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Coronavirus daily briefing – April 10: Long term care changes, community-acquired cases

New rules are coming at Alberta long term care centres to shore up defense against the spread of the coronavirus.

Continuing care centres have been hit hard by COVID-19, with four more deaths recorded at the McKenzie Towne location in Calgary. That brings the total in that single location to 17 deaths. Across the province, there are 164 cases in 19 continuing care facilities.

In Friday’s daily coronavirus briefings, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced an additional 49 COVID-19 cases in the province, bringing the total to 1,500.

“I know that many people are concerned about the health of residents at continuing care facilities, and I am as well,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

“We are exploring every option to prevent illness and death, and to keep people in continuing care facilities safe and healthy.”

Seven total deaths were announced Friday, bringing the Alberta toll to 39.

Of the 1,500 cases, 48 are in hospital, with 13 in intensive care. Community transmission is suspected in 201 of the cases.  More than 2,100 tests were done in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 72,370.

New protective measures at long term care

Dr. Hinshaw said with the continued rise in cases in continuing care, they examined what other cities did to stop the spread.

Beginning next week, they will be enforcing new measures at continuing care facilities to protect both workers and residents.

All workers at the sites will be required to wear masks at all times when providing direct patient care, or in patient care areas within two metres of others.

“We’re making this change to protect patients from inadvertent exposure from a health care worker who could be without symptoms, but still be infectious,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

In addition, workers at these facilities will no longer be able to work at multiple locations. They can only work at one site.

All health care workers in direct patient care or working in patient care areas must always use a surgical or procedure mask in the workplace, where social distancing isn’t possible.

Accommodations will be made for the workers who relied on rotating to different long-term care centres to ensure their wages remained largely unaffected, Dr. Hinshaw said.

Fluctuation in community-acquired cases

Over the past week, the number of community-acquired cases has remained steady at around 200.

Since April 5, when it was suspected that there were 152 community-acquired cases, the numbers have been the following:

April 6: 204

April 7: 199

April 8: 206

April 9: 192

April 10: 201

In that same time, the number of daily tests completed has risen from in the 698 to 2100. On April 4, there were 2,148 tests.

The fluctuations are the result of information available on each case, said Tom McMillan, Assistant Director of Communications for Alberta Health.

Public health investigations into these cases are on-going. They may, at first, be logged as community-acquired, only for the latest information to reveal otherwise. Previously the largest number of cases was travel-related and those connected to returning travellers.

Despite this data showing a levelling off, McMillan said it’s too early to tell if it’s a trend. The stagnant numbers could be related to a change in testing that started March 23.

With recent changes made in testing, those community-acquired numbers could also change, he said.