Outbreak declared at Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital, 26 new coronavirus cases in Saskatchewan

WATCH: Health Minister Jim Reiter and Dr. Saqib Shahab update the coronavirus situation in Saskatchewan.

A coronavirus outbreak has been declared at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, Sask.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says it involves one patient and there is no evidence of transmission within the facility.

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The outbreak was declared as the province reported 26 new coronavirus cases in Saskatchewan on Friday, bringing the overall total to 415.

It’s the largest one-day jump in cases in Saskatchewan since 30 new cases were reported on March 27.

Despite the increase in cases and outbreaks in several areas of the province, Dr. Saqib Shahab said Phase 1 of the Reopen Saskatchewan plan will go ahead on May 4 except in Lloydminster and La Loche.

“We are able to proceed with reopening because things remain quite flat in terms of the curve in most of Saskatchewan,” said the province’s chief medical health officer.

“But, I think we need to obviously pause that in settings where there are outbreaks.”

Shahab said it would be irresponsible not to go ahead with a phased reopening.

“When things are quiet, the curve is flat. It’s not responsible to not reopen activities because that is essential as well.

“You can’t pause things indefinitely either.”

Ten people are in hospital — six in Saskatoon, three who are in intensive care, and four in the north.

Four new cases were reported in the north region, including three in Lloydminster, bringing the total number of cases in the region to 81.

Twenty-three of those cases are active, with 57 recoveries and one death.

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Medical health officer Dr. Khami Chokani declared the outbreak at Victoria Hospital in the north region due to the length of stay the patient had at the hospital without their knowledge of the positive test.

SHA said the patient initially tested negative on April 21 before being transported to hospital for admission for a non-COVID-19 medical need.

The patient was retested on April 29, according to the SHA, and the positive result was reported later that day.

Health officials said staff who were in close contact with the patient are self-isolating and service changes are being made due to the number of staff required to isolate.

One patient has been transferred from intensive care to Saskatoon.

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The emergency department remains open and patients who require medical attention should continue to seek care as usual, the SHA said.

Contact tracing is also underway.

SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said the current outbreak at Lloydminster Hospital in the north region should have been declared earlier.

“The official declaration was made on Monday night, and while we don’t believe there’s any additional risk created for staff or the public because of this delay in the public notification, we do recognize it should have occurred sooner,” Livingstone said.

He believes one issue is that its current outbreak notification process is based on the traditional flu model where public notices are not issued during an outbreak at a long-term care home.

Livingstone said they are working to correct the situation and restore trust in the community.

“We’ve unknowingly and not purposely raised the anxiety in that community and we will do our very, very best in the future for this not to happen again and certainly to rebuild those relationships hopefully in Lloyd.”

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Nineteen of the new cases are in La Loche and the surrounding area.

An outbreak was declared in La Loche on April 17, and a restriction on non-critical travel to northern Saskatchewan was ordered on April 24.

Shahab said they are extremely concerned with the increase in cases, especially in La Loche.

“It is an extremely challenging situation in terms of a rapidly-expanding community outbreak where significant efforts are now being made by local public health with support by the SHA to do active testing, contact tracing and additional measures to reduce the outbreak,” Shahab said.

“It includes limiting interaction between households and limiting unnecessary travel between communities.”

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Officials said they are accelerating staff allocation to the region, and those who have stepped forward will be screened, interviewed, and assessed to ensure they meet requirements for the work before being deployed.

One of the key components of the testing strategy is having the necessary staff in place to match the increased demand from lowering the threshold for testing, officials said.

With the lower threshold, in any household where a case had been identified, the entire household will be tested and given assistance and accommodation, where needed, to help people self-isolate, they added.

​Enhanced testing involves roughly 19 mobile testing teams each comprising of two clinical staff and one local staff memb​​er.

They will go door to door to over 750 households to support active case finding and household screening in La Loche, Clearwater River Dene Nation, Black Point and Garson Lake.

A GeneXpert testing machine has also been deployed in the community to allow for faster testing results.

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Livingstone added that an outbreak is expected to be declared imminently in Beauval, but he said he was unable to provide more details at this time.

“This is a fast-developing situation which we’ve just been alerted to and is continuing to evolve,” Livingstone said during Friday afternoon’s press conference.

Someone at the Beauval General Store tested positive for the coronavirus on April 28.

Anyone who shopped or bought gas there between April 12 and 27 is being asked to self-monitor daily for COVID-19 symptoms.

There are currently 68 active cases in the far north, with eight recoveries and one death.

Three new cases were reported in the Saskatoon region, bringing the overall total to 156.

Of those, 14 are active and two deaths have been reported. There have been 140 recoveries.

No new cases were reported in the Regina, south or central regions.

There have been 297 recoveries in the province since the first coronavirus case was reported on March 11.

Six people have died due to COVID-19.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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