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Alberta reports 98 new cases of COVID-19
EDMONTON -- The Alberta government reported 98 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Monday.
There are now 1,348 cases of the novel coronavirus in Alberta — one month after the province reported its first case. A total of 361 Albertans have recovered from the potentially deadly disease.
The province-wide death toll increased to 24 after a woman in her 80s died at the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care home in Calgary, where a total of 11 residents have died after contracting COVID-19, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Alberta saw its largest day-to-day increase on April 1 with 117 cases. Since then, the province has hovered around 100 cases when it tests to its full capacity of approximately 4,500 tests per day.
NEW TESTING GUIDELINES
Alberta is second only to Australia in testing rate, according to the chief medical officer of health, with 64,183 tests.
In addition to at-risk populations and health care workers, Alberta Health Services will now test group home and shelter workers, first responders, correctional staff and those involved in COVID-19 enforcement who show coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and runny nose.
"It is extremely important, that in addition to completing as many tests as we can, we're also being purposeful in our testing," Hinshaw said. "This means that the groups who are available for testing will change as we move through the evolution of the pandemic, and as our testing capacity evolves.
"Identifying infections in all of these groups will help us to prevent the spread to high risk populations living in close quarters, more closely trace community transmission along the testing groups and provide more valuable information on the effects of the public health measures."
Effective Tuesday, Albertans 65 years or older with COVID-19 symptoms will also be tested.
Alberta's top doctor also emphasized that not everyone feeling sick needs to be tested. Instead, Albertans outside those testing groups are asked to stay home to prevent possible COVID-19 spread and take AHS' online self-assessment.
Dr. Hinshaw cited new research focused on cases outside of China that found "asymptomatic spread is happening more often than we thought."
As a result, she once again stressed the importance of maintaining a physical distance of two metres, and for close contact of cases and returning international travellers to stay home for two weeks.
Additionally: "There may be added benefit for those who are well and in places where they cannot keep two metres distance from others to wear a face covering," Hinshaw said.
Premier Jason Kenney estimates Alberta currently has a one-month stock of N95 masks, but is seeking more supplies.
For those who choose to wear cloth or non-medical masks, the chief medical officer of health reminds them to wash their hands before and after wearing them because masks can be contaminated outside. In addition, Hinshaw said it's best to carry a bag with several cloth masks and a plastic bag to store worn ones and handle carefully to avoid spread.
Suspected cases of community spread increased by 52 Monday to a total of 204.
"As we see fewer travel-related cases, this is the time when community cases may start to rise," Hinshaw said. "We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus from person to person in the community."
MORE EMPLOYEE PROTECTIONS
Starting Monday, employees who take time off to be with children affected by school or daycare closures or to care for a loved one are entitled to job-protected family leave.
The province also increased temporary layoffs connected to COVID-19 from 60 to 120 days retroactive to include workers who were laid off on or before March 17.
"We don't know how long we will be in this position, and we want to ensure that every temporarily laid off worker can stay attached to a job," Labour Minister Jason Copping said.
"These temporary measures will give employers the flexibility they need to make it through the pandemic and will allow for sustainability and help with recovery."
The province also removed the 24-hour written notice for shift changes in an attempt to improve schedule flexibility.
'VERY CHALLENGING NUMBERS'
"I think a question a lot of Albertans just want to know is: When is this all going to be over?" Kenney said.
On Tuesday, the government will release its promised COVID-19 forecast to give Albertans an idea on when the province will reach the pandemic peak and what its plan of action is to get through the coming months.
"Albertans want to know, 'What are the real numbers?" Kenney said. "And I ask people to be prepared for what can be some very challenging numbers as we look at the perspective, damage that this virus could still do in our province."
Watch the premier's press conference live at CTVNewsEdmonton.ca at 6 p.m.