The province announced an increase of 364 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
The Edmonton region was the source of 276 of the new cases, prompting Alberta’s chief medical officer of health to introduce voluntary steps aimed at curbing the spread of the virus in the capital.
“These measures are not being taken lightly, but are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from continuing to escalate,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said Thursday that while there is a concern with the numbers in Edmonton, so far, Red Deerians have done good work to mitigate transmission of COVID-19.
“Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers in the city and also in the central health zone, relative to the rest of the province and the country,” Veer said, adding she’s been in contact with other mayors across the zone about their management of COVID-19.
“I think that’s a credit to Red Deerians and their voluntary compliance with public health protocol and how stringent our citizens are taking public health measures.
“Any time there is a rise in cases in other communities — because as Albertans, we live, work and recreate throughout the province — a rise in cases in any city is a concern because of the possibility of community transmission.”
There are now 2,097 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
“I especially caution Albertans against planning large get-togethers this weekend,” said Hinshaw. “Now is not the time to be gathering in large groups, travelling long distances for the holiday or sharing food or utensils outside your cohort.
“Keep your Thanksgiving small, keep it safe and protect one another.”
The new voluntary measures in the Edmonton zone encourage limiting family and private gatherings to no more than 15 people. Hinshaw also recommended masks be worn in all indoor work settings and asked citizens to limit their number of cohorts to no more than three.
“While these voluntary measures are focused on the Edmonton zone, everyone in the province should take note. We must all take precautions to limit the virus’ spread to our friends, family and loved ones.”
Red Deer — which currently has seven active cases of the virus — hasn’t experienced the same rise in case numbers as Edmonton.
Hinshaw noted 36 per cent of the cases in Edmonton were exposed by a close contact. Twenty-six per cent are linked to an outbreak.
“Household or community contacts continue to be a key driver in spreading the virus throughout the city. Social gatherings and family gatherings continue to be a factor in virus spreading events,” she said, adding several Edmonton workplaces have also seen outbreaks.
Although there have been no announced restrictions to businesses yet in Edmonton or the province as a whole, Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said if the province took steps to close the economy because of rising COVID-19 numbers, it would be devastating to local shops and services.
“A reversal to look at closures would be devastating to a slow, creeping economy,” he said in an email.
“If numbers rise in this area, we just have to be even more prudent in our levels of hygiene. Surely, we have learned by now the consequences.”
The central zone currently sits at 39 active cases of the virus, while the Calgary zone has 604. Edmonton has spiked to 1,251 active cases of COVID-19.
Ponoka County has jumped to 12 active cases and Mountain View County has five active cases. Olds, Wetaskiwin and Sylvan Lake each have one active case of the virus.
Lacombe sits at three active cases, while Red Deer County and Lacombe County each have two active cases.
Correctional officer contracts COVID-19 after brief encounters with infected individuals – CTV News
A case study of a correctional officer who tested positive for COVID-19 despite having no sustained exposure of at least 15 minutes with any infected individual is providing new evidence that the virus can be transmitted in brief encounters.
The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, has prompted them to expand their definition of a “close contact.”
On July 28, the study states, six incarcerated or detained individuals who had not yet received their COVID-19 results arrived to a Vermont correctional facility from out of state, and were transported to a quarantine unit. In the process, all six — who were not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms — briefly interacted with a 20-year-old correctional officer.
The six tested positive for COVID-19 on July 29. In the contact tracing process, officials looked at every interaction the six had while they would have been infectious, and determined that the 20-year-old correctional officer was not a close contact who needed to be quarantined, according to the Vermont Department of Health’s rules, since he had never been within two metres of any of them for 15 minutes.
Thus, the correctional officer continued working — until August 4, when, at the end of his shift, he started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, including a loss of smell and taste, a cough, a headache and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.
He tested positive for COVID-19 on August 11.
In order to find out how the correctional officer had contracted the virus, officials observed video surveillance on July 28 to tally up the time the officer had spent within two metres of any of the six individuals who had COVID-19.
“Although the correctional officer never spent 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of an [incarcerated person] with COVID-19, numerous brief (approximately one-minute) encounters that cumulatively exceeded 15 minutes did occur,” the case study stated. “During his eight-hour shift on July 28, the correctional officer was within six feet of an infectious [incarcerated person] an estimated 22 times while the cell door was open, for an estimated 17 total minutes of cumulative exposure.”
The study added that while the six incarcerated or detained people wore cloth face masks during some of these interactions, there were a few interactions in a cell doorway or the recreation room where they did not wear a mask.
The correctional officer was wearing a face mask and eye goggles at all times.
Since the officer had no travel-related exposure or any other known close contact exposures, officials surmised that he’d contracted the virus during one of his interactions on July 28.
A “close contact” according to the CDC is someone who was “within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset.”
In the wake of this study, they are adding to the definition anyone who spends 15 minutes cumulatively within six feet (two metres) of an infected person, even if those 15 minutes are the result of numerous brief interactions, and not in one go.
Fifteen minutes has never been the make-or-break length of time that is necessary for an exposure — there is no magic number detailing exactly how long it takes the virus to successfully make the jump from one body to another.
There are numerous factors that contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the 15-minute mark is merely a benchmark to allow officials to categorize at what point exposure is most likely, in order to know how to prioritize resources for contact tracing.
In Canada, the official COVID Alert app also uses the 15-minute rule, only alerting those who were closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes to a person who tested positive.
The risk of exposure can be minimized or increased by a number of things, including physical proximity, whether they’re in an enclosed space, whether there is adequate ventilation and air flow, as well as whether both individuals are wearing masks, among other factors.
The case study concluded by advising that public health officials consider the extra risk of cumulative exposure due to brief interactions in settings where frequent interaction within two metres of a person is necessary, such as within a correctional facility.
St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto declares COVID-19 outbreak among ER staff – Toronto Star
TORONTO – Another hospital in downtown Toronto has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 among its staff.
Unity Health says there are five active coronavirus cases among emergency room staff at St. Michael’s Hospital.
In a statement Tuesday evening, the health network says “no patient cases have been identified to date” and the risk of patient exposure is low.
However, it recommends anyone who visited the ER at St. Michael’s within the last two weeks to self-monitor.
The hospital is one of four in Toronto that have declared COVID-19 outbreaks in recent days.
The others are St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2020.
CDC redefines what counts as close contact for coronavirus, adds short encounters – Global News
U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.
For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within six feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.
The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks.
The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert.
It also serves notice that the coronavirus can spread more easily than many people realize, he added.
The definition change was triggered by a report on that case of a 20-year-old Vermont correctional officer, who was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection in August. The guard, who wore a mask and goggles, had multiple brief encounters with six transferred prisoners before test results showed they were positive. At times, the prisoners wore masks, but there were encounters in cell doorways or in a recreational room where prisoners did not have them on, the report said.
Coronavirus: COVID-19 vaccine unlikely before late 2021, CDC director says
An investigation that reviewed video footage concluded the guard’s brief interactions totalled 17 minutes during an 8-hour shift.
The report didn’t identify the prison but Vermont officials have said that in late July, six inmates tested positive when they arrived at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.
In a statement, CDC officials said the case highlights again the importance of wearing masks to prevent transmission, and that the agency’s guidance can change as new information comes in.
“As we get more data and understand this COVID we’re going to continue to incorporate that in our recommendations,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a press conference in Atlanta.
The CDC also says close contact can include hugging and kissing, sharing eating or drinking utensils with someone infected, and providing home care to someone who is sick. Someone sneezing or coughing on you also counts.
The risk of spread is considered to be lower outdoors, but the CDC guidance update “makes scientific sense,” said Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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