Alberta Health has declared Calgary-Centre and Calgary-Elbow under "watch" for COVID-19, as a popular restaurant is tied to an outbreak and several spin cycle and fitness studios close temporarily as precautions.
It also comes as the province's daily tally of new cases surged above 100 for the first time since the start of May — the majority among younger people, according to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health.
The "watch" designation for a health region from Alberta Health means the area has risen above 50 active cases per 100,000 people.
Speaking at a press conference held Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city was "trending in the wrong direction."
"Today we saw two parts of the city that had very low rates of infection go on to the watch list," he said.
Nenshi added that Calgary-Centre and Calgary-Elbow are areas with many bars and restaurants where young people tend to congregate.
Calgary-Centre had earlier been given a "watch" designation in late June largely due to an outbreak among dozens of people tied to the Verve condo tower in the East Village. But that designation had been downgraded to "open" on June 29.
Areas declared "open" have a low level of risk and no additional restrictions in place, the next level is a "watch," and the highest is "enhanced" risk, which would require enhanced public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
A surge in new cases provincially
On Thursday, the province reported two more COVID-19 deaths and 120 new cases of the illness, a surge that pushed the provincial total of active cases to 807.
It was the first time since May 2 that Alberta reported more than 100 new cases.
According to Hinshaw, those under 40 once again make up the majority of new COVID-19 cases.
"I absolutely am concerned about our recent numbers and the increase in new cases that we've had," Hinshaw said. "And I'm particularly concerned about the number of cases where we don't know the source.
"It's really important for all of us to remember, that even as we've eased some of the restrictions that we previously had in place, COVID-19 is not over."
WATCH | Learn why health officials from across Canada are voicing concern as the majority of new COVID-19 cases are found in people under 40:
Across the province, 69 people were being treated in hospitals, including eight in ICU beds.
The only other new COVID-19 watch imposed Thursday was also in southern Alberta, in Cardston County.
There are currently 38 active cases in Calgary-Centre and 22 in Calgary-Elbow, leading to a rate of 58 and 54 cases per 100,000 people, respectively.
There are 11 active cases in Cardston County, for a rate of 67 per 100,000 people.
Outbreaks tied to Calgary restaurant, gyms
Calgary, along with Brooks, was late to join the rest of the province in moving to Phase 1 of the economic relaunch in late May, because it had by far the most cases in the province at the time. Since then, there have been several outbreaks, including this week.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson with the Cactus Club chain of restaurants confirmed that six cases of COVID-19 had been linked with the company's Stephen Avenue location. That location has temporarily closed, but will reopen next week.
Earlier this week, an instructor with Ride Cycle Club Calgary — a business that was preparing to open — told the organization that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Cristi Porta, the marketing manager with the organization, said the company immediately shut down all opening preparations upon discovery of the positive case.
YYC Cycle studio said it would cancel its upcoming classes in response, since some staff members attended events held by Ride Cycle Club.
Kult, another boutique Calgary gym, also opted to temporarily suspend classes for the same reason.
Meanwhile, flights in and out of Calgary, including one into Regina, Sask. and one out of Kelowna, B.C., have had people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board.
Sajjad Fazel, a public health researcher at the University of Calgary, said it's vital to maintain physical distance and safety measures now that the economy is opening up.
"This is not the time to loosen up the measures that much — we know physical distancing works," he said.
Fazel said people may be experiencing a degree of pandemic "fatigue" and could be less likely to stick with some of the protective measures in place after being in lockdown mode for months.
Hinshaw has spoken along the same lines frequently in recent weeks, warning those who may no longer be listening to her warnings.
"This pandemic has been a long haul, and I worry that Albertans may be starting to tune the messages out," Hinshaw said Wednesday.