4 more COVID-19 deaths reported as Alberta announces health-care aide supports

4 more COVID-19 deaths reported as Alberta announces health-care aide supports

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Monday that four more people died from the novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial death toll to 59.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said two of the fatalities were people in long-term care facilities (Manoir Du Lac and CareWest Sarcee), one was a worker at the Cargill meat-processing plant and the fourth was from the Edmonton zone.

Hinshaw said 105 new cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing Alberta’s total number of cases to 2,908.

She said 1,230 people had recovered from the virus.

Sixty-three people are in hospital and 15 of them are in intensive care units.

As of Monday, more than 105,000 tests for COVID-19 had been completed in Alberta.

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Health aide funding

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced additional funds to hire health-care aides and support continuing care centres.

He said “over the coming days,” Alberta would increase funding to hire additional staff, offer a wage supplement of $2/hr for health-care aides during the pandemic and get up to 1,000 paid student practicum positions to fast-track certification and get more staff into the long-term care sites.

Also, $24.5 million is being advanced to continuing care facility operators to help address immediate cost pressures of the pandemic.

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Shandro said the pandemic is disproportionately affecting these seniors’ homes. In Alberta, there are 29 outbreaks at long-term care facilities, resulting in 330 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 38 deaths connected to the virus.

“Health-care aides are integral to the well-being of residents – and they play a critical role across the health-care system,” Shandro said. “We cannot overlook their contribution, and we must not lose sight of how the pressures they face can directly impact the functioning of entire facilities.

“We are confident that these measures will make a difference not only to health-care aides, but to the residents of these facilities who deserve quality and compassionate care.”

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Hinshaw said the government’s funding would improve the mental and physical well-being of residents and staff at these facilities.

Tracking COVID-19 outbreaks

Hinshaw spoke specifically about four sites currently dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks: the Cargill meat-processing plant, JBS Foods, Kearl Lake oilsands project and the Foothills Medical Centre.

She said there were 360 cases involving workers connected to the Cargill plant near High River, but there are also cases in the community. Hinshaw said 484 cases are linked to the plant but not all of those work at the site. She said there are cases of household spread, carpooling and secondary spread.

Many live in surrounding communities, like Calgary, she explained.

“There is a dedicated team working on reducing spread,” Hinshaw added. It will be helping households that may have issues with isolating.

The company announced Monday the plant would be “idling operations.”

There was also an outbreak at JBS Foods, Hinshaw said, where 67 cases have been confirmed.

There are 12 Alberta cases connected to the Kearl Lake oilsands project, she added, and eight cases in other provinces, including B.C. and Saskatchewan.

At Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, one more case has been confirmed.

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“This does not change the assessment of risk” for patients at the maternity ward, Hinshaw said.

Starting Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Health will be publishing outbreak locations on its website. However, the postings will not include a number of cases since those numbers will be out of date quickly.

Continuing care and acute care sites, like Foothills Medical Centre, will be the first outbreak locations to be shared.

Over two weeks, other outbreak settings will be added once notification protocols have been established.

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