Health officials were tracking outbreaks of COVID-19 linked to four Edmonton restaurants on Tuesday, as the province Alberta reported 41 new cases of the respiratory illness.
The four restaurants were the Greta Bar (15 cases), Earl's Tin Palace (six cases), The Pint (10 cases) and Local (nine cases) on Jasper Avenue, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.
"Alberta Health Services is working closely with operators to facilitate testing and ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect public health," Hinshaw said.
"We are encouraging anyone who attended any of those locations in the last two weeks to get tested.
"I want to reiterate that these restaurants, and those who have been tested, are doing the right thing by taking steps to contain this outbreak. As I have said before, it is critical that we do not shame those who test positive, but rather support them to isolate and work with public health to do contact tracing and followup as these restaurants have done."
Public health is also tracking an outbreak at The Verve, a highrise apartment building in Calgary, which has been linked to 49 cases, 33 of them still active. The cause of that outbreak is still under investigation, Hinshaw said.
One Edmonton region, Mill Woods West (27 cases), and Calgary Centre (34 cases), have been placed under watch classifications.
Regions with at least 10 active cases and a rate of over 50 active cases per 100,000 population are considered above threshold and are watched to see if additional health measures are needed.
Public outdoor gatherings
On Tuesday, the limit on outdoor gatherings in Alberta was increased from 100 to 200 people as the province prepares for a Canada Day celebration unlike any seen in at least a century.
The higher limit applies to outdoor events such as festivals, fireworks displays, rodeos, sporting events and performances, Alberta Health said in a news release.
All public health measures, including physical distancing, remain in place.
Hinshaw said the province decided to increase limits because it was seeing little community transmission of COVID-19 at public outdoor events.
At the beginning of Stage 2 of the relaunch, the province committed to looking at case numbers and epidemiology and recommending any changes to guidelines that were deemed appropriate, Hinshaw said.
The vast majority of transmission has happened within social gatherings or at workplaces where people are close together, often indoors, are not two metres apart and are not wearing masks, she said.
"We have not seen significant transmission within outdoor more structured or seated type events. We know that being outdoors does reduce the risk of transmission.
"And so, when we were looking at the different types of activities that would be possible, as we looked at how we can move forward with respect to Stage 2, the ability to expand those more structured, audience-type community events is something that will allow Albertans, not just for Canada Day but going forward through the summer, to participate in things that, again, otherwise, would have been restricted to that 100 maximum."
The 41 additional cases reported on Tuesday brings the total number of active cases in the province to 547.
The breakdown by region was:
- Edmonton zone: 246 cases.
- Calgary zone: 232 cases.
- North zone: 36 cases.
- South zone: 28 cases.
- Central zone: four cases
- Unknown: one case.
On Tuesday, Toronto city council voted to make non-medical masks and face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Asked about the move by Canada's largest city, Hinshaw said municipalities have the ability to look at their own local epidemiology and local circumstance and take appropriate measures.
"We are, of course, provincially, continuing to encourage all Albertans to wear masks in public indoor spaces, especially where they are not able to consistently maintain two metres of distance from others outside their household or cohort.
"And we are, of course, providing masks through various venues, such as to municipalities, to enable them to use that on transit, and other distribution mechanisms so that people have access to masks when needed.
The province continues to recommend that people wear masks when they are inside crowded indoor spaces, she said.
So far, 154 people in Alberta have died from the illness.
The age breakdown of those who have died is:
- 80 years or older, 108 deaths.
- 70-79 years, 31 deaths.
- 60-69 years, 10 deaths.
- 50-59 years, two deaths.
- 40-49 years, one death.
- 30-39 years, one death.
- 20-29, one death.
By Monday, 7,354 people had recovered from COVID-19 in Alberta, and the province had completed 442,253 tests.