By Tim Kalinowski
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
With a worrying spike in COVID-19 cases in the County of Warner in recent days, which many public reports now link to local Hutterite colonies, Alberta Health says it cannot confirm the source of the cases, but it is monitoring the situation carefully.
“Our process from day one of COVID-19 is we’re not releasing specifics about individual cases in order to protect patient confidentiality,” states Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan. “The recent cases that have been identified in the county; they are all linked to known sources, and stem largely from a small number of gatherings involving large families or social groups. Alberta Health Services is obviously watching this very closely. Health officials are in contact with all those individuals who are impacted to make sure they limit the spread and protect the public health.”
These measures include contact tracing, and testing of anyone who might be at risk of being exposed, says McMillan. He also reminds local residents that anyone who may be concerned they have been exposed to COVID-19 can access free testing even if not contacted by AHS.
McMillan says AHS believes there is no great risk to the general public despite the recent increase in cases in the County of Warner.
“However,” he adds, “COVID-19 is still in our province, and we continue to recommend everyone follow all the public health measures we have previously recommended, including wearing a mask in crowded spaces, washing your hands frequently, physically distancing whenever possible, and staying home when sick.”
When individuals become infected with the coranavirus in a large community group like a Hutterite colony, McMillan says Alberta Health Services uses the same procedures it uses in any community where cases exist.
“The few colonies with individual cases we have identified in Alberta are working closely with health officials,” he confirms.
“Any sort of time there is a case, it all depends on the unique circumstances and the exposure. Health officials work with the individual and anyone they may have come into contact with to determine who would have been exposed during that time. In some cases it can be a large number of people, but often (the exposure) is quite small.”
As of July 7 there were 41 active cases in the County of Warner after the number had ballooned to 39 on July 3. Cardston County has three active cases out of 42 in total, while the M.D. of Taber has 12 cases, including nine active.