With 49 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, the government is planning to re-open some day cares spaces so more essential services workers can get back on the job, as well as restrict visitors to nursing homes.
As of Friday afternoon, there were a total of 195 COVID-19 cases in the province. This largest one-day jump in new cases are affecting Edmonton and Calgary, said Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health — and they are mostly connected to people who have travelled outside Canada.
Hinshaw added 10 infected individuals are now in hospital and five are in the intensive care unit.
“Every case is one that could potentially end up in a very serious situation,” she said, which is why all Albertans need to continue taking preventative social distancing protocols to heart.
Hinshaw estimates about 11 of the new virus cases could have been passed through community transmission.
More positively, she said there have been no additional deaths caused by the virus, and three Albertans who previously contracted COVID-19 are now considered to be fully recovered.
Hinshaw praised the remarkable efforts of health care and laboratory teams and the quick training given to many medical students who are helping to trace the transmission path of new virus cases. She said this work is preventing more community transmissions.
Premier Jason Kenney praised the prevention measures Albertans are taking so far and the work of health care workers. He said Alberta has become a leader in testing for COVID-19, having the third highest testing rate in the world.
The Alberta government intends to free up more essential service workers to get back on the job by reopening day cares for their children starting early next week. The day cares would be limited to 30 people on site, including staff. There will be temperature checks at drop offs, and strict sanitation rules.
Kenney said 15,000 day care spaces will be opened up in communities where there is the highest need for health care, workers, as well as police, paramedics and municipal essential services staff. Those whose children will qualify for care will be told by their employers.
Day homes with up to six children (not including the day home provider’s own), will be allowed to keep operating.
To keep older seniors, who are at highest risk from the virus, safe, Hinshaw said only one single visitor (chosen by the resident or guardian) will be allowed to visit each senior, and only after being screened. Facilities must have a designated staff member posted at the door who can do temperature checks and ensure the one-visitor limit.
Exceptions will only be made for those who are dying.
Hinshaw knows this measure will be very hard on already isolated seniors, but believes it is a necessary, hopefully short-term, protocol.
Because stringent virus prevention measures in the province are taking an economic toll that’s been compounded by a steep fall in oil prices, Kenney announced the formation of a voluntary Economic Recovery Council to give the government practical advice on how to get the provincial economy back on track, including diversification.
It includes top business and former government leaders, including past prime minister Stephen Harper.
Noting the virus has taken four to five weeks to peak in other countries, Kenney is still hoping austerity measures begin easing up by June.