Five deaths, 306 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta
EDMONTON -- There have been five new deaths and 306 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney announced Wednesday.
It drives the death total in the province up to 66 and the total number of cases to 3,401.
The increase in new cases is the largest day-over-day jump yet in the province, pushing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,401.
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Kenney said 4,151 tests had been completed in the last 24 hours. More than 108,000 people have now been tested for the novel coronavirus.
According to data available on the government's statistics website, 192 of the new cases were reported in the Calgary zone, while just five were reported in the Edmonton zone.
Of those infected, 1,310 people have recovered.
The government announced it would expand testing again to anyone in the province experiencing any symptoms including sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, fever or runny nose.
"The more we test, the more we can track, isolate and control the spread," Kenney said. "We still lead all provinces in per capita testing and continue to ramp those numbers up even higher."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, added that she's heard from people who have expressed concerns over getting tested.
"The more information we have about the spread of the virus in our communities, the better equipped we are to return to activities and businesses operating," she said. "Without this information, it's like driving in the dark."
Outbreaks at meat processing facilities and a northern Alberta oil sands work camp continue to grow, the government said.
There are now 32 cases linked to the Kearl Lake work camp, north of Fort McMurray, with 25 of those infected located in Alberta and seven being managed in provinces including B.C. (5), Saskatchewan (1) and Nova Scotia (1).
Ten people are being isolated at the camp and 15 are self-isolating off-site, Hinshaw said.
"What has happened is we were able to bring all the sources of information together to get the accurate count for today," she said.
Further south in High River, there are now 440 cases in workers at the now-shuttered Cargill meat processing plant, Hinshaw said. The larger outbreak, which includes households some cases have spread to, has infected 580 people.
The outbreak at JBS Foods in Brooks, which recently reduced its operating hours, has risen to 96 confirmed cases.
In continuing care facilities, there have been 375 confirmed cases and 44 deaths.
Asked whether the continuing outbreaks at Cargill, JBS and Kearl Lake would affect Alberta's plan to gradually reopen the economy, Kenney said they represent a drop in the bucket of overall facilities.
"There are some 200 licensed meat-processing facilities in Alberta, and significant outbreaks in two of those, so one per cent," he said. "I'd like to see this as a reflection of our success in containing the spread, and we've acted quickly where there have been outbreaks."
That doesn't mean the province will be ending protective measures anytime soon, Kenney said.
"We'll be developing and releasing in days to come key metrics to guide our relaunch strategy. Obviously we want to get Albertans back to work as soon as it is safe to do so, but not before that."
He noted that current infection and hospitalization rates in the province are well below modelling projections, and if it continues the province may be able to start its relaunch strategy earlier than expected.
"Folks who want us to just reopen now, my response would be these localized outbreaks are cause of us to be cautious," he said.
DONATING PPE, VENTILATORS
With Alberta significantly below projected numbers, Kenney announced the province would donate more personal protective equipment and ventilators to those who need them.
Quebec in particular has been hard hit, with nearly 21,000 cases and 1,134 deaths, he said.
Alberta sent 25 of its roughly 500 available and unused ventilators to the province as a result.
The province will also ship 20,000 masks to Northwest Territories, "a community to which Alberta is closely connected," he said, noting Alberta's stockpile of PPE is larger than anticipated needs, even based on an elevated model of COVID-19 infections.
"We cannot stand by indifferently as COVID threatens the lives of fellow Canadians in other areas including Quebec," Kenney said.
The ventilators were shipped Monday and will be returned when Quebec's need is no longer as great.