Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Alberta’s COVID-19 death toll reached 500 people on Wednesday.

Just 24 hours after Premier Jason Kenney announced stricter measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the number of deaths is a reminder of the harsh realities of the virus.

“This is a tragic milestone. My sympathy goes out to the loved ones and friends of these individuals who are mourning the lives lost of what is a very difficult time to grieve,” Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw announced the province now has 13,719 active cases and completed more than 15,644 tests in the past 24 hours.

With the additional 1,265 cases reported Wednesday, Alberta’s test positivity rate is more than eight per cent. There are now 355 people in hospital, including 71 in the ICU.

The central zone is up to 876 active cases, with 17 people in the hospital and four in the ICU. In the Calgary zone, there are 5,028 active cases and the Edmonton zone sits at 6,268.

Red Deer is up to 149 active cases and Red Deer County has 50 active cases. Sylvan Lake has 36 active cases, Lacombe has 19 and Olds has 15 active cases.

Lacombe County sits at 30 active cases and Camrose County has 22. Ponoka County has 216 active cases and Wetaskiwin County sits at 18. The City of Wetaskiwin has 66 active cases.

Mountain View County has 10 active cases and Kneehill County sits at 13 active cases.

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Hinshaw said Wednesday that the new COVID-19 measures, which have a three-week timeline, allow the government to see the full effect of the precautions. She said it is possible that in just a week, they could see an impact from the enhanced steps.

“We can start seeing trends earlier and we won’t be waiting for that three-week mark before we do any monitoring,” she said.

Hinshaw also clarified that while the government put a ban on social gatherings, it does not apply to caregivers or co-parenting situations.

If individuals do have an outdoor gathering of 10 people or less, if they go inside, it is considered an indoor gathering.

“The more that each of us goes the extra mile, the more effective we will be in reducing the spread in the next few weeks. We are in this together and we will get through this together,” she said.

Hinshaw also noted that the province has received rapid tests from the federal government and one batch has been deployed into health-care settings. Details on the second batch will be available later this week.

There are active alerts or outbreaks in 348 schools, which is about 15 per cent of the province’s schools. These schools have a combined total of 1,207 active cases and that includes 179 schools and 71 that are on the watch list.

“We need Albertans to do their part. We need Albertans to follow every measure… just as we all need to work together to be successful. The restrictions in place are only successful if they all work together. Please do not ignore the measures that seem inconvenient to you,” she said.

As Red Deer’s mask bylaw comes into effect next week, the Town of Blackfalds also announced its own face-covering bylaw Wednesday.

It will also come into effect on Nov. 30 until further notice and it will apply to any indoor public space and on public transit.

It also includes businesses and municipal buildings.

Anyone not wearing a mask could face a $100 fine or more. The bylaw will be reviewed during the first council meeting in January.

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