Seven new deaths as total COVID-19 cases in Alberta surpass 5,000
EDMONTON -- There have been seven more deaths and 315 additional cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Alberta in the last day, the province's top doctor said Wednesday, while the number of total cases in the province has topped 5,000.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the seven deaths, all of which occurred at long-term care homes in Calgary, have increased the provincial death toll to 87 people.
Six of those deaths occurred at Clifton Manor, a long-term care facility in Calgary where an outbreak has previously been identified.
- Infographics: COVID-19 in Alberta by the numbers
- This is what we know about Alberta's COVID-19 cases
- More at edmonton.ctvnews.ca/coronavirus
Hinshaw said the large number of deaths reported there was "not a reflection of the work that has gone into managing the outbreak" at the home.
"Despite this, this shows the power of this virus in a closed environment."
She clarified some people died days ago, but the six deaths were not confirmed until the last 24 hours.
There have been 503 COVID-19 cases in continuing care facilities in the province.
The number of active cases in Calgary increased to 1,584 (out of 2,693 total cases) while Edmonton currently has 85 active cases out of 344 total.
There have now been 5,165 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province. Of those, 1,953 people have recovered, 209 have been hospitalized and 49 people have gone to an intensive care unit.
MEAT PLANT, OILSANDS OUTBREAKS
The case count for the outbreak at a Cargill meat-processing plant in High River rose to 821 cases, an increase of 62 cases from Tuesday's tally. There are now 276 COVID-19 cases in workers and contractors at JBS Foods in Brooks, an increase of 27 cases, Hinshaw said.
Cargill temporarily shuttered its operations earlier this month but said Wednesday it would reopen production at the facility to one shift starting May 4.
The plant was shut down for 14 days as it dealt with the hundreds of cases among workers, but Cargill says it will take additional safety measures like reduced contact and adding more barriers to places like locker rooms before it reopens.
JBS Foods has remained in operation on a reduced schedule.
An Occupational Health and Safety investigation is underway into the outbreaks at both plants.
Hinshaw said Alberta Health Services officers have been a part of on-site inspections at Cargill and are working with the Ministry of Labour.
"My understanding…is that this plant in particular has made sure that all measures to prevent spread of infection are being put in place," she said, adding AHS felt the new measures were enough to protect workers.
At the Kearl Lake work camp, an oil sands processing facility north of Fort McMurray, there have been a total of 83 cases confirmed, Hinshaw said.
Of those, 65 people are located in Alberta while the remainder are in other provinces. Thirty-three of the people infected remained at the work camp.
"This particular worksite has lots of measures in place to make sure anyone who's a confirmed case and anyone who has any symptoms are isolated away from others," Hinshaw said.
In addition, any close contacts of those infected or anyone displaying symptoms are not leaving the camp and going elsewhere, she said.
VISITATION RULES CHANGED
Hinshaw announced a new health order governing the circumstances under which hospital patients, long-term care patients and supportive living residents can visit with family members.
The province previously restricted visitors from entering such facilities due to the risk of COVID-19.
While those restrictions "continue to be necessary" to protect patient safety, Hinshaw said she has heard that mental health of residents has been suffering due to the rules.
The new issue addresses those concerns by allowing care home residents to have outdoor visits with a designated essential visitor and one additional person, so long as measures like two-metre physical distancing are taken.
"These are important to the mental health of residents and families," Hinshaw said.
She also clarified rules for visiting patients in palliative care who are nearing the end of their lives.
"We expect that individuals who are dying should have the opportunity to have loved ones by their side," Hinshaw said.
Up to two people at a time will be allowed to visit a patient who is in the final two weeks of their life, roughly, as long as distance is maintained between them.
None of the visitor restrictions apply to standalone hospice facilities.
Hinshaw announced another health order that would create new standards to be followed by residential addiction treatment facilities, which she said have unique needs.
The new rules make accommodations for group therapy sessions and support shorter residencies. Previously, centres had been following the same requirements as continuing care centres.