Alberta's top doctor issues warning to public ahead of long weekend

The province reported 164 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, prompting a warning from Alberta's chief medical officer of health ahead of the long weekend.

164 new cases 'a clear reminder that we cannot afford to be reckless'

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw during one of her regular updates to Albertans about the state of COVID-19 in the province. (The Canadian Press)

The province reported 164 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, prompting a warning from Alberta's chief medical officer of health ahead of the Labour Day long weekend.

"The number of cases being recorded today is a clear reminder that we cannot afford to be reckless," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference.

"COVID-19 does not take holidays and we've seen weekend barbecues and other gatherings spark outbreaks in the past."

Close contacts are the largest source of exposure of active cases, ahead of outbreaks and unknown exposures, Hinshaw said.

Here is the current breakdown of active cases in Alberta by source:

  • Close contact of case: 536
  • Unknown: 455
  • Outbreak associated: 349
  • Travel: 93

"I know our province has many beautiful places to visit on a hopefully warm and inviting Labour Day weekend," Hinshaw said.

"If you do visit new places, make sure you're aware of any additional restrictions, such as mandatory mask bylaws, that may be in effect where you're going."

She also advised people opting to travel to be careful around gas pumps, store doors and shop shelves are high-contact areas.

"If you do stop, sanitize your hands before and after you're pumping gas, shopping and paying for and taking food at a drive-through," she said.

Hinshaw urged people not to share items with anyone outside their household.

"Please don't pass around snacks, drinks, smokes, tokes and vapes. This isn't being rude. It's being considerate of others.

"Now is not the time for sharing anything that has been in your mouth."

Alberta currently has 1,433 active cases of the disease, with 47 people being treated in hospital, including nine in ICU beds.

The number of deaths remains at 242.

The province has completed 1,005,001 tests for the disease.

Confirmed school infection

Edmonton Catholic Schools confirmed that a student at Louis St. Laurent, a Catholic junior/senior high school at 11230 43rd  Ave., has tested positive for COVID-19.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with this individual and their family, and we wish them a safe and speedy recovery,"
said ECS spokesperson Dana Prefontaine in an emailed statement.  "We are working closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure necessary measures are in place to protect all students and staff. Public health will be contacting parents/guardians of students, as well as any staff who may have been in close contact with the individual."

The student was last in school Wednesday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and maintained physical distancing, Prefontaine said. The school division learned of the test result on Friday.

A second case has also been confirmed at a French-speaking Edmonton elementary school, Radio-Canada reported on Wednesday.

The case at École Sainte-Jeanne-D'Arc, located at 8505 68A Street, is not considered an outbreak, parents were told in a letter. It`s not clear whether the case involves a student, teacher or staff member. 

During her news conference, Hinshaw said she couldn't comment on specifics but reiterated that cases among students back at school are to be expected.

"We did know that there would be cases in school, that just like we've identified cases in other workplaces and cases in other settings," she said. 

"We knew that, because there's COVID circulating in the community and the school reflects the community this is something that was going to happen."

Pandemic fatigue

As Albertans head into the long weekend, Hinshaw acknowledged this week has been one of the most difficult since the province reported its first case of COVID-19 six months ago.

"I think it's quite normal for people to feel tired, especially with back-to-school and heightened worries about what will happen," she said Thursday.

"I think it exacerbates some of that frustration, some of the fear, some of the feeling of perhaps ... this is something that we can't see the end of."

On March 5, the province reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19. Six months, 14,310 cases and 242 deaths later, many Albertans are suffering from pandemic fatigue, Hinshaw said.

"I've been asked that quite a few times, 'Well, what's the end? What do we have to look forward to?' And so it's totally natural that people are feeling frustrated."

"I guess what I would say to people who are feeling tired of the pandemic, tired of hearing me talk every day, tired of hearing about COVID-19, just want it all to go away ... I sympathize. I, too, wish that it would just go away."

Hinshaw suggests people take a break from thinking and reading about COVID-19 and devote more attention to what renergizes them.

"Try to unplug, relax, and just give yourself a break from the constant stream," she said. "The reality is we do need to pace ourselves because we do need to be looking for a time when we either have an effective and safe vaccine or an effective treatment that can reduce the risk of severe outcomes for those who get very ill." 

The regional breakdown of active cases reported on Friday was:

  • Calgary zone: 638, down from 639 Thursday
  • Edmonton zone: 544 up from 527
  • North zone: 171, down from 174
  • Central zone: 40, up from 36
  • South zone: 36, up from 35
  • Unknown: four


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