw is encouraging Albertans to reach out to family or friends for support, and AHS has also launched a text line, called Text 4 Hope, where people who subscribe by texting "COVID19HOPE" to 393939 will receive messages of encouragement and hope every day.
"It's important to remember that we are all in this together," Hinshaw said. "Now more than ever we need to take care of each other.
"And now, more than ever, finding creative ways to maintain our bonds and stay socially connected is so vitally important to our mental health and well-being."
Dr. Hinshaw also stressed she understands Albertans want to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather, but urged them to maintain a physical distance of two metres.
This weekend, photos and videos surfaced of several people exercising at Edmonton's Glenora stairs in close proximity to each other.
"Please be careful to maintain a distance of two meters, and to avoid touching rails, garbage cans, or other potential sources of transmission," she added.
As of 4 p.m., there were 2,091 COVID-19 cases in Canada and 24 deaths as a result of the virus.