Calgary is prepared to take further steps to protect its workforce as another five coronavirus (COVID-19) cases were announced in Alberta Wednesday.
That brings the provincial total to 19. All of these COVID-19 cases are travel related.
This latest news comes as the World Health Organization elevated the COVID-19 situation to a pandemic status.
In Wednesday’s update with media, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw talked about the pandemic announcement.
“It is an important designation and one that reflects the seriousness of the virus,” she said.
“It is more severe than the seasonal influenza or the h1 pandemic of 2009. It is more contagious than viruses like SARS. It can be contained, as has been shown in other countries like Singapore, but it will take an effort of all of us to do so.”
Travel precautions prescribed by Alberta top doc
Of the five new cases, three are from the Calgary zone and were all travel related. Those cases had returned home from travel in several countries, including Iran, Egypt, Spain, and in the US States of Washington and New Mexico.
One case is from the Central Zone and another is from Edmonton Zone. That was a man in his 30s that had returned from travel and exhibited symptoms. He had scheduled, unrelated treatment at Misericordia Hospital. They are contacting all people potentially exposed in that situation.
“The global situation is changing rapidly. And we all need to take steps to protect our own health and the health of those around us,” said Hinshaw.
As a result, any travellers returning to Alberta from Italy are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
“In addition to this, I’m recommending that all travelers returning to Alberta from anywhere outside of Canada should consider limiting attendance at any large public gatherings. And most importantly, all travelers should closely monitor themselves for symptoms, such as fever or cough,” Hinshaw said.
They are also recommending that anyone over 65, or with a chronic health condition not travel outside of Canada.
Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) provides update to city councillors
At Wednesday’s Community and Protective Services Committee meeting, CEMA chief Tom Sampson provided an update and answered questions on the City of Calgary’s response to the coronavirus.
He outlined much of the same message as previous, around the city’s desire to protect essential services and the city’s workforce.
“I mentioned the safety and well being of our staff is our top priority,” Sampson said.
“It’s so that we can take care of those that take care of Calgarians.”
The city has had an infectious disease management plan in place for more than 12 years and it was reviewed just six months ago, Sampson said.
He said they don’t expect the coronavirus to disappear anytime soon.
“We’re in for the long term,” he told councillors.
City emergency management officials are in regular contact with health officials, and they, in turn are talking with external stakeholders: Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Calgary and the with post secondaries. A meeting with the Calgary Stampede was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Though Dr. Hinshaw said there was no cases of local spread right now, when asked by Coun. Evan Woolley if he expected that to occur, Sampson replied, “absolutely.”
“We are not going to stop this train,” he said.
“We’re not going to stop it, we can only push it down.”
In his presentation to council, Sampson said what they want to do is “flatten out the curve.”
The curve he showed in a slide represented the situation in Italy where the health system is overrun with an avalanche of new coronavirus cases. They can do this with proper precautions taken by the general public.
It’s the same message from Alberta Health: Wash hands. Stay home if you’re feeling under the weather. Sampson said forget about handshakes.
‘Push the peak out,’ said Mayor Nenshi
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said they were actively working on plans for the city’s workforce, including telework options where possible. He also talked about the citizen responsibility in helping prevent the spread – particularly in public-facing operations like Calgary Transit and Calgary Recreation.
“Yes, we’ll sanitize those buses, but as soon as they go other there and people get on them they’re not sanitized anymore,” he said, encouraging the proper hand hygiene.
“If I can use the mayoral edict, I will say – no more handshakes.”
He, too, talked about flattening out the virus curve.
“We need to push the peak out, so health services can handle it,” he said.
Nenshi said they’re moving toward proactive working from home – just for some employees to stay out of the system, so that in case of infection not everyone is quarantined at once. He said they’re even discussing that for city council.
The mayor also said a small team is looking at larger city-run events, running it through criteria to decide if they should be cancelled.
The mayor said the city doesn’t have the power to cancel other events.
“We’re trying to set an example for how people should be thinking about other gatherings as well.”
Some city projects may also have their rollout delayed due to ongoing concerns with the coronavirus.