Alberta officials say they are balancing risk and sustainability in their response to coronavirus, which they expect to affect the world for months.
"We need to start thinking about what our new normal will look like," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday, announcing her teams had so far diagnosed seven people with COVID-19 in the province.
"With no vaccine for this virus likely to be available for a year or more, to protect the population we need to protect each other."
The fifth, sixth, and seventh cases are:
An Edmonton-area woman in her 70s who had close contact with the Edmonton-area man who was diagnosed on March 6 after returning from the Grande Princess cruise on Feb. 21;
A Calgary-area man in his 30s who had travelled in Ukraine, Netherlands and Turkey. He had been in close contact with a Calgary-area woman who was diagnosed in the days earlier after exposure with someone who had travelled in Europe and the Middle East; and
A Calgary-area woman in her 50s who was on the MS Braemar cruise ship until March 4. Her symptoms began after she returned home, and was tested positive at a Calgary assessment centre.
The three most recently sick individuals are in isolation and expected to make a full recovery.
All of the cases detected in Alberta have been travel related.
"Close contacts are the ones who are the greatest risk of contracting the virus, so these new cases are not surprising," Hinshaw said, reiterating coronavirus is not airborne.
EDMONTON AREA SCHOOLS INFORM PARENTS OF CORONAVIRUS EXPOSURES
In response to a letter sent to parents of École Leduc Estates School regarding two students who were in contact with someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19, the province's top doctor said she was not aware of any school being an exposure setting of concern.
The letter told parents the students and families were self isolating as advised by Alberta Health Services, and that Black Gold School Division would be turning off the water and disinfecting surfaces at the school.
ELSE Principal Calvin Monty said they have not tested positive, but that the school wanted to be transparent.
"People are nervous about it, so we just thought we want to have the information up front," Monty told CTV News Edmonton.
"Of course, other children, our students, ask about those kind of questions, too, in school. So we just want to make sure that the parents have the information – the correct information."
"We need to distinguish: cases are people who have symptoms and have been tested positive," Hinshaw said. "And then around them we have contacts. If a contact is ill, they would be called a person under investigation and so they would be tested immediately. If they are well, again they are called a close contact and they are asked to stay home for 14 days as a precaution to make sure that if they should get ill in that 14 days, they're not in a public place when that happens.
"But while they are well, they are not a risk to others."
In St. Albert, École Leo Nickerson School parents received a letter from principal Helen Nowell saying one student may have been exposed to COVID-19.
"This student has not been at school since this possible exposure so there is NO increased risk to any of our students," Nowell said.
A similar letter was also sent to parents of Sir George Simpson students, also in St. Albert.
7 POSITIVE CASES OUT OF MORE THAN 1,000 TESTS
Alberta processed more than 700 COVID-19 tests on Sunday and counted over 1,000 throughout the weekend.
Because earlier tests have been validated by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, the province is able to confirm results itself.
With expanded resources, some of the Alberta government's largest efforts have been to set up coronavirus assessment centres, and trace those who have had contact with infected people.
Hinshaw said this is how they found some of the positive cases: public health teams contacted the 44 Albertans who were on the Grand Princess Cruise ship to follow up on their wellbeing.
Despite the increased levels of testing, the chief medical officer said no clinical care has been impacted. But to accommodate coronavirus sampling, the province has stopped some public health surveillance tests it does to track viruses moving around Alberta.
Along with containing the virus, Hinshaw said Alberta's goal was to ensure its response was sustainable.
"We are each other's best protection, and making sure that people remember that the actions they take if they are feeling well are not just about themselves but about other people."
In referencing Canada's first COVID-19-related death, at a B.C. long-term care facility, Hinshaw said Alberta was only recommending those who are feeling unwell do not visit.
"We know that as humans – all of us, not just seniors – having company, having people to talk to, having social interactions is a really important part of our health," Hinshaw said.
"I think to restrict all visitors to long term care facilities, when again we have a very low risk of exposure in the province, if we initiated that, again, that would likely go on for many months and so kind of weighing those risks against the risks of isolation, the risks of loneliness."
After reports of toilet paper and similar supplies flying off shelves, she also advised there was no need for panic buying.
"In this particular scenario, I think people are seeing what's happening in other countries and maybe getting worried," Hinshaw said.
"That behaviour, in some ways, creates the problem that they were afraid of. So it reinforces that vicious cycle."
She said Albertans only need 72 hours worth of supplies, as they would for any emergency.
ALBERTA CORONAVIRUS TALLY AT 7
The first case was a confirmed diagnosis for a Calgary-area woman in her 50s. The following three were presumptive cases: an Edmonton-area man who had visited the U.S.; an Edmonton man in his 60s who had recently returned from a Grand Princess cruise; and a Calgary-area woman in her 30s who had contact with someone who had travelled in Europe and the Middle East.
There were 76 confirmed cases in Canada and more than 113,500 worldwide as of Monday afternoon, according to the Johns Hopkins CSSE.
Albertans who are experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, difficulty breathing or have travelled outside Canada or had contact with someone who had COVID-19 have been recommended to stay home and call Health Link 811 for further instructions.
More information from the provincial government can be found online.