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Alberta sets records for active, new COVID-19 cases as MLA tests positive

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2020-10-22 Jason Herring
a person riding a snow board on a city street: A masked pedestrian walks in downtown Calgary on a snowy morning on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. © Provided by Calgary Herald A masked pedestrian walks in downtown Calgary on a snowy morning on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

A record number of new COVID-19 infections in Alberta on Wednesday has made its way to the provincial government.

Among the recent surge of Albertans who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus is Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, the UCP MLA for Grande Prairie.

The province announced Allard’s positive test Wednesday afternoon , the first among members of the Alberta legislature. Premier Jason Kenney as well as MLAs Peter Guthrie, Ric McIver, Nathan Neudorff and Angela Pitt were all close contacts of Allard and have begun self-isolating.

“The Premier immediately entered self-isolation upon being notified of Minister Allard’s positive test, as he is a close contact of Minister Allard’s,” Kenney’s deputy press secretary Harrison Fleming said in a statement.

“Despite not showing any symptoms, the Premier is currently being tested out of an abundance of caution.”

Fleming confirmed late Wednesday that Kenney had tested negative for COVID-19, adding the premier would continue to self-isolate in accordance with public-health recommendations.

Kenney, Guthrie, McIver and Pitt all attended a media event Thursday in Airdrie alongside Allard. Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown was also in attendance.

An Airdrie spokesperson confirmed Brown was self-isolating pending a COVID-19 test result, per Alberta Health Services instructions. Other members of Airdrie’s city council had varying levels of contact with Allard and were following AHS instruction.

Allard began isolating over the weekend, after learning one of her close contacts had tested positive for COVID-19.

She has not appeared in the legislature since then, but Kenney and the other MLAs now isolating were present during Wednesday’s session. It is not yet clear what effect the positive case will have on the fall sitting of legislature, which began Tuesday. None of Allard’s close contacts have reported coronavirus symptoms.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s office said Allard last met with Nenshi two weeks ago. Nenshi has not reported any COVID-19 symptoms.

a person wearing sunglasses posing for the camera:  Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard speaks during a celebration for a Habitat for Humanity project on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Allard has tested positive for COVID-19. © Peter Shokeir Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard speaks during a celebration for a Habitat for Humanity project on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Allard has tested positive for COVID-19.

Kenney and federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole were criticized on social media over the weekend after they appeared side by side without masks during a livestreamed United Conservative Party general meeting.

O’Toole tested positive for the novel coronavirus last month and has since recovered.

The news came as Alberta reported a record 406 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday from just under 15,000 tests — a 2.7 per cent positive rate, the highest recorded in Alberta since the beginning of May.

The 406 new cases mark the first time Alberta has exceeded 400 infections in a single day. It continues an acceleration in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alberta that began in early October, signalling a second wave of the virus.

On Tuesday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned Alberta was entering the “danger zone” with new cases continuing to tick upward.

“What we know from looking around at other jurisdictions is that when COVID-19 starts to spread widely, it can very quickly escalate,” Hinshaw said. “Right now, we are in a danger zone where the coming weeks will really tell that story about whether we are able collectively to bend that curve.”

The messaging stands in stark contrast with recent comments from Kenney, who has stressed the importance of Albertans continuing to adhere to public-health guidelines and urged a “responsible use of freedom” to prevent a second economic shutdown .

For a third-straight day Wednesday, Alberta hit a new high for active COVID-19 cases, jumping to 3,372 infections from 3,203 Tuesday. Before this week, Alberta had not exceeded 3,000 active cases since April 30.

More than one-third of active infections (35 per cent) are in the AHS Calgary zone, while just under half are in the Edmonton zone. The two urban centres continued to drive COVID-19 growth Wednesday, accounting for 367 of the 406 new cases.

Hinshaw has said some growth in the cities is the result of outbreaks linked to social gatherings, including a Calgary wedding now linked to at least 49 cases .

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson tweeted Wednesday that the COVID-19 reproduction value in the city is now above 1.4, meaning every person in Calgary who is infected with the coronavirus is expected to spread it to 1.4 people.

Alberta also reported three additional COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, bringing the province’s toll to 296. One death was of a woman in her 70s who was a resident of the Carewest George Boyack long-term care site in Calgary; a man in his 60s and a man in his 70s, both from the Edmonton zone, also died.

Total hospitalizations in Alberta dropped slightly Wednesday despite the surge in cases. There are now 113 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 16 of whom are receiving treatment in intensive-care units.

Hospitalizations are considered to be a “trailing indicator” for the coronavirus, meaning trends seen in case numbers typically are not reflected in hospital or ICU admissions for about two weeks.

Alberta has 70 ICU beds designated for COVID-19 patients. Additional measures for the province could be introduced if Alberta sees compounded daily hospitalization rates rise by five per cent or more over a two-week period. That increase is currently 3.1 per cent, Hinshaw said Tuesday.

In a statement Wednesday evening, NDP Leader Rachel Notley wished Allard a quick recovery and shared hopes that all her close contacts test negative for COVID-19.

“We also recognize the Legislative Assembly plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of Albertans through this pandemic as well as in promoting an economic recovery for the future,” Notley said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Twitter: @jasonfherring


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