EDMONTON -- A “small” but unknown number of staff at the University of Alberta Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, though officials say the cases do not constitute an outbreak.

“There is no evidence of transmission within the ED and no patients have been exposed or infected as a result of this.

“With no links between these cases, the Medical Officer of Health determined they do not fit the criteria for an outbreak. Out of an abundance of caution, the UAH ED has been placed on ‘watch’ status,” Alberta Health Services confirmed to CTV News Edmonton.

The agency said the number of staff sick was too small to disclose without potentially breaching privacy conditions.

The province’s top doctor said local health officers are conducting the investigation into the cases, but that no patients have caught the disease nor has transmission been recorded there.

“My understanding from the information that I have received is that there are no connections that have been identified between the individuals that have tested positive, that their location of exposure was not identified as that particular emergency department, and of course, as we know, any individual who lives in a particular community can be exposed in many places, not just at work,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 update.

The ‘watch’ status means the emergency department is being monitored by officials.

AHS said the unit remains a safe place to go, and that there is no increased risk to potential patients.

Other facilities, such as schools or acute care homes, may have an outbreak declared if there are two or more cases of COVID-19 recorded at the location while the ill person was infectious, or which may have been acquired there.

The province counted nearly 1,000 cases of the disease over the Thanksgiving weekend.