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Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton on March 20, 2020.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

High hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are partly due to recent outbreaks at those facilities, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said as she warned of case numbers spiking in the province’s two largest cities.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said three people have tested positive at a cardiology unit at Edmonton’s Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and another two people have contracted the virus south of the city at the Leduc Community Hospital.

This comes after a second outbreak was declared this month at Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital. Eight patients and two staff were diagnosed with COVID-19.

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The Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary also has been dealing with outbreaks on a number of units. Ten people have died.

“As our community transmission goes up, so too does the risk of introducing the virus into our acute care and continuing care facilities where our most vulnerable community members are,” Hinshaw said during her COVID-19 briefing Friday.

Alberta reported 332 new cases provincewide Friday, and no new deaths. The province has confirmed 21,775 cases since the pandemic began in March, 2,836 of which are active. There are currently 117 people in hospital, 11 of them in intensive care.

The total number of deaths remains at 288.

Hinshaw said the rise in COVID-19 numbers in the Edmonton zone continues to be a concern, accounting for 54 per cent of active cases in Alberta.

She said it was too early to tell if requests by health officials last week for people in the Edmonton zone to limit their contacts and wear masks more often have made a difference.

Hinshaw said it could take two weeks to see if those measures would affect case numbers.

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“However, this weekend I am asking everyone in the Edmonton zone to continue following these voluntary measures to the best of their ability,” she said.

Also Friday, Calgary was put on the COVID-19 watch list with 686 active cases, which is 50.9 per 100,000 people.

“We have recently seen several outbreaks in that city linked to social gatherings, and this is yet another reminder that no region is immune from this virus, and that one case can quickly lead to many if restrictions are not followed,” she said.

“At this time, I am not recommending any additional measures for Calgary, but we are working with local partners to monitor the situation closely.”

Hinshaw also urged Albertans to get the flu shot to limit emergency visits and hospitalizations.

“The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs,” she said.

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“It is vital that we all protect ourselves from influenza.”

About 8,500 Albertans contracted the flu last winter, she said, and 41 people died.

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