Five more deaths, 297 new COVID-19 cases as Alberta total surpasses 4,000
EDMONTON -- There have been five more deaths and 297 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, the province's top doctor announced Friday.
It drives the total of confirmed cases to 4,017, with the death toll now at 72 people. Nearly 1,400 people have recovered from the disease and more than 114,000 people have been tested in the province.
Of the five deaths, three occurred in long-term care facilities, according to Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
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- More at edmonton.ctvnews.ca/coronavirus
Among the new cases are three COVID-19 infections in a First Nations community within the Calgary zone, Hinshaw said. Infected individuals are self-isolating.
Alberta Health Services is also investigating two new cases at the Mountain View Poultry processing plant in Okotoks.
AHS has put supports in place for the plant to prevent the spread of the disease, she said.
Hinshaw was asked about Edmonton's only COVID-19 outbreak at the Kensington long-term care facility, which has seen 29 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths.
"Absolutely that's a concern for us," she said. "I want to remind people that because the incubation period can be up to two weeks, we can see some new cases at these facilities even after control measures have been put in place."
She said she's heard anger and disappointment from Albertans since clarifying rules around physical distancing and limits on gatherings would apply to all summer festivals.
That was followed by another series of festival cancellation announcements including the Edmonton Heritage Festival and Canada Day fireworks in Edmonton and Calgary. Both cities' marquee summer events, the Calgary Stampede and K-Days, announced cancellations Thursday.
Hinshaw acknowledged recent modelling projections may have given the public the impression infections will subside over summer.
"That is not the case," she said. "The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we are seeing in most of the provinces are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices."
She used the Edmonton curling bonspiel that resulted in dozens of medical professionals including doctors becoming infected as an example of how easily the virus spreads from a single person.
"Of the 73 people who attended that event, 40, ended up with COVID-19," she said. "We have had other social events where over 80 per cent of attendees were infected, and the common theme in all of these is that the source did not know they had COVID."
Hinshaw also addressed outbreaks at the Cargill meat processing plant near High River, where as of Thursday 480 workers had been infected, and JBS Foods in Brooks, where 124 people tested positive.
Cargill has suspended its operations while JBS Foods has remained open with fewer shifts and increased prevention measures.
Asked what it would take for JBS to shut down, Hinshaw said "we cannot look at a single worksite in isolation of what's happening in the lives of the people who work there."
She emphasized measures being taken by the plant like having fewer employees there at any given time, physical distancing and symptom checks.
Earlier, Hinshaw stressed the importance of supporting workers at both plants.
"For example, those affected by the outbreak in High River, not everyone who works at Cargill is a close contact or a confirmed case. There is no reason to assume that everyone connected to that facility is infected," she said. "These individuals are not in mandated isolation, unless they are a confirmed case or a close contact."
She said those workers shouldn't be restricted from going into grocery stores or banks.
"The people who are affected by this outbreak are experiencing many difficulties, and they need support and compassion, as we work to stop to further the spread," she said. "The same is true of all those working at continuing care sites experiencing outbreaks, including healthcare workers."
Hinshaw said the government will post healthcare worker case numbers on its website beginning next week. While those numbers may give the impression doctors and nurses are at a greater risk of spreading the virus, "this is not the case," she said, because they take hygiene and sanitization very seriously.