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Coronavirus daily briefing – April 2: Peak COVID-19? Clarifying homeless shelter care

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the province has yet to see the peak in number of coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, Alberta added another 96 cases, bringing the provincial total to 968.  More than 4,000 tests have been completed in the past 24 hours, with the province saying that there’s a 98 per cent negative result return.

Still, of those 968 cases, 108 are believed to be from community transmission. So far, 174 people have recovered in Alberta. There have been 57, 096 tests done to date.

Continuing care centres in Alberta remain a concern for Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as there are now nine outbreaks at facilities across the province.

“Some of these have been opened due to staff working both at the McKenzie Towne long term care facility and another site when these staff have been confirmed as a case,” she said.

Additional outbreaks have now occurred in the Cedar Villas Extendicare, AgeCare Seton and Carewest Sarcee, Hinshaw said.

New protocols, enforceable by law, have been implemented at long term care facilities, Dr. Hinshaw said.

Clarifying concern over homeless care

Dr. Hinshaw was asked about the current situation for larger-scale homeless shelters and the sleeping mats or cots and public health distancing rules. She’s issued an exemption that allows one-metre spacing in these situations.  

When asked if there was a perfect solution to the homeless situation, Dr. Hinshaw was blunt.

“So, a perfect scenario would be that everyone had their own home to be in. That’s the perfect scenario,” she said.

Dr. Hinshaw did offer further clarity on the subject.

These sleeping areas are the only place where the one-metre rule is acceptable. During the day, it’s expected that residents in the homeless shelters adhere to the two-metre rule.

The exemption allowed for the one-metre spacing between bunks. It’s with the assurance that sleeping quarters be head-to-toe so that it would leave a minimum of two meters – even on the diagonal between residents – between two people.

“And finally, that anyone who is ill, so anyone who has any of the symptoms of COVID would not be in the general shelter space,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“It would be in the designated isolation spaces that have been set up in shelters across the province, or in separate facilities.”

When can we expect a peak in coronavirus cases?

Alberta’s modelling numbers – or the number of cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions – could come next week.

“I think the importance of the numbers being made public is that I think It helps people understand that what we’re seeing now in terms of total numbers isn’t the peak,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

In a CTV Calgary news article published in the afternoon of April 2, it quotes a University of Calgary infectious disease doctor saying the province is on pace for 27,000 cases by the end of the month.

Dr. Hinshaw said she’s heard people say, “we’re making a big fuss over nothing.”

“I think the benefit of the modeling is that it helps people think about the magnitude of the situation, and what we’re seeing in other countries like Italy, Spain, or even in New York City, that those scenarios would be what we would experience if we were not doing the things that we’re currently doing,” she said.

“It really helps people understand the importance of the measures that we’re taking.”

When asked if Alberta would take similar measures as other provinces to so-called ‘shelter-in-place,’ Dr. Hinshaw said, it’s already like that here.

“I think, we’ve actually, we haven’t called it sheltering in place, but I think most of our recommendations have already made it clear that people should stay away from others as much as possible.”