Alberta reports 61 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 419

Alberta reported 61 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total so far to 419.

Those 419 cases include 33 thought to have been transmitted within the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.

Twenty people are now in hospital with the illness, including eight in intensive-care units.

"These are significant case numbers and they underscore the seriousness of the situation that we face," Hinshaw said.

Late Tuesday, officials learned of an outbreak in an adult group home for people with developmental disabilities, where one staff member and two residents have tested positive for coronavirus.

"Over the past two days, despite the aggressive measures already in place, it's become clear that additional measures are needed," Hinshaw said.

To protect the most vulnerable populations, Hinshaw said, the province is putting in place new mandatory rules for all seniors lodges, nursing homes, supportive-living facilities, long-term care homes and residential treatment centres.

Those facilities will now be under orders to perform enhanced cleaning, implement new rules for shared spaces, and have mandatory health screening for all staff, residents and essential visitors.

"We must all do everything possible to follow all public health recommendations in place," Hinshaw said.

The chief medical officer of health also outlined new guidelines for families, cautioning them not to share snacks or cups, not to use communal fruit bowls and at meal times, have one person serve everyone at dinner table.

Hinshaw offered the example of an Edmonton curling bonspiel held earlier this month, saying that almost half the health-care workers who attended have since tested positive. Public health officials think the virus was spread at a buffet dinner where people shared serving utensils.

Not the time for dinner with family

Both Easter and Ramadan are coming up in April, but Hinshaw said celebrations for those events will have to change.

"Now is not the time to plan any travel, even to other cities or provinces," she said. "Or to attend large family gatherings or dinners.

"Now is not the time to visit grandparents for Sunday dinner. Now is not the time to host or attend a potluck with friends. Now is not the time to plan for a family reunion. This is the time to stay home and work together to limit the spread."

Hinshaw was joined by Premier Jason Kenney, who outlined new steps to enforce public health orders in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Albertans learned on Tuesday that a second person, a woman in her 80s, had died from the illness. The woman was a resident at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, where two other residents and one staff member have also tested positive for the virus. The source of the infection was not yet known.

As of Wednesday, the majority of the cases are located in the Calgary zone. By region, the number of cases:

  • Calgary zone: 250
  • Edmonton zone: 100
  • Central zone: 35
  • North zone: 23
  • South zone: 10
  • Unknown: 1

Tuesday's news of a second death demonstrated that coronavirus can strike with terrible speed — the woman developed symptoms on Sunday and died the next day.

Nineteen people were in hospital on Tuesday, seven of them in intensive care units.