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Alberta reports 239 more COVID-19 cases as province ramps up testing
EDMONTON -- Alberta has confirmed 239 new COVID-19 cases, attributing the largest daily increase yet to ramped up testing.
The province-wide totals are now 2,397 cases, 1,124 recoveries and 50 deaths. There are 60 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 13 in intensive care.
Alberta Health Services conducted 3,831 tests in the past 24 hours, days after it expanded testing to all Albertans with COVID-19 symptoms.
"We expected to see new cases as we test more Albertans," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw also attributed the spike to a meatpacking facility in High River that affected multiple households in surrounding communities and resulted in 358 cases of COVID-19.
MORE TESTING AT CONTINUING CARE FACILITIES
In an attempt to reduce spread and protect Alberta's most vulnerable population in this pandemic, AHS will now test asymptomatic staff and residents at continuing care homes where there are outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Staff or residents who test negative but were in close contact with a COVID-19 case will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
"It gives us a better chance of early identification of new cases. Given that we now know people who may be infected with COVID-19 can potentially spread the illness before they show symptoms, testing more residents and staff in continuing care facilities will help us prevent further infections and deaths," Hinshaw said.
"This will help to contain the spread among residents and protect the compassionate and courageous who are caring for them in those seniors' facilities," Premier Jason Kenney said.
There are 270 cases of COVID-19 at 34 continuing care facilities across the province, and 32 residents have died as a result of the disease, with McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Home in Calgary and Manoir du Lac in northern Alberta hit the hardest.
On Friday, AHS took over Manoir du Lac's day-to-day operation to improve outbreak control and infection preventions.
The facility, located in McLennan, Alta., has had 26 residents and 11 staff test positive for COVID-19, and five deaths as a result.
Residents will undergo daily screenings and be isolated if they display respiratory symptoms, while staff will be required to wear personal protective equipment.
KEARL LAKE OUTBREAK
Hinshaw said there are 12 cases of COVID-19 in the province linked to the Kearl Lake work camp north of Fort McMurray.
Earlier this week, she reported an outbreak at the camp after three workers tested positive for novel coronavirus, while another six tested Tuesday were waiting for results in self-isolation.
There have been several cases in other provinces linked to the same site, and health officials are working with the companies involved with the work camp to get lists of anyone who may have been exposed.
Those lists will be provided to other provinces so they can do contact tracing of the exposures, Hinshaw said.
"We would be asking them to self-isolate for 14 days as we would do with any other close contact of a confirmed case," she said.
Oilsands workers have been deemed essential by the Alberta government.
Hinshaw said anyone returning home from such camps would not be recommended to self-isolate unless there is an outbreak at the site.