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The Carewest Glenmore Park senior's home in Calgary, Alta., is seen on April 1, 2020, amid a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. A staff member from Carewest Glenmore Park has tested positive for COVID-19.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta’s senior care homes are of increasing concern, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said, after Calgary’s McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre reported that 30 per cent of its 139 residents have been infected.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there have also been “outbreaks” at other seniors’ homes in the province: one confirmed case at the Father Lacombe Care Centre in Calgary, one case at Carewest Glenmore Park in Calgary, and four cases at Shepherd’s Care Kensington in Edmonton.

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“At this moment, my greatest concern is about the health and safety of those in continuing care and other congregate settings,” Dr. Hinshaw told reporters on Wednesday.

Older people are the cohort most at risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection. Lodges and long-term care facilities where there are often communal eating and gathering spaces, and sometimes tight quarters, are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks.

Alberta’s count of COVID-19 cases is now approaching 900, with 11 official deaths recorded. One of the two new deaths reported by the province on Wednesday was a man in his 80s from Carewest Glenmore Park. Four residents have died from COVID-19 at the McKenzie Towne facility in Calgary’s south, Revera Inc. spokesman Larry Roberts said Wednesday evening.

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There are 43 residents at McKenzie Towne who have COVID-19 and two of them are in hospital, Mr. Roberts said. (That figure of 43 affected residents is even higher than the 35 cases at the facility reported by Alberta health officials Wednesday, likely because of a lag in the provincewide reporting system.)

Mr. Roberts said 23 staff members also tested positive for the virus.

“The team at McKenzie Towne works very closely, on a daily basis, with our partners at Alberta Health Services, and have been doing so since the beginning of the outbreak,” Mr. Roberts said.

“We greatly appreciate the clinical and nursing resources that AHS is providing to McKenzie Towne."

AHS is working closely at each site to do everything possible to protect residents, while also ensuring they get the daily care they need, Dr. Hinshaw said in her briefing with reporters.

She added that Shepherd’s Care and Carewest Glenmore Park have had no new cases for many days.

“Strict infection-prevention protocols have been implemented at each site to stop the spread,” Dr. Hinshaw said, noting the new protocols include enhanced cleaning and the daily screening of staff.

Still, she said she remains concerned about the situation at continuing-care facilities, and will release new steps to protect the residents in the days ahead.

Dr. Hinshaw also said she doesn’t know the details of the timeline at the McKenzie Towne facility, but local health officials working on the ground told her the reporting of the illnesses at the facility “happened later than they would have wished.”

She added any facility that’s able to identify an individual who has symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19, and have them isolated and tested early on, is less likely to see a large outbreak that will affect staffing. “What’s really important to focus on is the go-forward, and the lessons that we can learn from this.”

Dr. Hinshaw was also asked by reporters whether families should bring relatives in continuing-care facilities home.

“That’s really an individual decision, because we know that the people who are in long-term care often have very complex care needs," she said.

With a report from James Keller in Calgary

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