A daycare centre in downtown Calgary has been closed after a child tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as Canada saw its first cases of children being hit by COVID-19.
The child attends the Pump-kin Patch Child Care Centre, a daycare located in Suncor Energy Inc.’s head office. Children who attend the daycare, their parents and the daycare staff have all been advised to go into self-isolation for two weeks.
Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, said the child recently returned from a family vacation to Florida and attended the daycare last week. The child is at home and expected to make a full recovery.
"As a mother myself, I know that a child contracting COVID-19 may be upsetting for some people,” she said. “I want to assure all parents that cases of COVID-19 in children are typically mild. Despite that, we need to take the same measures for children that we take for any case.”
The child was among four new cases announced Thursday in Alberta, bringing the province’s total number of infections to 23.
Ontario also announced a case involving a baby boy, as the total number of confirmed infections in that province climbed to 59.
The Calgary daycare facility in the Suncor building is licensed for 98 children, from infants to six-year-olds, according to its website. It was not immediately known how many children attend the daycare, which is operated by a third party.
Erin Rees, spokeswoman for Suncor, said the company is making arrangements for affected employees to work from home.
Dr. Hinshaw said parents should be talking to their children about the virus in a factual, age-appropriate way.
“I know these conversations can seem daunting to many parents,” she said. “It is important to remember that children look to adults for guidance during new or stressful events.”
While children are known to transmit the virus, their risk of serious illness or death is low. Data to date indicate the fatality rate for children up to the age of nine is 0 per cent. For those between ages 10 and 19, the rate is 0.2 per cent.
A report by the World Health Organization from February found that, of some 75,000 cases studied up until that point, 2.4 per cent were people younger than the age of 18.
“From available data ... it is not possible to determine the extent of infection among children, what role children play in transmission, whether children are less susceptible or if they present differently clinically,” the report said.
However, the WHO notes children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community.
Dr. Hinshaw announced a series of “aggressive” measures in Alberta designed to contain the coronavirus outbreak, including banning public gatherings of more than 250 people. She also advised Albertans to not travel outside the country.
Dr. Hinshaw said her office has not yet decided whether to follow Ontario’s lead and close the province’s schools, but she said health officials are weighing that option.
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