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At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

Under provincial COVID-19 restrictions, a maximum of 100 people can attend outdoor and indoor seated events
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP

CALGARY — Forty-nine active COVID-19 cases have been linked to a wedding in Calgary earlier this month, as Alberta's top doctor warned the province is in the "danger zone." 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, said 63 people attended the celebration, which was partly indoors. 

"I think it's really important to make sure that we're not singling this particular event out as an outlier, because it's simply an example of a kind of activity that we know causes spread if an infectious person shows up," she said during Tuesday's COVID-19 media briefing.

She said a common thread between the wedding outbreak and other recent ones is that one or two protective measures — whether that be hand sanitizer, masks or physical distancing — likely slipped. 

"The people that were involved did nothing intentionally wrong," said Hinshaw. "They were doing their best to follow guidance and it just reinforces that everyone that attends one of these events needs to think about all those layers of protection." 

Under provincial COVID-19 restrictions, a maximum of 100 people can attend outdoor and indoor seated events, such as wedding ceremonies, funeral services, movie theatres, indoor arts and culture performances. 

Alberta reported 323 new COVID-19 cases over the past day and one additional death, bringing the province's total fatalities to 293.

There are 116 people in hospital, including 16 in intensive care. 

The Alberta government has said its health-care system can manage as long as no more than half of its intensive care beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are full and its daily compounded hospitalization rate stays below five per cent. 

Hinshaw said 23 per cent of its COVID-19 ICU beds are being used and that its daily compounded hospitalization rate is 3.1 per cent. 

"I would say we're in a danger zone where the coming weeks will really tell that story about whether we are able collectively to bend that curve downwards," she said. 

"We're not yet at that point where our system is not able to cope, but we are getting closer." 

Hinshaw said public health officials need to balance the benefits of further mandatory shutdowns against the risks. 

"We know that restrictions have an impact on other aspects of people's health," she said. 

"We're trying to give Albertans every opportunity to work with us in this voluntary way before we put in place those mandatory measures — if we need to do that, based on that impact on our acute care system."

Also Tuesday, Hinshaw said Alberta is further restricting asymptomatic testing to people who have come into contact with a known case or are linked to an outbreak. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press