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

Alberta’s top doctor says an Edmonton sports facility is being set up as an alternate hospital with help from the Canadian Red Cross.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Alberta Health Services and the national charity are putting 100 patient beds in the Butterdome multi-purpose arena at the University of Alberta.

“It will take a few weeks to set up the care centre,” Hinshaw told a news briefing on Wednesday.

“There is no plan to staff these beds unless they are needed,” she added. “This is a purely precautionary measure for use if needed in the future.”

Another alternate hospital site was previously set up at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Centre to help with a spike in COVID-19 cases, but it has not been used.

The province reported 1,270 new infections of COVID-19 on Wednesday, one of its lowest daily counts in more than two weeks, and 16 additional deaths.

However, the province continued to lead the country with its daily infection rate of 258 people per 100,000 population.

Alberta Health said 749 people were in hospital with COVID-19, and 139 of those were in intensive care.

The province began giving doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 to health-care workers on Tuesday.

Hinshaw said she understands a new vaccine can cause anxiety and questions.

“Canada has one of the most robust regulatory systems for new vaccines in the world. Health Canada moved quickly thorough the approval process but no steps were skipped,” she said.

“I believe the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risks and this vaccine will save lives. When it is your turn, please get immunized.”

Hinshaw also directed another plea to people between 20 and 39. She said young adults are not the only reason behind the recent rise in infections in Alberta, but they need to know they are at risk.

She said more than 32,000 Albertans in that age group have contracted the virus, resulting in 380 hospitalizations and eight deaths.

“To put this in perspective, if you gathered every Albertan between the ages of 20 and 39 who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they would fill the Saddledome in Calgary, the Centrium in Red Deer and the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge,” Hinshaw said.

“This virus does not discriminate.”

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