77 Alberta health-care workers test positive for COVID-19

Alberta Health says 77 health-care workers in the province have tested positive for COVID-19 though none are believed to have been hospitalized.

No information on locations but province doesn't believe any workers hospitalized

Dozens of Alberta health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19. (Alberta Health Services/Twitter)

Alberta Health says 77 health-care workers in the province have tested positive for COVID-19 though none are believed to have been hospitalized. 

Officials are not providing a breakdown by profession or location and there is no information as to how many front-line workers are currently in isolation.

Most of the cases involve returning travellers as well as participants at a curling bonspiel in Edmonton, according to the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, at her daily briefing Tuesday.

Eleven Alberta health-care workers, most of them doctors, attended the bonspiel earlier this month and later tested positive for coronavirus.

'We need to look after them'

At Tuesday's briefing, Dr. Mark Joffe, vice-president and medical director with Alberta Health Services, said he is "very closely" monitoring the situation and is involved in contingency planning but noted staffing levels are not yet affected by sick workers.

"Hearing that colleagues of mine, some of whom I know … have become infected, that is very troublesome," said Joffe.

"As a health-care community, we become like a large family." 

"We need to look after them."

Hinshaw said she expects to have a further breakdown of the details later this week. 

More front-line workers expected to fall ill, says doctor

The number of affected health-care workers is expected to change as investigations are ongoing, according to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan.

Today's announcement underlines the risk of being on the front-lines during this pandemic, says family physician and head of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, Dr. Ernst Schuster.

"Its a worrisome number, and of course we will see that go up, especially as the need arises," said Schuster. "We're going to have to put more and more health-care professionals at risk to deal with these patients."

The province is working on a way to provide regular updates on the numbers involving its front-line medical staff.

Last week, the province announced health-care workers across Alberta would be screened for COVID-19 at the beginning of every shift.

The screening involves doctors, nurses and other staff at hospitals, urgent care centres and long-term care facilities having their temperature taken and filling out a questionnaire. 

Hinshaw, said anyone found to have a fever or symptoms would be sent home and told to self-isolate.

With files from Jennifer Lee