‘This is a tragic milestone’: Alberta reaches 500 COVID-19 deaths, counts 1,265 new cases

EDMONTON — The number of Albertans who have died from COVID-19 has reached 500.

The province is further restricting access to sites where the some of the most vulnerable live and which employ Alberta’s health-care workers. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 1,265 new cases of COVID-19 in the province on Wednesday, as well as nine deaths linked to the disease.

Seven of the nine deaths were linked to Edmonton-area retirement and long-term care homes or the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.

“This is a tragic milestone,” Hinshaw said, announcing Alberta Health Services would be limiting visitor access to acute care facilities experiencing an outbreak or which are located in communities with 50 or more cases per 100,000 people:

  • For patients in hospital, ambulatory care, or an emergency department, one family member or support person will be allowed to visit under specific conditions.

  • On maternity and post-partum wards, one family member or support person will be allowed to visit. A doula or surrogate would be eligible.

  • Pediatric and ICU patients may be visited by up to two family members or support people.

  • In end-of-life situations, one designated family member or support person will be allowed to visit. Others may visit if it is prearranged with the facility.

Hinshaw was careful to point out that the rules don’t apply to continuing care settings.

“We have not seen that visitors have been a major source of introduction of the virus,” she said of those facilities.

AHS will have the varying details for its sites online.

Of the nine deaths reported, five of the individuals had comorbidities (another health condition in addition to COVID-19.)

PROVINCE PREPARING COVID-19 BEDS AS PUBLIC TASKED WITH BENDING CURVE 

Three hundred fifty-five Albertans are in hospital with COVID-19. Seventy-one of them are in ICU.

Among reports Alberta’s ICU capacity has hovered around 90 per cent for a week, the top doctor also announced 2,000 more acute care beds and 400 more ICU beds would be freed for COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.

The spaces will be created by transferring patients from acute care settings to continuing care or to other locations in the province, and repurposing facilities to provide ICU care.

That is in addition to postponing more elective surgeries.

Hinshaw called freeing up the beds “contingency planning” and said she hoped that many people would never be sick with COVID-19.

“We need Albertans to follow every measure – and I mean every measure,” she said during Wednesday’s update.

If the public takes the measures seriously, officials will begin to see the effect in the COVID-19 numbers in as soon as a week. Hinshaw said the province will have an idea of their full impact in three weeks.

Despite public debate over Tuesday’s announcement, the chief medical officer of health would not reveal the full range of recommendations she made to cabinet on Monday, or which were rejected as part of the government’s updated COVID-19 strategy.

“It’s really critical that elected officials be the ones to make final decisions because there are public health considerations, there are other considerations such as the wishes and values of the population who elected leaders to make decisions on their behalf,” Hinshaw told media.

“The measures I recommended were a broad range of options, and again, there were different components to those and the recommendations I made, again, were respectfully considered in those final decisions that were taken.”

Hinshaw will also give live updates Thursday and Friday.

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