Alberta has suffered its first death as a result of infection with COVID-19.
Chief medical health officer Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that a man in his 60s in the Edmonton region died late Wednesday from the virus after being admitted to hospital March 12.
“I know that this news is frightening and will add to people’s anxiety,” said Hinshaw. “ We are doing all we can to fight the spread of this virus. This is why we have taken the extreme measures we have. We will get through this but to do that we need everyone’s help. Take this seriously.”
Hinshaw said 24 new cases had been confirmed since yesterday, bringing the total to 146 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
She emphasized the need for social distancing and proper precautions related to hand washing and disinfection.
“We must continue to stand strong together even if from a distance.”
Hinshaw also said she learned today of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan that arose from a Canadian doctors curling bonspiel in Edmonton. Two people who attended that event now have the virus. The index case is thought to be a person who was recently in Las Vegas and then attended the bonspiel.
“Anyone who attended that is needing to self-isolate for 14 days,” said Hinshaw. Alberta Health Services is contacting each attendee. Whether this will affect the number of doctors now available will be determined after the investigation, said Hinshaw.
Reports indicate there were 72 curlers involved and about 45 attended a related banquet. The event occurred before directives limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
“It really shows us that even with smaller numbers of people you can get significant transmission,” Hinshaw said.
She also addressed a report that a person who attended a dental convention, from which several COVID-19 cases have sprung, had initially refused to self-isolate. The person has since been contacted and is in isolation now.
That incident raised questions about how to report people who are not complying with various directives designed to limit viral spread.
Hinshaw said she is working with Alberta Justice and the solicitor general to work out responses for non-compliance.
Until that happens, she said people should not call 911 or 811 to report such incidents and must avoid taking vigilante action. Instead they should speak with the person or people involved and inform them of the required measures.
Those include social distancing, avoiding groups, limiting contact particularly with compromised and elderly individuals and various other measures.
People who think they may be infected are asked to use the Alberta Health Services’ online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if they need to seek medical assistance.