Novel Coronavirus Update

From Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health:

I am writing to provide an update on novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

We know Albertans are concerned about this new virus. The current risk of exposure in Alberta is still low, however this may increase in the coming weeks. There are two presumptive case of COVID-19 in Alberta at this time. For more information on these cases please see Alberta’s news release.

As this is an evolving situation, further updates can be found at Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services websites:

Our knowledge of COVID-19 continues to grow as new information becomes available, and this new evidence informs adjustments to our public health actions. Alberta and other provinces are providing advice based on the best current evidence and guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Please read the following information for assistance in your planning/response efforts.

What should I do about an upcoming event/conference in my community? Should I cancel?

  • Mass gatherings can contribute to the transmission of respiratory pathogens, such as COVID-19. While currently there are no formal restrictions on mass gatherings, it is important for each community and/or event organizer to undertake a risk assessment to determine what makes sense in terms of moving forward or not.
  • Since mass gathering events are generally unique, the advice varies regarding which measures should be undertaken. Decisions regarding mass gatherings can be considered on a continuum from no changes needed, to enhanced communication to attendees, to risk mitigation strategies being employed without cancelling the event (such as distancing measures and making hand hygiene supplies available), through to postponement or cancellation of the event.
  • Public health authorities and event organizers must work together to assess the situation.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada will be posting a risk assessment tool in the coming days to assist in the decision making process. Alberta Health will link to this tool when available and it will be found here once released.

What guidance can be given in regards to how to plan for a COVID-19 outbreak for my organization?

  • Business continuity planning is vitally important to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption. For COVID-19, Alberta Health has posted resources in the “Information for Employers” section of the website:
  • Field officers from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency are available to support Alberta’s municipalities and First Nations with their emergency management and business continuity planning.

What kind of stockpiling of supplies do I need to do?

  • Similar to the messaging for emergency preparedness, individuals and organizations should prepare to have 72 hours worth of essentials on hand. Hoarding large amounts of supplies not only impacts the larger society by not allowing manufacturers to keep up with demand, but can be expensive and potentially wasteful if products are not used before their shelf life expires.

What does the health system need from communities?

  • The health system needs communities to stay informed about the Alberta situation via the Alberta Health Services or Alberta Health COVID-19 websites.
  • Promote 811 as a source of information and to refer those with health-related concerns.
  • Reference Alberta Labour – “Respiratory Viruses and the Workplace” for workplace guidance.
  • Review existing business continuity plans to assess if disruptions from staff absenteeism have been considered, especially for critical operations.

What can the public do to protect themselves?

  • Wash your hands often and well
  • Cover your cough
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill
  • Individuals with concerns about symptoms should call Health Link (811) unless severely ill in which case they should call 911 and inform the operator that you suspect COVID-19
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