Edmonton

Alberta sees two more COVID-19 deaths, 117 new cases

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta and 117 new cases of the illness were reported on Wednesday.

871 total cases of COVID-19 reported in province

Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide her latest update on COVID-19 on Thursday. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in Alberta and 117 new cases of the illness were reported on Wednesday.

That brings the total number of cases in the province to 871.

"This has been the toughest week of the pandemic for our province," Premier Jason Kenney said a news conference in Edmonton. "The hard truth is that things will get worse before they get better."

The big jump in newly reported cases was due mainly to a large number of backlogged tests being processed over the past 24 hours, Kenney said.

That total of 871 and the 117 new cases may seem alarming to many people, but the bigger reason for concern lurks below those raw numbers, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health.

The number of cases reported each day is directly related to the number of tests conducted, Hinshaw said. Those totals reflect the number of people who get sick every day.

Labs conducted more than 4,500 tests over the past 24 hours, Hinshaw said. To date, 53,141 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Alberta, more per capita than in any other province in Canada.

Over the past several days, she said, about two per cent of the tests conducted have come back positive.

"I think Albertans should be concerned," Hinshaw said. "I am concerned, and that's not because of the number that was [reported] specifically today. It's because we are seeing again about that two-per-cent positive rate in our tests over the last several days."

Hinshaw said more tests yield more information that helps her team better understand the problem the province faces.

Of the 871 cases, the majority are still located in the Calgary zone. The total number of cases by region:

  • Calgary zone: 527
  • Edmonton zone: 219
  • Central zone: 57
  • North zone: 51
  • South zone: 12
  • Unknown: 5     

Child-care centres

The government announced Wednesday it will expand eligibility for select licensed child-care centres to provide child care for all essential service workers.

The latest on the COVID-19 pandemic from Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan 14:43

In addition front-line health-care workers, critical infrastructure workers and first responders, child care will now be available to anyone who works in the critical areas outlined as essential by government.

Parents who work in critical jobs can contact the open child-care centres in their communities.

Currently, child care centres have reopened in Calgary, Edmonton, Devon, Fort McMurray, Fort Saskatchewan, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Stony Plain. Overall, these centres are at eight per cent of their allotted capacity, so there is room to expand eligibility.

Unsung heroes

The premier praised people he called the unsung heroes across the province.

"Alberta is rising to the challenge of this pandemic," he said. "When you go to a grocery store and see that most everything is in stock, it's thanks to those truck drivers who continue to work around the clock."

Kenney said with restaurants closed or offering only drive-thru service, he worries truckers sometimes can't get food or access washrooms on the road.

"We need to keep them fed, fuelled and rested," he said. 

Part of the problem, Kenney said, is that some people have raided rest-stop washrooms of sanitary supplies. 

"Please show some basic decency and some basic consideration," he admonished the culprits. "Don't do stupid things like that."

Inappropriate use of antivirals

Hinshaw made reference to a statement issued Tuesday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and the Alberta College of Pharmacy that noted an increase in the number of prescriptions for certain antivirals, antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs that have been touted as potential treatments for COVID-19.

"Some reports received by the two colleges include reports of prescribing for office use, personal use and for family members," Hinshaw said.

"This is inappropriate. While different research projects are underway to assess effectiveness of these therapies, there is no robust evidence yet on treatment.

"These behaviours must stop. These very same medications are used for patients suffering from chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and HIV.

"In a time when there are serious concerns about potential shortages of medication, any misuse, stockpiling or inappropriate prescribing or dispensing should not happen."

The chief medical officer noted, also, that the virus was first identified in Wuhan [China] in late December.

"I know that many Albertans are tired and concerned, and it might feel like it's impossible to talk about anything other than COVID-19.

"It is important to stay vigilant and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as best as you can, but it is just as necessary to take care of your overall health, both physical and mental.

"I have heard concerns from family physicians, that patients are afraid of seeking care due to concerns about COVID-19. It is important to connect with your doctor to discuss any concerns that you have. This is true whether you are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms or for an unrelated health issue."

Other updated numbers from the province show that:

  • 94 cases are thought to have been transmitted within the province;
  • 142 people have now recovered from the illness;
  • 41 of the cases in the province were reported at continuing-care centres.

March 2020 will long be remembered as the month when a microscopic virus with a now too-familiar name turned Alberta upside down.

On March 5, while most people anxiously watched the novel coronavirus spread across China and into parts of Europe, Alberta reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19. A day later, a second presumptive case was added to the total.

At the time, schools, restaurants and stores were open, commuters were crowding into LRT trains and onto buses, or fighting traffic, on their daily journeys to work.

No one would have suspected the catastrophic changes that lay just ahead.

April opens with most of the province shut down, the economy in crisis, and Albertans wondering if life will ever return to something close to normal, and what that new normal may look like.

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