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Coronavirus: Daily briefing, March 16 – new cases, self-isolation, casinos

Eighteen new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have emerged in Alberta, bringing the total now to 74.

On Monday afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, was teleconferenced into the media briefing as she had symptoms of a cold, but was in self-isolation and had been tested for COVID-19. She didn’t believe the symptoms were consistent with the virus.

She used it as an opportunity to explain what self-isolation should look like.

Hinshaw said she was fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom to separate from her family members. She also used a separate bathroom. She’s not eating meals with her family. She’s keeping two meters away from other family members.

“Even though my symptoms are mild, I believe it is important to follow the advice I have been providing to others over the last several weeks. This is another part of our new normal. Even without a lab test, these steps are important to take proactively,” she said.

New coronavirus cases in Alberta

Of the 74 cases in Alberta, 52 are in Calgary. With the most recent 18 cases, all health zones in the province now have a reported case.

One Edmonton case and one Calgary case have been confirmed as community transmission.

To date, Alberta Health Services have administered nearly 11,000 coronavirus tests.

“Albertans need to come together and do our part help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

The group spread case in Calgary involved a gathering of 40 people at a home in the city. The source of the infection was someone who travelled from outside the country, Dr. Hinshaw said.

“And then there was transmission at that event,” she said.

Seven people were infected at that location.

“I think, again, it underlines that when you have lots of people in close contact, particularly with people who are traveling from outside of the country, that that raises the risk,” she said.

Canadian Blood Services

Dr. Hinshaw said she’s heard today that the Canadian Blood Services has seen a decline in blood donations.

“The need for blood donations is strong,” she said, noting that it’s safe to donate blood.

“While we work to contain COVID-19 and keep the public informed on the situation, we should also think of those who are battling their own health issues unrelated to COVID-19.”

Closing of public places

Across North America, cities are taking the aggressive step to shut down all locations where people congregate: bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Dr. Hinshaw was asked what the threshold was for that to happen in Alberta.

She said the number of cases coming in is rising, but the majority of those cases are still travel related.

“Having said that, I am concerned about that potential for community spread. So we certainly continue to discuss these topics and whether or not any additional measures are needed,” she said.

In relation to casinos, which is a hot topic of discussion, Dr. Hinshaw said that these locations don’t have similar dynamics with respect to large numbers of people gathering together.

“Again, we’re monitoring the situation for using the evidence of what we know about the spread of this virus and the challenges posed by some of these settings where there’s lots of people together,” she said.