29 confirmed coronavirus cases in Alberta; school closures not recommended at this time

Alberta Health announced six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 29 as of Friday.

“All of those are travel-related or cases who have been in close contact with a returning traveller,” said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw in her daily update.

She said one patient remains in hospital and the rest are recovering at home while self-isolating.

Hinshaw said she’s hearing from concerned parents and teachers who are worried about the risk of the novel coronavirus in schools. However, she said school closures alone are not universally agreed to be an effective preventative measure.

Hinshaw also said schools would likely have to be closed for months, not weeks, for a closure to be effective.

“I have advised that school closures not be implemented at this time.”

She said post-secondary schools, day cares and schools can remain open but said they shouldn’t allow groups of 250 or more people to gather in one place.

“The best thing we can do… is practice good hygiene,” Hinshaw said. “I want to really underline that anyone who is feeling ill with cough or fever to stay home.”

“The spread of COVID-19 is evolving daily and we cannot predict what it will look like next week.

“We are all in this together. The coming weeks are vital.”

She directed people to the Alberta Health website for information, which is being updated twice daily.

Online self-assessment tool

Alberta Health Services is rapidly developing an online self-assessment tool that it hopes will go live in the next 24 hours, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said. Officials hope it will reduce call volumes to Health Link and help people determine if testing is required.

“Health Link is receiving more than 6,300 calls daily,” Shandro said. “Given this volume, wait times can be high.”

Health Link staff has doubled and officials continue to train more staff.

“Please continue being patient and stay on the Health Link line,” Shandro said.

Shandro asked people to visit alberta.ca/covid19 for information, call Health Link outside peak hours, don’t call for test results (you will be contacted directly) and don’t call 911 for COVID-19 inquiries.

On Thursday, Alberta Health said any public gatherings of more than 250 people should be cancelled.

The provincial health authority also recommended against Albertans travelling outside the country at this time.

On Friday, the City of Edmonton announced all events over 250 people were cancelled. The city also ended programming and events at public rec centres and libraries.

The City of Calgary implemented its Municipal Emergencies Plan on Thursday as a way to help stop the spread of the virus.

— More to come… 

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