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Alberta COVID-19 cases rise to 301

Last Updated Mar 23, 2020 at 5:05 pm MDT

FILE - This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP

301 cases in Alberta, 18 in hospital, 7 in ICU

People returning from travel should isolate for 14 days, others with symptoms should isolate 10

People with mild symptoms will no longer be tested, only high-risk and health care workers

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, announced Monday that there are 42 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

That makes 301 total cases so far in Alberta.

Hinshaw said of the 301 cases, 18 are in hospital, seven are in receiving care in the ICU, and that as many as 24 cases could be as a result of community transmission.

Hinshaw then addressed a case of community transmission in Edmonton where Alberta physicians and other health care staff met for a medical bonspiel.

She said of the 47 in attendance, 11 now tested positive for COVID-19.

Hinshaw said two major lessons are to be taken from the incident: even mild symptoms can result in the transmission of the virus, and commonly touched surfaces can result in the spread as well.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate. All of us need to be vigilant with regular hand hygiene, staying home even with minor respiratory symptoms, and keeping unwashed well away from our faces,” said Hinshaw.

Hinshaw said there are some big changes as to how long those infected with COVID-19 should be self-isolated.

Those who are sick must self-quarantine for 10 days following mild symptoms of the virus, such as a runny nose.

If after 10 days, there are no more symptoms, the isolation can stop.

However, if the symptoms remain, so to must the isolation.

For those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 but are either re-entering the country or were exposed to the virus, the self-isolation period of 14 days remains.

Meanwhile, testing for the COVID-19 virus is also being changed slightly.

While those at a higher risk, like those admitted into hospital with respiratory issues or those in a continuing care facility, will still remain a priority, health care workers will be added.

“This is being done to ensure the physicians and nurses and other health care providers we rely on can return to the front line as soon as possible,” said Hinshaw.

Moving forward, mild symptoms will no longer be tested.

Hinshaw says the new testing procedure shows that the number one thing to do when you have mild symptoms isn’t getting tested, but remain in isolation.

“I understand some Albertans may be upset with this change,” said Hinshaw.

“I can appreciate the comfort and certainty that testing can bring for that unsure whether they have a minor bug or COVID-19.”

However, for those concerned with potential mild symptoms of COVID-19, Hinshaw stressed the importance of self-isolation.

In order to prevent possible transmission in hospitals, Hinshaw said AHS is taking two major steps.

First, starting this week, all hospital staff will be screened before starting their shift.

“They will be met at the entrance, given a temperature check, and asked to complete a short questionnaire to assess health risk,” said Hinshaw.

Those who are deemed a health safety risk will be sent home and told to self-isolate.

Secondly, AHS is implementing a process to help necessary front line workers who are self-isolating to return.

If they are showing no symptoms of COVID-19, an even more harsh screening process will allow for staff to return.

Although Hinshaw did recommend getting outside for some much-needed activity during the COVID-19 precautions, she emphasized the importance of social distancing.

No matter where you are, keep a distance of two metres between yourself and others.

“I know that these measures that we have put in place continue to strain families, businesses, and all Albertans. I appreciate how hard it is to be separated from friends and family during such stressful times.”

Hinshaw said we are all in this together and need to continue to take care of one another.