'Our situation is grim': Alberta breaks daily record for COVID-19 cases Friday, sees 11 new deaths

WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Hinshaw provides an update on COVID-19 in Alberta on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Alberta confirmed 1,155 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, provincial officials said Friday.

“Our current situation is grim,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. She added this week, Alberta confirmed more new active cases than any other week since the pandemic began.

There are now 10,655 active cases in the province; 4,272 in the Calgary zone and 4,520 in the Edmonton zone.

Alberta’s positivity rate sits at 6.5 per cent. More than 17,000 lab tests were done over the last 24 hours.

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There are 310 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19; 58 of whom are in intensive care units.

Hinshaw said that while Alberta Health Services can expand ICU capacity in Edmonton and Calgary, it means those beds aren’t available to patients with other illnesses.

“AHS is working to increase capacity for COVID-19 patients if needed,” she said. “Those expanded capacity beds mean less services for others. We cannot do that.

“It means stopping and delaying other services. That’s the impact we want to avoid.”

Hinshaw stressed everyone must do their part to reduce pressure on all aspects of the health-care system.

“The system is taxed.”

She said contact tracers are working tirelessly and “heroically” but they’re facing “an uphill battle.”

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Eleven deaths connected to COVID-19 were reported Friday, bringing Alberta’s pandemic death toll to 462.

“Eleven fellow Albertans are gone and their family and friends are mourning their deaths,” Hinshaw said.

Seven of the deaths were linked to outbreaks: The deaths of a woman in her 90s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 80s are linked to the Edmonton General Care Centre; the deaths of a woman in her 60s and a man in his 90s are linked to the Grey Nuns Community Hospital; the death of a woman in her 90s in the Edmonton zone is connected to Covenant Care Chateau Vitaline; and the death of a man in his 70s from the North zone is linked to Grande Prairie Care Centre.

A man in his 60s from the Edmonton zone, a man in his 60s from the South zone, a woman in her 70s from the Calgary zone and a man in his 80s from the Central zone also died.

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Hinshaw said she continues to be concerned with the tragic outcomes in Alberta. It would be a mistake, she said, for people to think severe outcomes only occur in older people.

“This week, two individuals in their 30s died of this virus.

“While both had co-morbidities, they were not life-threatening on their own.”

Hinshaw explained many Albertans have chronic conditions, which can include things like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Alberta Health said 32,835 people have recovered from the disease.


No new restrictions announced

Neither Premier Jason Kenney nor Health Minister Tyler Shandro joined Friday’s news conference. Hinshaw explained elected officials traditionally participate in COVID-19 updates when there are announcements or changes to be made public.

There were no new restrictions announced by Hinshaw Friday.

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She said she and her team continue to discuss possible additional measures to present to decision-makers.

“I cannot speak for the premier… but as a part of the recommendations I’ve made, there’s always been consideration of the impact of COVID-19 and the impacts restrictions have.”

Hinshaw said her job means she’s responsible for the whole health of Albertans.

“It has been challenging to consider what the right balance is and what the right suite of measures would be to bring down COVID-19 rates while maintaining the mental benefits of socialization, of being employed, of being able to have physical activity.”

She had hoped the recent measures would have somewhat slowed the spread but that hasn’t been the case, Hinshaw said. Therefore, she said her team will need to make recommendations on additional restrictions.

“We cannot let COVID-19 spread unchecked.”

A spokesperson for the premier’s office said: “The government depends on the best scientific advice from its medical experts, including Chief Medical Officer of Health Hinshaw.

“Her team is currently preparing a suite of options,” Christine Myatt said in an email to Global News. “The government will of course clearly communicate any decisions to the public if/when those occur.”

Last Friday, the premier joined Hinshaw for the news conference, announcing new health measures in an attempt to lower COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations. They included a request not to host social gatherings at home and that masks be worn in work places.

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On Nov. 12, the province announced indoor group fitness classes and team sports would be prohibited for two weeks from Nov. 13-27 in the Calgary area, Edmonton area, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge and Red Deer.

Restaurants and pubs in the above areas, as well as areas on “enhanced status” must stop liquor sales by 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. This measure will also be in place from Nov. 13-27.

The mayor of Calgary doesn’t think the current restrictions are helping.

“We should have seen numbers go down by now,” Naheed Nenshi said during a 770 CHQR interview on The Morning News With Sue Deyell And Andrew Schultz on Friday.

“Typically we see the numbers respond — if they’re going to respond — within five to 14 days. Fourteen is really the outlier. And the fact that they haven’t responded is actually quite concerning.

“It’s not about panic or fear but it’s about being very clear-headed… about looking at these numbers and where they’re going.”

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Nenshi said the most concerning numbers are the rising hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. He said he spoke with Hinshaw and the premier earlier this week and they’re also very, very worried.

“It’s very clear that they’re very concerned by these numbers. The premier continues to be concerned about particularly what will happen to retail businesses as we go into the Christmas season if we have more of a shutdown.

“But I think it’s pretty clear that more restrictive measures will be coming for the province sooner rather than later,” he said.

“I would not be at all surprised if they went with more restrictions prior to the end of the two-week period that they announced last week, especially with numbers like yesterday’s.”

Whatever rules are in place, Nenshi is encouraging people to support local business as much as possible but in a safe way: shop online and order from a small local business using its website, delivery or curb-side pickup.

“A lot of businesses have been telling me: ‘Look, if you’re going to do this, please do it now so we have the opportunity to salvage some of the Christmas season… Get this over with. Don’t keep waiting,'” Nenshi said.

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“Today, Ontario is going to announce more restrictions, there’s now a mask mandate in every province across the country except Alberta, so I imagine the pressure on the provincial government on this is pretty high.

“Let’s not wait for government to tell us the right thing to do,” he added. “It’s time for people to start restricting our activities now.”


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