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Alberta working to find more bed space in hospitals as COVID-19 cases grow


EDMONTON — Alberta reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with more people affected at a long-term care centre and the government working to find more bed space in hospitals.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said there are eight new cases, for a total of 13, at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. An 80-year-old woman living at the facility died of the coronavirus earlier this week.

The others at the centre who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus “are self-isolating and receiving care,” Hinshaw told a news conference.

She said overall, 486 people in Alberta have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 21 people are being treated in hospital, with 10 currently in intensive care.

Twenty-seven of the total number have since recovered.

Two people have died.

Dr. Mark Joffe, a vice-president with Alberta Health Services, said work continues to find more bed space in anticipation of more hospitalizations as the virus spreads.

“In Alberta, we have approximately 8,500 hospital beds. We are planning for a need for 2,250 hospital beds to care for individuals with COVID-19,” Joffe said Thursday.

Most of those beds are expected to come from freeing up existing bed space in the system through measures like cancelling elective surgeries, he said.

Health officials are also are looking for space in previously closed hospital wards or by adding extra beds to two-bed wards if safe-distancing can be assured.

“(We’re) going through every possible location within our hospitals to see where care might be provided,” Joffre said.

He added that officials are exploring the use of hotel rooms, not for acute care but more for prevention.

“We may have individuals who are diagnosed with COVID-19 who are living in a circumstance where we don’t really want them to return (to their homes.) They may be exposed to too many other individuals,” said Joffe.

“Hotel space might be one example, and there are many other examples that are being sought.”

According to Alberta Health Services, the plan is to make more beds available in stages over the next three weeks, first by postponing elective surgeries and moving seniors out of acute care, if appropriate, then utilizing additional space like alcoves and unused operating rooms.

The target is to have 2,250 spaces open and ready for COVID-19 patients by April 15.

There have been other COVID-19 outbreaks at other long-term care facilities, and the province has ordered stricter measures to keep residents and staff safe.

Access to the centres has already been limited to one person per resident, and that person must be screened before entering.

Along with that, all nursing homes, supportive living and long-term care facilities, addiction treatment facilities and seniors’ lodges must adhere to enhanced cleaning requirements, more rules around shared rooms, and mandatory health screening protocols for all staff, residents and visitors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press


Calgary blocks traffic lanes to help pathway users maintain two-metre separation



CALGARY — Fans of a decision by Calgary officials to block off some traffic lanes to give pedestrians and cyclists extra room for social distancing hope others cities will follow suit.

Starting Saturday along certain Calgary sidewalks and pathways with larger volumes of pedestrian traffic, crews have placed pylons and other barricades onto a lane of adjacent roadway for people to step onto so they can safely maintain a two-metre separation from others.

“We’re not encouraging people to go and hang around these places, but what we have done is closed a couple of lanes, again in high-pedestrian-centric locations, just to allow people to have more space between them if they are walking,” explained Sean Somers with the city’s transportation department.

Officials insist that people stay home as much as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak, and say those who must go out should stay two metres away from others.

But many walkways aren’t wide enough to enable people to easily maintain that distance.

Vehicle use appears to be down in Calgary since many people are now working from home, Somers said, so there isn’t as much traffic on the roads.

“Last week I was going in to the emergency operations centre and it took me 15 minutes. I would say normally it’s double that to get there from my house,” Somers said, noting that the idea is being treated a pilot project and will be evaluated to see how well it works.

Greg Glatz, a commuter cyclist in Calgary, said he thinks the newly created bike and pedestrian lanes are fantastic. Even during a late evening ride on Saturday he noticed people on bikes and on foot using one that’s downtown on Memorial Drive near the Bow River.

But he said there was another path during his ride, along Crescent Road, that he said could have used one, where a large number of pedestrians were enjoying the sunset.

“There were eight people walking across the path side-by-side, and someone asked them to make some space, and they did a fake sneeze,” Glatz said. “I would love to see it done up there.”

Kimberley Nelson, who represents Alberta on the Velo Canada Bikes board, said she and other cycling advocates began suggesting the idea of closing some traffic lanes a week ago. Since Calgary announced late last week that it would do it, she said councillors in some other Canadian cities are also advocating for it on social media.

Nelson noted many doctors in Calgary cycle to work.

“Being able to ensure they’re able to do so in a safe manner is really important right now,” Nelson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton.

The Canadian Press

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Third Albertan has died from Coronavirus – 40 new cases in Alberta



{The Province has not released any information about the location or age of the third fatality)

From the Province of Alberta

Update 16: COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta (March 29 at 5:30 p.m.)

A third Albertan has died and 40 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 661.

Latest updates

  • Cases have been identified in all zones across the province:
    • 408 cases in the Calgary zone
    • 149 cases in the Edmonton zone
    • 46 cases in the Central zone
    • 45 cases in the North zone
    • 12 cases in the South zone
    • One case in a zone that is yet to be confirmed
  • Of these cases, there have been 41 hospitalizations, with 14 admissions to intensive care units (ICU), and three deaths reported.
  • Up to 60 of the 661 cases may be due to community transmission.
  • McKenzie Towne Long Term Care has 11 new cases identified, bringing the total to 26 at that facility. There are no reported changes for Rosedale on the Park (one case) and Shepherd’s Care Kensington Village (four cases).
  • There are now a total of 73 confirmed recovered cases.
  • Aggregate data, showing cases by age range and zone, as well as by local geographical areas, is available online at
  • All Albertans need to work together to help prevent the spread and overcome COVID-19.
  • Restrictions remain in place for close-contact businesses, dine-in restaurants and non-essential retail services. A full list of restrictions is available online.
  • Albertans are prohibited from attending gatherings of more than 15 people, and they must continue to observe two metres of social distancing. This includes events both indoors and outdoors, such as family gatherings, weddings and funerals. Further details are available online.

Vehicle restrictions in parks and recreation areas

Vehicle access to provincial parks, and parking lots and staging areas on public land has been suspended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, in addition to facilities that have also been closed. Alberta Environment and Parks is doing its part to protect Albertans and parks employees. Included in the vehicle access closures are provincial recreation areas and public land recreation areas, where parking lots and staging areas exist.

List of essential workplaces

The list of essential workplaces that can continue to operate in Alberta can be found online.

Mental health supports

AHS has boosted its service to help Albertans should they need to speak with someone about mental health concerns.

If Albertans call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or the Addiction Help Line at 1-866-332-2323 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, they will be connected directly to a dedicated team of AHS addiction and mental health staff.

This will allow the 811 health team to focus on COVID-19 calls during the day and improve wait times for others needing telephone advice. Calls placed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. will continue to be routed through 811.

Emergency isolation supports

Emergency isolation supports are available for Albertans who are self-isolating or who are the sole caregivers for someone in self-isolation, and have no other source of income. Applicants can view eligibility criteria and apply at To carefully manage the flow of applications, we are periodically closing access to MADI and the emergency isolation support. We will provide daily updates about system availability.

There is no formal deadline for emergency isolation support. This is a temporary program to bridge the gap until the Federal Emergency Care Benefit is available.

Quick facts

  • The most important measures that Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene.
    • This includes cleaning your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, disposing of tissues appropriately, and staying home and away from others if you are sick.
  • Anyone who has health concerns or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should complete an online COVID-19 self-assessment.
  • For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit
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