Alberta reports 239 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths
Staffing, screening problems at Manoir Du Lac in McLennan lead province to take over long-term care home
Alberta reported 239 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a higher-than-usual number that Premier Jason Kenney said represented an increase in the number of tests the province is conducting.
The total number of cases in the province is now 2,397, with 400 of those cases thought to have been transmitted within communities.
The province conducted 3,831 tests in last 24 hours, Kenney said, far more than the average of 1,974 tests per day seen since March 4.
In total, the province has conducted 89,144 tests.
No new deaths were reported on Friday. Sixty people are in hospital, including 13 in ICU. That's up by about 10 from Thursday, Kenney said.
"We're far from being out of the woods on this," said Kenney, who noted the number of hospitalizations has so far been lower than projected by models released earlier this month.
"I know we're getting increasing calls from members of the public to reopen everything right away," he said. "But as I said last week, doing so — letting the virus loose — would lead to us having to come back with an even more stringent and widespread lockdown that would have even more devastating impact on our economy."
'Continue to show discipline'
Albertans should be proud of how they came together to fight the pandemic, the premier said.
"So as we begin to plan the details of our relaunch strategy, please remember ... the best way we can reopen key aspects of our economy and get back to something like normal is if we continue to show discipline.
"That means for so many of us, making sacrifices so that we can contain the spread. That will allow us as a cabinet, as a government, and I know the chief medical officer will allow all of us to move forward more quickly with reopening."
Alberta's chief medical officer of health said the province has again expanded its testing protocols to include some asymptomatic people in areas where there have been outbreaks. That way, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said, testing can help track the spread of the virus in parts of Alberta where the illness is already established.
Another reason for the recent increase in case numbers can be attributed to a surge in cases linked to the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Hinshaw said. There are now 358 cases linked to that outbreak, many of them among households that are in surrounding communities such as Calgary.
"Current information suggests that the cases in this outbreak are primarily linked to household transmission," she said.
"Alberta Health Services has put together a dedicated outbreak response team to track this High River outbreak and to prevent further infections at any locations where transmission is occurring."
AHS taking over care home
Hinshaw said Alberta Health Services will take over administration of the Manoir Du Lac long-term care home in McLennan, Atla., after public health officials determined that protocols for keeping residents safe and well cared for were not being followed.
The problems identified at the facility included not enough staff, and staff working extremely long shifts, inadequate screening of staff who showed symptoms, and inadequate screening of visitors, all of which are required by public health orders, Hinshaw said.
"There were inadequate care standards, so the care standards for residents were not being met, and personal protective equipment was not being used properly," she said.
Twenty-six residents and 11 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and five residents have died from the illness at the long-term care facility.
"The health and safety of residents in our seniors' care facilities is of utmost importance," Hinshaw said, "and these measures are being taken to ensure that residents get the care they need."
The regional breakdown of the number of cases is:
- Calgary zone: 1,673
- Edmonton zone: 429
- Central zone: 77
- North zone: 135
- South zone: 68
- Unknown: 15
Expanded testing at care facilities
Thirty-two of the 50 deaths have been residents of long-term care or continuing-care homes, Hinshaw said.
"I know that people who have loved ones in long-term care and continuing-care facilities are concerned about the risk of infection at these sites," Hinshaw said. "I am, too. It is not acceptable that elderly Albertans are being put at risk in a place where their health is supposed to be protected.
"We have put strong measures in place to limit the spread of infection at these facilities. We must do more. That is why I am working with Alberta Health Service to expand testing in the units of continuing-care facilities that are experiencing outbreaks to now include asymptomatic residents and staff.
That expanded testing will give public health official a better chance to identify new cases early on.
"Given that we now know people who may be infected with COVID-19 can potentially spread the illness before they show symptoms, testing more residents and staff in continuing-care facilities will help us prevent further infections and death."
No COVID-19 news conferences will be held on Saturday or Sunday, though updates will be provided through daily online statistics and situational reports.