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Alberta reports two new deaths, 216 more COVID-19 cases
EDMONTON -- There are 216 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths in Alberta, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced Monday.
The new cases push the provincial total to 4,696 and the death toll to 75 people.
Of all cases, there are currently 87 people hospitalized and 20 in ICU, with 1,664 people recovered.
Alberta's chief medical officer of health touched on outbreaks affecting the province's most vulnerable populations, including 458 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta continuing care facilities.
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"Outbreaks in these facilities remain a major concern, which is why we expanded testing eligibility to include asymptomatic staff and residents," said Hinshaw.
FOUR NEW CASES IN HOMELESS POPULATION
Also of concern to health officials are four positive cases in Calgary's homeless population.
Hinshaw said more than 1,000 homeless people had been tested with all tests coming back negative until Sunday morning.
"Alberta Health Services is investigating to determine if there were any further exposures and is following up to ensure steps are taken to limit the spread," she said.
Three of the positive cases were identified at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre while one is linked to a Salvation Army shelter in Calgary, according to Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney.
All sheltered guests at both locations are now being tested for the disease, and anyone who has tested positive or shows symptoms has been moved to the city isolation centres.
Alberta's NDP criticized the government on its homelessness protection plan, saying not enough was being done to protect vulnerable Albertans.
New Democrats say they raised concerns weeks ago about the potential for an outbreak in Calgary shelters and the Telus Convention Centre due to the density of people staying at those facilities.
“I raised this issue weeks ago and it was completely brushed off by Minister Sawney,” said MLA Marie Renaud, NDP Opposition Critic for Community and Social Services.
“People who live rough or who experience homelessness are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 and they have no ability to self-isolate, the UCP should have made plans much sooner to protect them and provide adequate housing during this pandemic.”
The NDP reiterated a call for personal protective equipment for all shelter employees, paid for by the province.
14 NEW CASES IN BEARSPAW FIRST NATION
Before Hinshaw spoke, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson announced a new outbreak in Eden Valley, which is on Bearspaw First Nation land in the foothills region.
He said there were 14 positive cases at Eden Valley, and reported one confirmed case at the First Nation's Morley reservation.
"My thoughts are continually with those affected by COVID-19 in these communities, and Sucker Creek First Nation, which reported a positive case last week as well," said Wilson.
Wilson and Hinshaw said the First Nation is well-equipped to deal with the outbreak after developing an emergency management plan in response to the 2013 southern Alberta floods.
Everyone infected is self-isolating at home or in one of Bearspaw's two isolation centres, Wilson said.
TWO CASES IN EDMONTON HOSPITALS
AHS is currently investigating two COVID-19 cases at Edmonton General and Royal Alexander hospitals.
"A quick response to these cases means spread of the virus is being prevented and patients and staff are being protected," she said.
An 89-year-old woman with COVID-19 was transferred from Sturgeon General Hospital to Edmonton General's Continuing Care Site on April 21.
Hinshaw referred to "small outbreaks" in Edmonton hospitals in her daily update, but AHS later clarified there were only two confirmed cases at Royal Alex and Edmonton General. Staff in each facility are deploying outbreak protocols despite there only being a single case.
Hinshaw said total testing numbers and results for healthcare workers employed by AHS would be posted to the government's website beginning Monday.
The province will expand that to include other health care workers in the interest of transparency, but cautioned the public from assuming workers are more likely to spread infection.
"We need to support these workers and their efforts to protect patient health, not to create fear, or stigmatize them," she said.
As for how Alberta is faring after the first case was confirmed on March 5, Hinshaw said numbers are still below modelling projections.
Despite that, there's still no answer as to how long physical distancing, gathering restrictions and other health orders may last.
"No decision has been made on when we will be able to relax this limit on gatherings, but it is something we'll continue to monitor as we see the results of our collective efforts to prevent the spread paying off," Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said people can still go outside as the weather warms up, as long as they maintain two metres of distance and don't share food or drink with friends.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported there was a second confirmed case of COVID-19 at Edmonton General Hospital's Continuing Care Site. Alberta Health Services has since clarified there is only one case at the site.