Alberta reports 9 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing total to 104

Alberta passed a "sombre milestone" Monday as the number of deaths due to COVID-19 surpassed the 100 mark.

Non-urgent surgeries resuming, health minister says

Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates Albertans about the COVID-19 crisis Monday. (Art Raham/CBC)

Alberta passed a "sombre milestone" milestone Monday as the number of deaths due to COVID-19 surpassed the 100 mark.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported nine more deaths in the province, for a total of 104.

"Reaching more than 100 deaths is a sombre milestone," Hinshaw told a news conference in Edmonton. 

While four of the nine deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, the others occurred in previous days or weeks and were later confirmed to be related to COVID-19, she said.

"As the number of deaths increases, so does the number of grieving families and loved ones," Hinshaw said. "To everyone who is feeling the pain of losing someone to this virus, I extend my sincere condolences as well as to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one to any cause."

The province reported 70 new cases Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 5,836.

It was the third consecutive day the number of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta fell below the triple-digit mark since mid-April.

Continuing care centres continue to be hit hard with residents at facilities across the province making up 75 of the deaths and 621 of the cases.

Hinshaw announced new testing protocols for people in continuing care. Anyone newly admitted to a continuing care facility will be tested, as will residents of continuing care facilities who go into hospital or are discharged back to the facility where they live.

The regional breakdown of the cases as of Monday was:

  • Calgary zone: 3,905
  • South zone: 1,085
  • Edmonton zone: 503
  • North zone: 221
  • Central zone: 89
  • Unknown: 33

To date 155,179 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in Alberta.

Non-urgent surgeries resuming

The province also announced Monday it is resuming non-urgent surgeries and other health services.

"Starting this morning, AHS (Alberta Health Services) is proceeding with a mix of minor and major surgeries, based on the determination that the rate of new COVID-19 infections does not present a significant risk to patients and staff or the capacity of the system," Health Minister Tyler Shandro said at the news conference.

"As we phase in surgeries and other procedures, we'll carefully monitor and evaluate if more procedures can resume like short-term overnight stays in hospital," Shandro said.

"If our evaluation determines there is too much at risk, we will take a step back if we need to." 

AHS will contact patients on wait lists to reschedule procedures. 

Independent regulated health professionals, such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychologists and other community providers, including optometrists, audiologists and dieticians, are also permitted to resume operations as long as they are able to follow Alberta Health guidance to limit transmission in these settings, Shandro said.

"Our government is working with the professional colleges of these professions to develop guidelines for their members who choose to restart their services.

"The decision to reopen a clinic remains with the operator as does the responsibility to determine their ability to keep themselves, their patients and their staff safe."

Testing criteria, eligibility expanding

The province is making it easier to get tested by expanding testing eligibility and symptoms that qualify for testing, Hinshaw said Monday.

Anybody exhibiting the following symptoms should take the AHS self-assessment and get tested if instructed to do so.

Those symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • A new cough or worsening of a chronic cough.
  • New or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Sore throat or painful swallowing.
  • Stuffy or running nose.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle or joint aches.
  • Feeling unwell in general or new fatigue or severe exhaustion.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite.
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste,
  • Conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye).

"Adding these new symptoms will allow us to be more confident that we can identify as early as possible the small percentage of cases that may present with more unusual symptoms," Hinshaw said. 

Alberta is also opening up testing to all close contacts of people who have confirmed positive, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms.

"Considering what we now know about how this virus spreads, including that people can pass it on before they feel sick and the need to identify and contain cases as quickly as possible, this is a necessary step," Hinshaw said.

But she said information gleaned from asymptomatic testing has limitations, as it only offers a "snapshot" and a negative test doesn't guarantee a person is in the clear.

Hinshaw reported an outbreak at the Purolator facility in Calgary where 30 people are confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday, Hinshaw unveiled ABTraceTogether, a mobile app that uses Bluetooth technology to identify other nearby cellphones that also have the app installed.

On Monday, Hinshaw reported more than 103,000 Albertans have done so, so far.