Within a week Alberta will likely know whether reopening triggers COVID-19 surge
With more people interacting, comes more opportunities for the virus to spread
Alberta will likely know by late next week whether reopening shops, restaurants and others businesses leads to a new wave of COVID-19 cases, says the province's chief medical officer of health.
The province initiated the first stage of its relaunch plan on Thursday, allowing retail stores, hair salons, museums, daycares and day camps to open, with restrictions, and diners to return to restaurants and cafes, with seating limited to 50 per cent capacity.
With more people leaving their homes to shop or dine out, the province may well see an up-tick in the daily number of new cases, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday at a news conference.
Though the full incubation period of the coronavirus is 14 days, Alberta could see an increased number of cases within five to seven days after many businesses reopen, Hinshaw said.
"So I think by late next week we should have a reasonable idea if we are going to see a sudden, sharp increase," she said.
"But the more that we all together can follow the advice, can keep distant, can wear masks and wash our hands, the less likely we will see a sudden spike and increase in cases.
"So what I'm hoping for is that we will see cases, that they may go up a little bit, but that we'll be able through our collective actions to keep those numbers relatively flat. That would be my hope."
Masks can help limit exposure
With Stage 1 of Alberta's relaunch underway, COVID-19 restrictions put in place weeks ago have been lifted, and the doors of many businesses across Alberta have reopened, though some restrictions remain in Calgary and Brooks.
"Businesses starting to reopen does not mean it's back to normal," Hinshaw said. "We will need to support each others' health and safety by practising physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and other measures. This will not change and this is our new normal."
As more people come together in stores and restaurants, shopping malls and museums, physical distancing may not always be possible, Hinshaw said.
"Wearing non-medical masks can help limit your exposure and protect those around you," she said. "Remember, even if you are feeling fine and showing no signs of symptoms, you may still be able to transmit the virus to others if you have been exposed.
Wearing a mask in public settings is a useful measure to protect other people, she said, and can keep respiratory drops from contaminating surfaces and objects.
"Let me be clear, wearing a mask does not replace other important measures," Hinshaw said. "If you are showing any COVID-related symptoms you must still isolate. Other measures, such as physical distancing whenever feasible, frequent hand-washing, and covering any coughs or sneezes, are still essential.
"Think of masks as that last line of defence in the event other measures are not possible."
Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to review guidance online on how to wear and care for non-medical masks, and instructions on how to make cloth masks.
"I strongly encourage you to review these guidelines and to think about where in your daily routines you might be able to adopt the use of masks. Taking public transit to and from work, or stocking up on groceries are a few examples.
The province will not order people to wear masks, she said.
"There are ... some risks if people do not wear masks properly," Hinshaw said, "so we'd have to think very carefully before requiring them by law."
1 more death reported Thursday
Alberta reported one more COVID-19 death on Thursday and 50 new cases of the disease.
The death, a resident at a continuing care facility in Calgary, brings the total number of deaths to 121.
There are 1,131 active cases in the province, while 5,205 people have recovered.
Laboratories conducted 4,816 tests over the past 24 hours, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference held on the first day of staged relaunch of the province.
On Thursday, 65 people were in hospital, 10 of them in intensive care.
The breakdown of cases by region on Thursday was:
- Calgary zone: 915 active cases, 3,414 recovered
- South zone: 113 active cases, 1,053 recovered
- Edmonton zone: 63 active cases, 441 recovered.
- North zone: 20 active cases, 193 recovered.
- Central zone: 11 active cases, 88 recovered.
- Unknown: 9 active cases, 19 recovered.