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Testing ramps up after four coronavirus cases at Calgary homeless shelters

Four cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Calgary’s homeless population and steps have been taken to isolate the outbreak, the province said.

In Monday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said there were 216 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the provincial total to 4,696.

There are now 87 people in hospital with 20 people in the intensive care units. Two additional deaths have been reported, raising Alberta’s total to 75.

“These cases illustrate that infection with this virus has serious consequences for many people,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

“These are the reasons we cannot give up on our work to prevent spread this virus can only be defeated by our collective efforts to protect each other.”

So far, 1,664 people in Alberta have recovered from COVID-19. More than 135,000 tests have been conducted in Alberta to date.

Right now, there are 458 confirmed cases in Alberta’s continuing care centres. Dr. Hinshaw said they were concerned about the outbreaks in these centres, and in other settings with vulnerable Albertans.

Four cases in Calgary homeless population

Dr. Hinshaw said that until Sunday morning, all testing that had been done to date showed no positive cases. Two cases were reported at the Calgary Drop-In Centre on Sunday and another case Monday.

There was an additional case disclosed with the Salvation Army.

“This is a concern as homeless Albertans don’t have access to the same kinds of supports and resources that many of us have available and take for granted,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

As a result of the confirmed cases, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is now implementing testing of all contacts – both symptomatic and asymptomatic of these cases.

Further, both in Edmonton and Calgary, AHS will offer testing to a sample of asymptomatic people experiencing homelessness. They’re discussing this plan with shelters and doctors for patients that consent to the testing.

“This step is a precaution to help us identify cases as quickly as possible and reduce the chance of outbreaks occurring in shelters and similar settings,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

Coronavirus cases on Bearspaw First Nation

Fourteen people have confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Eden Valley area, according to the province.

MLA Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations, said that all of the cases were isolating in their homes. There are two isolation centres that can hold up to 150 people in the area, set up in preparation for cases.

The challenge right now, said Minister Wilson, is reliable communication in the area. Right now AHS, along with Alberta Health and the provincial emergency management operations are working with the area RCMP to ensure appropriate communications are available.

“This has been a challenge, due to the rocky terrain in this area,” said Minister Wilson.

“They’re close to getting licensing for a radio system, which the RCMP will help with. We’re also working together on the option to bring in a temporary cellular tower.”