EDMONTON -- Thursday marked one year since Alberta’s chief medical officer of health first spoke of the risk of the coronavirus.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw answered reporter questions at a media briefing on Jan. 21, 2020, where she stressed the risk to Albertans was low but that cases were likely to materialize.

“We are doing as many other countries are doing, a lot of work to be prepared in a precautionary way,” she said.

One year, nearly 120,000 cases and exactly 1,500 deaths later, Hinshaw said, “the last year has been a memorable one I’m sure for all of us. 

“I know it’s been an incredibly difficult year for many Albertans and I think for all of us there have been a lot of things that we’ve learned about the virus, about how to control it.”


Last January, there were no confirmed cases in Canada or among Canadian travellers. But Alberta Health Services asked doctors to be on watch for coronavirus symptoms, particularly among those returning from abroad.

“Infection with this pathogen should be considered in cases of acute respiratory illness without a clear etiology in patients who have traveled in the prior 14 days to Wuhan," an AHS bulletin to doctors read.

The pandemic took hold in Alberta two months later in March.

Forty-five days after first acknowledging COVID-19, Dr. Hinshaw reported the province’s first case on March 5, a woman in the Calgary health zone. The first Albertan to die of COVID-19 was reported two weeks later on March 19.

A day later, Edmonton declared a local state of emergency, following in the steps of the province five days before.

By the end of March, schools had closed and the province had ordered non-essential business to close, as well as restricting gatherings to 15 people.

By the end of April, the province had surpassed 5,000 cases and 96 deaths.


Active cases apparently peaked at the end of April at just under 3,000. A second-wave that began at the end of September mushroomed into a peak of 21,178 active cases by the end of 2020.

Hospitalizations rose from a few dozen for the spring and summer of 2020 to a peak of over 900 at the end of December and early January.

And, deaths greatly increased in December as well, with over 570 fatalities recorded, a number that is still growing even weeks later due to the delays in death reporting.

December also saw a slew of new restrictions come into effect but also the first vaccinations in Alberta.

Recently, falling case counts have resulted in the easing of some of those restrictions but Dr. Hinshaw has cautioned about easing them too soon.

“I would say that the data that we have indicates that the restrictions put in place in November and December have achieved so far, their intended outcome," she said.