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COVID-19 variant causes first continuing care outbreak

"This is a reminder that of course we are not out of the woods yet with respect to COVID-19 and the rapid spread that is possible with the variant."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, gives an update on COVID-19 in the province.

A COVID-19 variant has made its way into a continuing care home in Alberta for the first time since it was detected in the province. 

Last Friday, a single case of a variant was identified in Churchill Manor in Edmonton. In the five days that followed, 27 staff and residents became infected, with 19 of those positive for the variant. 

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the facility jumping from one case to 27 cases in a matter of days is "very concerning" and said the outbreak is a reminder that all Albertans must be taking precautionary measures seriously every single day. 

"This is a reminder that of course we are not out of the woods yet with respect to COVID-19, and the rapid spread that is possible with the variant," Hinshaw said.

The top doctor said last week before the outbreak started, the province implemented new mandatory protocols that are being followed, which creates new stronger measures for when a variant case is found in any supportive living or long term care home. 

"Local public health teams and the operator are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and working closely together to limit spread and protect everyone involved," Hinshaw said. 

Staff who are working at any outbreak site are only allowed to work at one workplace during the outbreak and anyone coming into the facility must wear both eye protection and a mask. There will also be enhanced lab testing and rapid screening used to battle the outbreak. 

Hinshaw said she doesn't know how the outbreak started.

Churchill Manor residents got their vaccinations against COVID-19 on Monday, though Hinshaw said that wouldn't protect those who were already exposed. 

"It will help those at that site to now be building their immunity, and those who haven't been exposed would be expected to have some protection against infection and severe outcomes within the next couple of weeks."

Across the province, there were 402 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed Wednesday. Some 10,400 tests were run with a positivity rate of 3.9 per cent. 

There are active alerts or outbreaks at 227 schools, or 9.3 per cent of the schools in the province. Since Jan. 11 there have been 872 case of COVID-19 diagnosed in schools in the province. 

There are 251 people currently hospitalized with the virus with 48 of them in intensive care. 

On Wednesday, another 12 deaths have been reported to Alberta Health. 

There have been a total of 508 variant cases diagnosed in Alberta, with 16 diagnosed Wednesday.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Jennifer Henderson is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for Great West Newspapers based in St. Albert, Alta.
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