March 28 COVID-19 update:

Pearl Lorentzen

Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake is holding at three, possibly two cases. The interactive map of COVID-19 cases by health region changed on March 28 from three to two cases in Slave Lake. This could mean several things, but not that someone has recovered.

The interactive map on alberta.ca/COVID-19 has a running tally of cases of COVID-19, says John Muir, Alberta Government Communications Director, Communications and Public Engagement. The decrease from two to three could mean: the location was entered incorrectly to begin with, that the person is no longer in that health region, or something else. It does not mean that someone has recover. If one of the people in Slave Lake recovered from COVID-19, this would not change the number.

Across the province, 53 people have recovered from COVID-19, says the March 28 4:30 COVID-19 update from the provincial government. There is no data on which part of the province these people are living.

13 new cases in North zone

The bad news is that both the provincial and the North zone numbers have increased at the largest rate so far.

In Alberta, there are 79 new cases. This is 12 more than the last largest increase. This brings the total to 620.

Of these, 13 are in the North zone, bringing the total up to 43. The next largest day in the North zone was March 19 with seven new cases.

The biggest jump is in Falher, west of High Prairie, which now has five cases. Yesterday, there were none. Keep in mind it takes up to four days for tests to come back, so the cases were probably there, just not confirmed.

There is one new case in High Prairie, bringing the total to five case. Cold Lake, which was the other community in the North zone with its first case on March 16, has one new case.

High Level, one of the northernmost health regions, has its first case. As does Mayerthorpe, on the southern edge of the zone.

Peace River has four more case, making the total eight. This health region is the fastest growing one in the North zone. Its first case was just three days ago. It also has the largest number of cases.

These cases are not all necessarily in the Town of Peace River as the Peace River health region covers a large amount of land. (See chart further down for all North zone numbers).

Mass gatherings and essential businesses

The province has released its list of essential services. This includes local newspapers and radio, hardware stores, pet stores, and many other businesses.

As mentioned in yesterdays updates, Alberta now defines mass gatherings as over 15 people and contact businesses, non-essential retail, and dine-in restaurants are restricted or closed.

Contact businesses includes hair salons, dentists, optometry services, etc. must close.

Non-essential retail includes clothing, computer, gaming stores, etc. must close, but may choose to offer online or curbside pickup.

Restaurants allowed to do take-out and delivery.

“These are aggressive measures and we don’t take them lightly,” says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health in the March 27th release. “We need to do everything we can to flatten the curve and keep people healthy.”

Parks closed to vehicles

On March 27, Alberta Environment and Parks announced, as of March 27 at 1 p.m., vehicles are prohibited from accessing provincial parks parking lots and staging areas. This is the same restrictions which the federal government had placed on national parks. First Nations and registered Métis harvesters, forestry, oil, and gas workers may still access the park with vehicles.

This includes Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park north of Slave Lake. Driving through the park on Highway 88 is still okay. Although, the M.D. of Opportunity has closed the road toward Wabasca to all non-essential traffic.

“We understand the need to get outdoors,” says Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon, in the media release, “but now is not the time to visit our provincial parks and recreation areas without abiding by common-sense public health and safety measures.”

The media release says, “Albertans should choose recreation opportunities close to home, like going for a walk in their neighbourhood, but if they do travel to provincial parks or recreation sites, access is by non-motorized means only.

“Horseback and off-highway vehicle use are still permitted where legal, and users are reminded to practise physical distancing.”

North zone

The Slave Lake region is one of many in Alberta Health Services North zone. 

The North zone covers the top half of Alberta. It includes such communities as Cold Lake, Slave Lake, High Prairie, Grande Prairie, Jasper, Fort McMurray, and all the communities north to territories.

In Alberta, the first confirmed COVID-19 case was on March 6 in Calgary. The second was in Edmonton.

The first two case in the North zone were in Cold Lake and High Prairie 10 days later, on March 16.

North zone COVID-19 cases

(only sub-regions near Slave Lake or with confirmed cases are listed. Data is accurate as of March 28 at 4:30 p.m.)

Health Regionnumber of COVID-19 cases
Peace River (1st Mar. 26, three Mar. 27, four new)8
High Prairie (1st March 16) (one new)6
Slave Lake (1st two & 3rd March 20) 2 (was 3, reason for the change is unclear)
Westlock (1st March 25)1
Wabasca0
Athabasca0
City of Grande Prairie2
Grande Prairie County (1st March 24)1
Barrhead2
Bonnyville (1st March 26)4
Cold Lake (1st March 16) (one new)2
Jasper2
Hinton (1st March 23)1
Fort McMurray 4
Valleyview1
High Level (1st March 28)1
Falher ( 1st five March 28)5
Total North zone43 reported (42 on map)*

*this may be connected with the decrease in Slave Lake from three to two cases. See first paragraphs for information.

Alberta

Since the first COVID-19 case in Alberta there have been 38 hospitalizations, with 12 of these in the ICU.

As of 8:30 p.m. on March 27, 23 of the above number were in the hospital, with 10 of these in ICU. By comparing yesterdays totals with today’s and if none of these patients were sent home, there are currently 27 patients in hospital, 11 of whom are in ICU.

Up to 54 of the 621 cases in Alberta, may be due to community transmission. This is the type of transmission that the health precautions such as social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, washing your hands, and staying at home can prevent.

Alberta is holding at two deaths – one in Calgary and the other in Edmonton.

Quick facts from the Alberta government and Alberta Health Services

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 alberta.ca/COVID19.

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