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Summertime mass gatherings could result in 'explosive' COVID-19 spread: Alberta's top doctor – Edmonton Sun

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Cancelling Alberta’s biggest summer events was a necessary sacrifice in the fight against COVID-19, the province’s top doctor said Friday.

After the Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Folk Music Festival each announced their cancellations Thursday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said all events through the end of August would need to be axed.

Despite relatively low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in Alberta, Hinshaw said the reality is that the virus will remain a concern throughout the summer, and that in some Alberta mass gatherings, one infected person has unknowingly infected as many as 40 other attendees.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we’re seeing in many parts of the province are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices,” Hinshaw said. “The kinds of social gatherings we are used to, even in the summer, can result in significant spread of the virus, from just one person who might not even know they are infected.

“The results can be explosive, far-reaching, and deadly.”

With the continued restrictions on gatherings, Hinshaw acknowledged she was asking a lot of everyone.

“I hear every day about the things Albertans are giving up to fight COVID-19, and it does not seem fair to ask for more,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this virus does not respect our feelings. We have no easy options. We only have each other and our commitment to protect one another.”

In a livestream Thursday evening, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney provided some details on how the province might phase out restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The first phase of reopening would see the rescheduling of non-elective surgeries, as well as a reopening of campsites and provincial parks.

After that, restaurants could possibly reopen for seated service, provided that they implement protocol to respect social distancing.


The empty Calgary Stampede infield on Thursday April 23.

Gavin Young/Postmedia

But even with the gradual relaxing of restrictions, Kenney said it’s not possible for large summer events like the Calgary Stampede to proceed. The Stampede announced Thursday it would not hold an event this July, its first cancellation since it became an annual staple in 1923.

“I believe we can and will begin reopening measures in a phased way hopefully starting next month in May and gradually ramping up, keeping an eye on the numbers,” Kenney said.

“Having said that, I do not see any realistic scenario where we would be able to open up events where hundreds of thousands of people are closely congregating together.”

Four new deaths as cases confirmed at Stoney Nakoda First Nation

Hinshaw announced four new COVID-19 deaths Friday, bringing Alberta’s total to 72.

Of the deaths, three were in residents of continuing care facilities — two men in their 80s at Calgary’s Extendicare Hillcrest and Carewest Sarcee homes, as well as a woman in her 70s from Edmonton’s Shepherd’s Care Kensington Village.

To date, there have been 399 confirmed COVID-19 cases in continuing care facilities, including 47 deaths, 21 of which have come at southeast Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, where 61 residents and 27 staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

More than a quarter of the province’s cases — and two-thirds of its deaths — can be linked to two areas: continuing care centres and meat-packing plants.

Two Alberta meat-packing plants have had serious COVID-19 outbreaks, with 558 cases in employees at Cargill’s High River facility and 156 cases in employees at the JBS plant in Brooks. One employee has died at each location, leading to Occupational Health & Safety investigations at each worksite.


The Cargill meat packing plant near High River has closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Two COVID-19 cases at the Mountain View Poultry chicken processing plant in Okotoks were announced Friday, and one case has previously been confirmed at the Lilydale chicken plant in Calgary’s southeast community of Ramsay.

Hinshaw also announced 297 new COVID-19 cases Friday, with about 4,600 tests processed since the previous day — a 6.4 per cent positive rate. Alberta has surpassed 4,000 cases, with 4,017 now confirmed.

Three of those cases are in the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. The cases were confirmed by Alberta Health Services in Eden Valley of Bearspaw Nation, located about 100 kilometres southeast of Calgary.

“Our community members that have been affected are in isolation and we are working to support them and their family,” said Bearspaw Nation Chief Darcy Dixon in a statement.

“Although this news may feel disheartening, the fact remains, that our Nations have done an amazing job at limiting the spread of COVID-19 through our communities.”

Earlier in the week, Hinshaw announced the first COVID-19 case in an Alberta First Nation, in northern Alberta’s Sucker Creek.

There are currently 76 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 18 of whom have required admission to intensive care units.

As well, 1,397 Albertans have now officially recovered from the virus.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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Nova Scotia reports no new cases of COVID-19 for first time since March – Toronto Star

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HALIFAX—Nova Scotia increased its social gathering limit on Friday as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since its initial infections were identified in mid-March.

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, called the development a “significant and encouraging milestone” in a province that has seen a continuing downward trend in new cases over recent weeks.

It kept the total number of confirmed cases at 1,055, including 978 people who have recovered from the virus. Eight people are currently in hospital and three of them are in intensive care.

“It hasn’t been easy but we are seeing positive results,” said Strang.

Nova Scotia announced more details of a reopening plan set for next Friday, even as neighbouring New Brunswick put the brakes on expanding the current phase of its plan. That province is dealing with a growing cluster of new cases in the Campbellton area, allegedly caused by a health-care worker who returned from Quebec and didn’t self-isolate.

Strang was asked about what lessons Nova Scotia could take from the Campbellton outbreak.

“The message in that is really about the importance of self-isolation when you cross borders,” he said. “What it shows us is the importance of very closely monitoring our borders. We need to be very thoughtful and careful about how we lift those border restrictions.”

Premier Stephen McNeil announced a new gathering limit of 10 people effective immediately — a doubling from a limit of five that was imposed when health restrictions were put in place in late March.

Physical distancing of two metres would still be required, except among members of the same household or family “bubble.” The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with exceptions for outdoor weddings and funeral services which can have 15 people.

Strang clarified that when it comes to weddings, that limit of 15 would have to include photographers and caterers if that’s what couples wanted in their ceremonies.

He said the gathering limit also applies to arts and culture activities such as theatre performances and dance recitals, faith gatherings, and sports and physical activity. Businesses such as theatres, concerts, festivals and sporting activities would also have to adhere to the 10-person limit.

“We are watching our epidemiology and will consider expanding the way people can have close social interaction when we see how this first stage in the reopening is going,” said Strang. “It’s very important that we don’t introduce too much risk of COVID-19 at any one time and we have the capacity to monitor the effect of any steps.”

McNeil said that private campgrounds would also be allowed to open, but would only operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure public health protocols are followed, including adequate distancing between campsites.

Provincial campgrounds are scheduled to open June 15 at reduced capacity to ensure a minimum of six metres between individual sites.

The latest measures came two days after McNeil announced that most businesses required to close under a public health order in late March would be allowed to open next Friday, provided they are ready with a plan that follows physical distancing protocols.

The list of businesses includes bars and restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, barber shops, gyms and yoga studios, among others.

Some health providers would also be allowed to reopen, including dentistry, optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices. Veterinary services can also operate along with some unregulated professions, such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy.

Earlier Friday, the province announced it would add 23 new long-term care beds because of a need resulting from some facilities slowing or stopping admissions during the pandemic.

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It said it is entering into an agreement with Shannex RLC Ltd. to convert a floor at the Caritas Residence, a private assisted-living home in Bedford, N.S., into nursing home beds.

Residents would be able to move into the facility in early June and will be tested for the virus before being admitted.

According to the government, there are 132-long term care facilities in Nova Scotia.

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Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada – Terrace Standard – Terrace Standard

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B.C. and Alberta have become the latest provinces in Canada to investigate cases of an unusual syndrome in children, which doctors around the world are studying to see if there’s a definitive link to COVID-19.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital are each examining 20 possible cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced doctors are looking into one suspected case in the province, while British Columbia said it is investigating half a dozen cases.

“Because there isn’t really a definitive, one specific test that says, ‘yes, you have multisystem inflammatory syndrome’ or ‘you don’t,’ I don’t think that the cases themselves are 100 per cent clearly defined from children who might have some other type of infection,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, the associate chief of pediatrics at SickKids.

“It might take a little bit of time to really be absolutely certain about how many cases that are being investigated are actually truly related to COVID.”

Friedman’s team at the Toronto hospital have also been in contact with the study at Sainte-Justine run by Marie-Paule Morin, a pediatric rheumatologist.

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C. The agency’s case definition includes current or recent COVID-19 infection or exposure to the virus, a fever of at least 38 C for at least 24 hours, severe illness requiring hospitalization, inflammatory markers in blood tests, and evidence of problems affecting at least two organs that could include the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin or nervous system.

The CDC said some children may have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that can cause swelling and heart problems.

In other parts of the world, the illness is also called Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS).

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that while little is known about MIS-C, ”it seems to be more something that happens as a result of (a child’s) immune system going into overdrive after an infection and causing this inflammatory response in multiple organs.”

Hinshaw gave little information about the province’s first suspected case, other to say that the child is stable in hospital.

In Toronto, Friedman said one of the 20 children had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. All have responded well to treatment and have gone home.

There have been no reported deaths linked to MIS-C in Canada, but some children have died from the illness in New York, France and the United Kingdom.

Friedman said it is “highly suspicious” that there seems to be an increase in children presenting MIS-C symptoms about a month after the peak in the number of COVID-19 infections in their communities.

“That seems to be a consistent time that people are seeing this uptick,” he said.

But Friedman noted that none of the children at SickKids tested positive for an active coronavirus infection. His team has blood samples from each child that will then be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

Although Health Canada has recently approved two serological tests, Friedman said he is waiting to hear from provincial experts on which one is most accurate.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently published MIS-C guidelines for clinicians and caregivers and is tracking and studying the illness nationwide.

“This syndrome is still very new, and scientists and doctors are learning about it in real time,” the society said in an email Friday.

“The CPSP study will provide essential, timely information about how children are being affected, which children are at highest risk, and will enable us to adjust best practices for prevention and care based on evidence.”

Friedman said parents should be vigilant about signs of MIS-C, but they shouldn’t be alarmed since the numbers are low and the condition is treatable.

“This is definitely going to add to what we know about COVID and hopefully some aspects of what we learn will inform the development of vaccines,” he said.

“It’s quite reassuring to know that we can all learn from each other and that is happens in a pretty rapid sequence.”

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada – Lacombe Express

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British Columbia and Alberta have become the latest provinces in Canada to investigate cases of an unusual syndrome in children, which doctors around the world are studying to see if there’s a definitive link to COVID-19.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital are each examining 20 possible cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

Earlier this week, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced doctors are looking into one suspected case in the province, while British Columbia said it is investigating half a dozen cases.

“Because there isn’t really a definitive, one specific test that says, ‘yes, you have multisystem inflammatory syndrome’ or ‘you don’t,’ I don’t think that the cases themselves are 100 per cent clearly defined from children who might have some other type of infection,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedman, the associate chief of pediatrics at SickKids.

“It might take a little bit of time to really be absolutely certain about how many cases that are being investigated are actually truly related to COVID.”

Friedman’s team at the Toronto hospital have also been in contact with the study at Sainte-Justine run by Marie-Paule Morin, a pediatric rheumatologist.

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C. The agency’s case definition includes current or recent COVID-19 infection or exposure to the virus, a fever of at least 38 C for at least 24 hours, severe illness requiring hospitalization, inflammatory markers in blood tests, and evidence of problems affecting at least two organs that could include the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin or nervous system.

The CDC said some children may have symptoms resembling Kawasaki disease, a rare condition that can cause swelling and heart problems.

In other parts of the world, the illness is also called Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS).

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that while little is known about MIS-C, ”it seems to be more something that happens as a result of (a child’s) immune system going into overdrive after an infection and causing this inflammatory response in multiple organs.”

Hinshaw gave little information about the province’s first suspected case, other to say that the child is stable in hospital.

In Toronto, Friedman said one of the 20 children had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. All have responded well to treatment and have gone home.

There have been no reported deaths linked to MIS-C in Canada, but some children have died from the illness in New York, France and the United Kingdom.

Friedman said it is “highly suspicious” that there seems to be an increase in children presenting MIS-C symptoms about a month after the peak in the number of COVID-19 infections in their communities.

“That seems to be a consistent time that people are seeing this uptick,” he said.

But Friedman noted that none of the children at SickKids tested positive for an active coronavirus infection. His team has blood samples from each child that will then be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

Although Health Canada has recently approved two serological tests, Friedman said he is waiting to hear from provincial experts on which one is most accurate.

The Canadian Paediatric Society recently published MIS-C guidelines for clinicians and caregivers and is tracking and studying the illness nationwide.

“This syndrome is still very new, and scientists and doctors are learning about it in real time,” the society said in an email Friday.

“The CPSP study will provide essential, timely information about how children are being affected, which children are at highest risk, and will enable us to adjust best practices for prevention and care based on evidence.”

Friedman said parents should be vigilant about signs of MIS-C, but they shouldn’t be alarmed since the numbers are low and the condition is treatable.

“This is definitely going to add to what we know about COVID and hopefully some aspects of what we learn will inform the development of vaccines,” he said.

“It’s quite reassuring to know that we can all learn from each other and that is happens in a pretty rapid sequence.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020

— With files from The Associated Press

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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