Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of health is urging protesters who were at recent anti-racism rallies to get tested for COVID-19 even if they don’t have symptoms.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw says while case numbers and hospitalizations remain low, the province can’t risk complacency allowing the infection rate to rise again.
“I want to commend all those who wore masks and stayed two metres away from others while showing up to rally in support of this cause,” Dr. Hinshaw told reporters on Monday.
“The freedom to protest is a critical one and yet we face a challenge in this time of pandemic to do so without risking superspreader events.”
About 10,000 people took to the streets in Edmonton on Friday as part of anti-racism rallies around the world decrying police actions in the death of George Floyd in the United States.
There have also been numerous rallies and marches in Calgary.
Dr. Hinshaw said she is also reaching out to rally organizers to find ways to boost health safety measures at future events.
While there have been pockets of outbreaks, she said, Alberta continues overall to flatten the curve on the pandemic, and an announcement on further steps to reopen the economy is to come later this week.
Last month, restaurants, retailers, daycares, farmers markets, barber shops and hair salons were allowed to reopen under health restrictions. More businesses, including movie theatres and spas, are slated to reopen June 19.
“Our rates of hospitalization and other metrics remain stable, and our daily cases, while fluctuating somewhat, are not currently showing a large spike,” Dr. Hinshaw said.
She said she has also given the green light to Alberta’s National Hockey League teams, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, to resume practices under health restrictions.
Close to 6,700 people have recovered from COVID-19, with 355 cases still active.
There are 44 people hospitalized with the infection and, of those, six are in intensive care.
There have been three new deaths, bringing that total to 149.
Alberta has begun testing not only those with symptoms, but those who are not showing any indication of COVID-19 in order to prevent future outbreaks.
Dr. Hinshaw said there have been close to 15,000 tests on asymptomatic people, yielding just six positive cases.
Overall, Alberta has conducted more than 300,000 tests.
Also Monday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that the government will continue to allow doctors to bill to treat patients by phone or online even after the pandemic ends.
“We’ve seen a great uptake in virtual visits,” Mr. Shandro said.
“We are making these (billing) codes permanent.”
The codes allow for virtual consultations, patient visits and mental health services.