Edmonton

Alberta reports 23 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

Alberta has reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total in the province to 97.

The number of cases has been rising steadily since early March

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, gives the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday in Edmonton. A sign-language interpreter is also at the podium. (Art Raham/CBC)

Alberta has reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total in the province to 97.

The province's chief medical officer of health provided her latest update Tuesday afternoon from the media room at the Alberta legislature.

Five people in the province have been hospitalized, including two who are currently in intensive care units. The other 92 cases are all people who are self-isolating at home and are expected to make full recoveries.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who went into self-isolation when she began suffering symptoms of a cold this week, confirmed on Tuesday that she has tested negative for COVID-19 and has returned to work. ​​​​​

Hinshaw said she recommended the tougher measures on public gatherings announced earlier in the day by Premier Jason Kenney.

"The only means we have to prevent the virus from spreading is to limit contact between people," Hinshaw said.

"The more we can slow the spread of the virus down, the less likely it is that there will be a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system's capacity to care for those who need hospitalization or intensive care. You may have heard this described as flattening the curve. This is why we are taking these measures."

Cases may surge in fall, Hinshaw warns

While this is the first coronavirus pandemic in recorded history, experience from the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 shows suggests there will be a seasonal pattern, she said, where transmission rates tend to surge in spring, drop off in summer and come back in the fall.

"So, one of the things that we're mindful of is that the measures we are taking now are appropriate — we do need to contain the spread at this time — and we also need to prepare for what's ahead in the fall," she said.

"We can't sustain all of these measures for months on end. Some of them we may be able to sustain for longer than others, but we'll just need to be watching really closely the effect of these measures spreading out the transmission over the summer."

Six of the cases have been traced to a large dental conference in Vancouver and 10 were linked to a single family gathering in Calgary.

Those two examples, Hinshaw said, show how quickly and widely the virus can spread when people gather together.

"To me these are indications that we need to take these steps to be ready for what I believe may come in the next several weeks," she said.

War with 2 fronts

Alberta's public health system is fighting a war on two fronts, she said.

In the days and weeks to come, it will be important to continue to track and isolated people coming home from outside the country, though much of the effort will have to focus on limiting the spread within the province.

The number of cases in the province has increased steadily over the past two weeks. On March 5, the province had reported a single case of COVID-19. From that point, the climbing number of cases looks like this:

  • March 6, two cases
  • March 8, four cases
  • March 9, seven cases
  • March 10, 14 cases
  • March 11, 19 cases
  • March 12, 23 cases
  • March 13, 29 cases
  • March 14, 39 cases
  • March 15, 56 cases
  • March 16, 74 cases
  • March 17, 97 cases

Hinshaw said the fact that Alberta has reported 97 cases over the past two weeks shows the public health system is working properly and taking the steps necessary to limit the spread of the virus.

The vast majority of those 97 cases involved people who returned to Alberta after travelling outside the country. Public health officials think six of the cases were spread within the province, three in the Calgary zone and three in the Edmonton zone, though those cases are still being investigated, Hinshaw said.

The battle will now focus on preventing further spread of the illness among Albertans, which is why the province has taken steps to shut down most public places, Hinshsaw said.

On Monday via conference call, Hinshaw reported 18 new cases of COVID-19, including five people who have been hospitalized, two of them in intensive care.

"The risk has increased [with] community transmission," Hinshaw said, "and Albertans need to be mindful that the things that they do every day, the choices they make in their everyday life, can save lives. Staying home when they're sick, that can save lives."

The province reported one case each in the north and south health zones, which means the illness has now been found across Alberta.

The total number of cases in Alberta on Tuesday includes:

  • 70 in the Calgary zone;
  • 20  in the Edmonton zone;
  • three in the central zone;
  • one in the north zone, and;
  • three in the south zone.

Dental closures

Alberta dental clinics have been ordered to suspend all appointments and services with the exception of emergencies.

The Alberta Dental Association & College posted a notice to dentists on its website Tuesday.

"Effective immediately there is a mandatory suspension of all non-emergency dental treatment and services," the statement reads.

Dentists are able to provide emergency services, such as treatment for oral or facial trauma, significant infection, prolonged bleeding or pain that cannot be managed by over-the-counter medications.

The association is recommending patients be pre-screened by phone prior to arriving for emergency procedures.The association is working on a list of facilities that will be capable of accepting symptomatic patients.

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