Seven more Albertans have died from COVID-19, the deadliest day since the pandemic began.
Thirty-nine Albertans have now died from the virus. Four were at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary, where 17 residents have now died.
There are 49 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, bringing the provincial total to 1,500, including 72 in Central Zone, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, in her daily news conference on Friday afternoon.
According to Alberta Health’s interactive map, there are 32 confirmed cases in Red Deer, with 16 active and 16 recovered. Red Deer County has a total of 12 cases: seven active and five recovered.
The City of Lacombe has two recovered cases, while Lacombe County has one active and three recovered.
Stettler County has one recovered case, Clearwater County has one active case, Mountain View County has two active and three recovered cases, and Ponoka County has one recovered case.
Hinshaw said 201 of the confirmed cases may be a result of community transmission. There are 713 recovered cases, an increase of 121 over Thursday.
In the last 24 hours, 2,123 people COVID-19 tests have been done. But that number does not reflect the thousands of Albertans who have been scheduled to get tested after completing the online assessment.
“As of last night I was told 6,000 people had been referred for testing in the previous 24 hours,” said Hinshaw.
More than 70,000 Albertans have been tested so far, one of the best per-capita testing rates in the world.
COVID-19 has hit nursing homes and their vulnerable populations hard, with about 150 staff and patients infected.
To boost protection, the province is now requiring all workers to wear masks at all times when providing direct patient care or when working in patient-care areas within two metres of others, said Hinshaw.
“We are making this change to protect patients from inadvertent exposure from a health-care worker who could be without symptoms but still be infectious,” said Hinshaw. “Continuous masking will also minimize the risk of an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic health-care worker exposing other workers to this illness.”
Health-care workers will soon no longer be allowed to work at multiple facilities. The rule is already in place at outbreak sites but will now be extended to all supportive living and long-term care sites by late next week.
“This will help prevent the spread of illness between facilities.”
The government is looking at ways to help those workers who rely on jobs at multiple facilities for their wages maintain their income.
The same policy is recommended for other types of care sites but for now will be voluntary.
Effective immediately, Alberta Health Services is requiring all health-care workers, including contract and community staff providing direct patient care or working in patient-care areas to wear a surgical mask continuously at all times and in all areas of the workplace where social distancing is not possible.”
Hinshaw praised the efforts of those who have done their best to comfort and reach out to their loved ones in continuing care facilities by making signs to hold outside windows are making “virtual visits” through their laptops, phones, tablets and computers.
“Thank you for doing your best to make this difficult time a little easier for some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” she said. “These efforts will be even more important over the long weekend and in the coming weeks as we work hard to keep long-term care and continuing care facility residents safe and healthy.”
The next live update will not be delivered until Monday, but the Alberta Health Service website will be updated Saturday and Sunday.