Alberta eases COVID-19 restrictions on residents of continuing care homes
Province currently has 1,415 active cases and has reported 242 deaths
Alberta is easing restrictions on residents of continuing care homes, allowing them longer excursions without necessarily having to enter quarantine on their return.
"The strict restrictions implemented this spring helped limit the spread of the virus but took a toll on other aspects of residents' health," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, told a news conference Thursday.
"We must always balance the need to protect people from COVID-19 with the need to support the overall need and well-being of those who are being protected," Hinshaw said.
"These residents need joy, hope and connection just like the rest of us."
A new health order — signed by Hinshaw on Thursday and coming into effect in two weeks — will give operators of continuing care facilities more flexibility in placing restrictions on residents returning after excursions.
Previously, any resident who was off-site overnight for any reason needed to be in quarantine for 14 days when they returned. There were no restrictions on those who left for shorter periods of time.
"We heard clearly that this did not serve residents well," Hinshaw said.
"There are times when someone can leave the site for a weekend in a very low-risk way, and times when a resident may choose to attend an event for only part of a day, such as a family wedding, that may put them at higher risk for exposure.
"Because of this, we are adjusting the requirements for quarantine on return to facility to apply to high-risk outings independent of the length of time the resident is away."
Residents returning from medium- or low-risk outings will see less stringent precautions applied, such as continuous masking or enhanced symptom monitoring.
The new orders also allow facilities to permit volunteers back on site while providing them with guidance for maintaining safety.
Alberta reported 130 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the province's tally to 1,415 active cases. To date, 242 people in Alberta have died from the disease.
Across the province, 46 people are being treated in hospital for COVID-19, including nine in ICU beds.
The regional breakdown of active cases reported on Thursday was:
- Calgary zone: 639, up from 632 Wednesday
- Edmonton zone: 527 down from 538 Wednesday
- North zone: 174, up from 167
- Central zone: 36, up from 32
- South zone: 35, up from 31
- Unknown: four
Church community targeted
Hinshaw appealed to Albertans to refrain from stigmatizing individuals or communities experiencing outbreaks.
She pointed to the outbreak the Kidanemehret Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church in northeast Calgary where 57 people became infected with COVID-19.
"I have heard that this community is now being targeted and stigmatized because of this outbreak," she said.
"I will say again that when that happens we are all put at risk. Stigmatizing those with this illness only increases the possibility that fear of this negative attention will keep people from being tested and will drive the virus underground.
"We cannot fight COVID in the dark and no region or group in society is immune from this virus. We are all best served by offering support and compassion to those who are dealing with outbreaks or isolated cases."