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Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health says ballooning COVID-19 numbers in the province are worrying and should serve as a wake-up call for those who are no longer practising physical distancing.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday there are 114 new cases in the province and 106 people are in hospital.

That’s the largest number of people in hospital since April 30.

“This needs to be a wake up call,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “I am very concerned by these numbers.”

Dr. Hinshaw said 21 of the hospitalized patients are in intensive care.

Another two people have died, bringing that total to 176 in Alberta since the pandemic began.

She said she understands many Albertans are suffering from COVID-19 fatigue and might believe that they no longer need to worry about its spread.

“After several months of not catching the virus it is easy to say that you feel fine, so why wash your hands? Why stay two metres apart in public? Why avoid sharing food at a barbecue?” Dr. Hinshaw asked.

“We’re all still at risk of catching the infection and passing the virus to others.”

Dr. Hinshaw said parents should include a cloth reusable mask on their back-to-school lists for fall. But she isn’t advocating making masks at school mandatory at this point until more evidence is in.

“We know for example that young people may feel that wearing a mask is uncomfortable and they may be likely to touch their face or fiddle with their mask during the day,” she said.

“I don’t know if we have enough evidence yet to understand how young children will potentially react to wearing masks.”

Dr. Hinshaw said the same logic applies when it comes to making masks mandatory across the province since some areas may be at a higher risk than others.

She said it’s also important not to focus entirely on mask wearing as a way of preventing COVID-19.

“We could distract from all of the other measures that are critically important and there is some evidence to suggest that for example, consistent physical distancing, when that’s achieved, is more effective than masking,” she said.

“We need to make sure we’re assessing the evidence.”