Two more deaths, 162 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta
Chief medical officer of health advises Albertans to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
Two more people died of COVID-19 on Thursday and the province reported 162 new cases.
That brings to total number of deaths to 50 and the total number of cases to 2,158.
"We have not yet seen the peak of COVID-19 in Alberta," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Thursday at a news conference in Edmonton.
After seven staff members tested positive at the Foothills Medical Centre maternity ward last week, health officials moved quickly to limit the spread to staff and protect patients, Hinshaw said.
"No patients were affected and no new staff cases have been reported in the past week," she said.
"I want to assure Albertans there is no increased risk to pregnant patients coming to the Foothills Medical Centre. The maternity units continue to be an appropriate place to deliver babies and receive care."
The emergency department at the Devon General Hospital will be temporarily closed starting on Monday and will no longer accept patients.
The closure will help protect the 14 long-term-care residents at the hospital, Alberta Health Service said in a news release. Ten acute care beds at the hospital will be converted to long-term care beds.
People needing emergency care in the Devon area are advised to visit the Leduc Community Hospital, WestView Health Centre in Stony Plain or the Misericordia Community Hospital in west Edmonton.
Limit smoking, Hinshaw urges
Hinshaw said one way people can improve their health during the pandemic would be to quit smoking or vaping and limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks a day.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, Hinshaw said, and smoking and e-cigarettes expose the lungs to toxic chemicals.
"It is not yet clear whether these exposures increase the risk of catching COVID-19," she said. "However, they do increase the risk of severe illness for those who get infected.
"There is growing evidence to suggest quitting smoking or vaping, even temporarily, can have positive outcomes in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Smoking increases the risk of poor outcomes from any lung infection, and this virus mainly affects the lungs.
People who smoke or vape also frequently touching their mouth and lips, which can make it easier to transfer the virus from their hands.
"Given all these factors, I strongly recommend that anyone who smokes or vapes takes steps to quit or cut down during this pandemic," Hinshaw said.
Be mindful of alcohol intake
It's also important for people to limit their alcohol consumption, she said.
"Alcohol consumption can make many things worse, including health issues, risk-taking behaviours, mental health and violence.
"All Albertans should be mindful of how much they are drinking. No more than about two drinks per day are recommended for women, and three drinks per day for men."
Public health officials continue to closely watch outbreaks at continuing care centres across the province, at the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River and at the Kearl Lake oilsands facility north of Fort McMurray.
The most recent deaths were a man in his 70s, a resident at the long-term care centre in High River, and a woman in her 80s who lived at the Manoir Du Lac care home in McLennan in northern Alberta, the fifth resident there to die of COVID-19.
Twelve cases have been linked to the Kearl Lake site, according a news release from Imperial Oil on Thursday. Two confirmed cases remain on the site and 10 confirmed cases linked to the facility are off site.
"I would like to stress to Albertans that everything that needs to be done to keep people safe in Kearl and other camps, and food processing facilities like Cargill, is being done," Hinshaw said.
As of Thursday, 34 people have died from COVID-19 in the Calgary zone; eight in the Edmonton zone; seven in the North zone; and one in the Central zone.
More than 85,500 people have been tested for COVID-19.