Only seven new COVID-19 cases were detected in Alberta on Friday, marking the lowest increase in cases since March 12.
The news comes exactly three months after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s c hief medical officer of health, reported Alberta’s first case of the novel coronavirus on March 5.
Friday also marked Alberta’s highest-ever COVID-19 testing output, with 6,455 tests processed since Thursday. That means only about one in every 1,000 Albertans who were tested had COVID-19, which Hinshaw says deserves celebration.
“This is in large part thanks to your efforts and sacrifices,” she said.
“Although we can expect to see some fluctuations in new cases and outbreaks, it is possible for us to collectively keep our numbers stable. If everyone practices good hygiene, keeps two metres apart when possible and wears a mask when it is not, that will help reduce the spread.”
The seven new cases brought Alberta’s total to 7,098. As of Friday, there are 328 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, representing about 4.6 per cent of the total cases. A total of 6,624 Albertans have now officially recovered from the coronavirus.
Alberta’s death toll from COVID-19 remains at 146.
On Friday, there were 44 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, six of whom were in intensive care units, a decrease in total hospitalizations from the previous day.
The continued decline in new cases means Alberta Health Services will relax restrictions on hospital visitations, effective Saturday. Now, Albertans receiving outpatient, emergency or urgent care in hospital will be allowed to designate one visitor. Those in acute inpatient settings will be allowed two visitors.
Visitors must still abide by public health guidelines, including the use of masks, maintaining a two-metre distance from others and frequent hand-washing. A full list of the new visitation rules is available on the AHS website .
Hospital visitation has been prohibited under most circumstances since March 18.
“One especially difficult sacrifice has been being unable to visit our loved ones receiving care in hospital,” Hinshaw said. “While this restriction was made to protect the safety of patients and our health-care workers, I know this has created hardship.”
Restrictions at continuing-care centres, where more than three-quarters of Alberta’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred, remain in effect.
AHS also received a donation of 200 ventilators Friday, a gift Hinshaw said means Alberta will be well-prepared for a potential second wave of the coronavirus.
Kenney warns anti-racism protests could become “super-spreader events”
Albertans have gathered by the thousands over the past week in a series of anti-racism protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
Three anti-racism demonstrations have taken place in Calgary, including a large march through the city’s core Wednesday , with another protest planned in Edmonton at the Alberta legislature grounds Friday evening.
Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that public-health orders around COVID-19 prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people and expressed worry that protests could lead to a future spike in coronavirus cases.
“We want to remind people if they feel passionately about an issue, there’s lots of ways to express that passion that don’t require getting into a large crowd, that could potentially become a super-spreader event,” Kenney said.
“It would be a real tragedy if we have large gatherings, people shouting close to each other, that end up with the unintended consequence of widespread transmission, potentially folks back in hospital and losing a lot of the ground that we’ve gained thanks to people’s personal responsibility over the past three months.”
Kenney also reiterated that there is a history of institutional racism in Alberta and Canada, citing the Chinese head tax and residential schools as examples.
In addressing the protests Friday, Hinshaw did not mention the restriction on gathering sizes but did recommend that all Albertans protesting do not attend if they are feeling sick, maintain physical distance from others and wear a mask.
She said the province is monitoring all gatherings, including protests, to watch for a potential spike in cases.
“We’ll be watching all other expanded activities as they start to roll out,” Hinshaw said. “(The risk) really does depend on how much the virus is circulating in the community. As I mentioned earlier, we have seen a reduction in our case counts with an increase in testing over the last few days, which is encouraging. But it’s always a concern when you have many, many people gathered in the same space.”
While neither Kenney nor Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has taken part in anti-racism protests in Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a crowd of protesters outside Parliament Hill on Friday, kneeling on the ground in solidarity with the group.
—With files from Sammy Hudes and The Canadian Press