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Coronavirus Daily Briefing – March 20: Cases spike, child care spaces opening, homeless shelter support

Alberta’s coronavirus cases continue to climb, with 49 added to the province’s count, bringing the total to 195.

Of the total number of Alberta cases, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said 11 were from community transmission.

Ten people are hospitalized, with five in the ICU, Hinshaw said.

Three people have been recorded recovered.

Containing the virus has been job one, and Dr. Hinshaw praised those doing the relentless work of tracking people down who may have come into contact with others carrying the virus.

“There’s so much hard work going on at the frontlines of public health contact tracing, making sure that every one of these new cases is contacted,” she said.

“Anyone who was in contact with them while they were symptomatic gets a phone call and instructions on what to do.”

The province has logged nearly 17,000 coronavirus tests. That’s the highest per capita rate in North America and the third highest in the world Dr. Hinshaw said.

Dr. Hinshaw will be taking a break over the weekend to recuperate and spend time with family. During this time, Dr. Marcia Johnson, deputy chief medical officer of health, will be taking over the briefings. Dr. Hinshaw will return to the briefings on Monday.

New measures for seniors’ facilities

Dr. Hinshaw said that in the interest of containing those Albertans who may be vulnerable, new visiting restrictions will be put in place at seniors’ facilities.

Only a single visitor from a group designated by the resident will be allowed in the facility. That person will be screened for any health issues prior to being approved. Security staff or a greeter will be required at each facility to conduct the testing prior to that visitor being designated.

“One of the most meaningful actions Albertans can take is simply picking up the phone,” said Hinshaw.

“Even spending just a few minutes on the phone with a senior can go a long way toward reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

Is it safe outside if you’re self isolating?

Dr. Hinshaw said she’s receiving this question quite regularly.

When someone is self-isolating, they are safe to be outside.

“I want to be clear that there is no danger to others if someone who is self-isolating goes for a walk outside and stays two meters away from others,” she said.

“Being outside and active is an important support for health both physical and mental and should be encouraged with respect to other activities.”

Maintain that two-metre distance. Practice proper hand hygiene, she said.

Child care spaces to open up for core service providers Monday

Prior to Dr. Hinshaw speaking, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said that the Ministry of Children’s Services would be opening select licensed childcare locations.

These centres would be available for core service providers such as health care workers, municipal critical infrastructure workers and then other essential services such as police fire and correctional service workers. Up to 15,000 spaces will be open across Alberta.

The centres will only be open for up to 30 people, including staff. There will be strict health guidelines, including child temperature checks, limited access for adults, classroom limits and protocols for sanitation, said Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz.

“We’re prioritizing those in areas around the province like Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie – areas where our health care workers are already working at higher demand,” said Minister Schulz.

She added that they expect 6,000 spaces would be open by Monday or Tuesday. They would be in contact with the childcare providers and employers would be in contact with employees with eligible children.

Premier Kenney asked that those who are offered a space only use it if it’s needed, so it could potentially be provided to another employee.

“I would also ask that if you’re a parent who is afforded a childcare space, that you only use it if you have no other way to ensure that you can get to your critical job,” he said.

More space for homeless populations

Premier Kenney also announced that they would expand the network of homeless shelter space across the province. Shelter pandemic plans have now been put into place across the province.

In Calgary, the Mustard Seed and the Calgary Drop In Centre have said they’re short of space due to the requirements for social distancing, Kenney said.

He said they’re working with the City of Calgary and community and social services to book hotel spaces for handle the “surge capacity,” Kenney said.