Alberta now has 7 coronavirus cases, Alberta Health says

Almost 1,000 people in Alberta were tested for COVID-19 over the weekend, with 700 of those tests performed on Sunday alone, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Monday.

'Together we can protect each other and keep our communities healthy'

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (The Canadian Press)

Almost 1,000 people in Alberta were tested for COVID-19 over the weekend, with 700 of those tests performed on Sunday alone, Alberta's chief medical officer of health said Monday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided details on the province's fifth, sixth and seventh cases of the novel coronavirus at a press conference in Edmonton.

The patients include:

  • A woman in her 70s who lives in the Edmonton zone and is a close contact of an Edmonton-zone man with COVID-19 whose case was announced on Sunday. Like the man, the woman was on-board the Grand Princess cruise ship before returning home on Feb. 21. Her symptoms started after she got home to Alberta.
  • A man in his 30s from the Calgary zone who is a close contact of the Calgary-zone woman announced as a case of COVID-19 on March 8. The man had travelled to Ukraine, the Netherlands and Turkey. He returned to Alberta on March 2. His symptoms started after his return.
  • A woman in her 50s from the Calgary zone who was aboard the MS Braemar cruise ship from Feb. 11 to March 4. She developed symptoms after getting home and was tested on Sunday.

All seven Alberta cases have been confirmed, Hinshaw said. 

"Together we can protect each other and keep our communities healthy," Hinshaw said at the news conference.

"For this particular virus, we are each other's best protection."

Canada recorded its first COVID-19 death on Monday. A male resident of the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver died.

Albertans need to think of 'new normal'

The goal in Alberta is to contain the outbreak, Hinshaw said.

"The events of the past week, both in Alberta and globally, are significant," she said. "More countries around the world have cases and some of these countries are grappling with large outbreaks. At this point it is likely that we will be dealing with the virus for many months to come.

"What does this mean to Albertans? It means that all of us need to be engaged in this response. We need to start thinking about what our new normal will look like over the coming months.

"With no vaccine for this virus likely to be available for a year or more to protect the population, we need to protect each other. We can do this by covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands regularly, and most importantly, we need to stay home and away from others when we are sick."

Hinshaw offered praise to public-health colleagues, including those at the provincial public health laboratory, where capacity for COVID-19 testing has increased dramatically in the past few days.

"Yesterday alone, 700 tests for COVID were done, meaning that almost 1,000 tests were completed in Alberta in the past two days," she said. "This is a remarkable accomplishment."

Assessment centres are now operating in Edmonton and Calgary, she said. Positive samples tested in Alberta will no longer require confirmation from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, she said.

Between Friday and Sunday, Health Link, the province's dedicated phone line for health inquiries, managed more than 1,900 calls relating to COVID-19 resulting in high wait times, the province said Monday. 

"We will continue taking steps to manage wait times," Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in an email.

Health Link is now training additional clinical staff to help provide dedicated additional COVID-19 support, he added. 

On Sunday, Hinshaw announced the province's third and fourth COVID-19 cases — a man in his 60s from the Edmonton zone, and a woman in her 30s from the Calgary zone who is a close contact of someone who had recently travelled in Europe.

Alberta's first case — a Calgary woman in her 50s — was reported on Thursday. The second case, a man in his 40s who lives in the Edmonton zone, was reported on Friday.

All of the first four Alberta cases were travel-related, Hinshaw said Sunday. Three of the four patients are connected to the Grand Princess cruise ship.

As of Sunday, three of the four cases were presumptive and one had been confirmed. All of the first four patients have been isolated.

2 Leduc students exposed to person with COVID-19

Two students who attend École Leduc Estates School in Leduc have been exposed to an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the school said in a letter to parents Sunday evening.

The family of the two students informed the school's principal, said Calvin Monty, associate superintendent of the Black Gold School Division.

"The family was in contact with [Alberta Health Services] regarding someone they had been in contact with that had tested positive for the coronavirus," Monty said. "So, just with an abundance of caution, AHS asked the family to self-isolate."

School staff are having age-appropriate conversations with elementary students about hand-washing and other precautions they can take.

The school division is in the pre-pandemic phase of its pandemic plan, Monty said. That includes steps such as shutting off water fountains and maintaining a supply of soap and hand sanitizer.

École Leduc Estates is physically connected to St. Benedict School, which is part of the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division.

Black Gold Schools superintendent Bill Romanchuk said he has been in touch with the Catholic division's superintendent and that students from the two schools did not come into contact. 

People concerned about recent travel and have symptoms of fever and cough are urged to use Health Link and not go to emergency departments.

More information is available at alberta.ca/COVID 19.