Coronavirus: Variant outbreak declared at Calgary workplace as Alberta reports 432 new variant cases

Coronavirus: Variant outbreak declared at Calgary workplace as Alberta reports 432 new variant cases
Coronavirus: Variant outbreak declared at Calgary workplace as Alberta reports 432 new variant cases

An outbreak of the COVID variant that was first identified in Brazil has been declared at a workplace in the Calgary zone, as variant cases continue to spread in Alberta.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, did not disclose the location of the local workplace outbreak Monday but said it had been linked to five cases of COVID-19, including one confirmed case of the highly contagious P.1 strain. This is one of two concerning outbreaks of the P.1 variant reported by Hinshaw.

Cases of the P.1 strain have also been linked to an outbreak at three PTW Energy Services work sites in Alberta Health Services’ North and Central zones. A traveller returning to Alberta from out of province brought the variant to work and, because employees travel between sites, the outbreak has spread to 26 staff and members of their households. Only three of those cases are confirmed to be the P.1 strain; however, Hinshaw said this is likely to increase as more test results arrive.

“AHS has been working with the operator and cases to ensure anyone at risk of exposure is offered testing and quarantines to limit the spread,” Hinshaw said on her Twitter account Monday.

Workers who may have been exposed at other sites, including work sites in the Calgary zone, are being asked to get tested. No P.1 cases have been connected to these work sites in the Calgary zone to date, according to Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan.

In a statement provided to Postmedia, PTW Energy Services COO Kerri Beuk confirmed the three variant cases were at the Drayton Valley, Edson and Hinton offices.

“Our thoughts are with our employees and their families at this time as our employees isolate and focus on their health and recovery,” the statement reads.

Early research suggests the P.1 variant is up to 2.5 times more transmissible than the currently dominant strain.

Hinshaw thanked Albertans for their patience as Alberta Health looked into the outbreaks. She did not release the locations of either variant outbreak, though an updated list is expected to include those that meet the provincial reporting threshold on Tuesday.

“These investigations are complex and it’s important that we ensure information is accurate and that anyone at risk is directly contacted before sharing details,” she wrote.

“We also must balance the public desire for info with protecting patient confidentiality.”

Alberta reported another 432 variant cases Monday, which brought the number of active variant cases to 4,145 — or 39.2 per cent of the province’s 10,582 total active cases.

In the Calgary zone, there have been 12 total P.1 variant cases detected. There have also been 2,753 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom and 16 cases of the B.1.351 variant discovered in South Africa. Of these cases, 1,879 are active and three people have died.

Forty-four per cent of the province’s variant cases have been detected in the Calgary zone.

“I am concerned about the rising cases, including variants, in our province. Please keep making safe choices and limit in-person interactions whenever possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 provincewide,” said Hinshaw.

Alberta recorded a total 887 cases of COVID-19 on Monday. The cases came from 9,102 completed tests for a test positivity rate of about 9.9 per cent.

There was a spike in hospitalizations and intensive-care unit admissions over the weekend. By Monday, 312 people were receiving care in hospital, including 76 in ICUs. This was up from the 292 in hospital, including 59 in ICU, in the last update Thursday.

Four deaths were reported over the weekend, including a man in his 70s linked to an outbreak at Arbour Lake Retirement Residence in Calgary. Alberta has recorded 1,998 deaths due to COVID-19.

Alberta has administered 707,482 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. There are 116,198 Albertans who have received both their first and second doses.

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