COVID-19: 1st outbreak involving variant of concern reported at Calgary hospital

The first outbreak involving a COVID-19 variant of concern in a Calgary hospital has been reported at the Rockyview General Hospital.

According to Alberta Health, the outbreak was declared on April 9 on a COVID-19 unit at the hospital, and as of April 13, four health-care workers had tested positive for the virus, with one case confirmed to be a variant. Alberta Health did not say which variant the staff member had.

Read more: COVID-19 variants reducing hospital capacity, increasing ER wait times: Alberta doctor

According to associate Calgary zone medical director Dr. Peter Jamieson, no patients have contracted the variant linked to the outbreak.

Officials have ramped up testing, and roughly 250 staff members have been swabbed as a precautionary measure, Jamieson said.

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Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary. Global News

Jamieson could not say whether the four health-care workers were vaccinated, but said because they work on the COVID ward, they would have been eligible for immunization. However, Alberta Health Services doesn’t have a mandatory vaccination policy for its staff.

Read more: Alberta shuts down indoor dining, group fitness amid surging 3rd wave COVID-19, variant cases

Jamieson couldn’t say whether the health-care workers contracted the virus from a patient on the ward or from the community.

Since variant cases have been on the rise in the province, Jamieson said safety precautions have been increased in clinical settings to keep staff and patients safe.

“We have stepped up our testing, we have new protocols for when we isolate — particularly the variants of concern where we think there’s a higher risk of infectivity — so our emergency protocols are as rigorous or more rigorous than ever,” he said.

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“If you’re in the clinical environment, you need to wear continuous masking, continuous eyewear. If you have contact with the contact and droplet precaution environment, then you change all of your PPE.”

Jamieson said existing patients are also screened several times daily, and staff are also asked to screen themselves regularly.

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This is the first hospital outbreak in the Calgary zone in several weeks and is the only active outbreak in the region as of April 13.

Earlier this month, an outbreak involving a variant of concern was reported at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton.

COVID-19 hospitalizations topped 400 on Tuesday, with 88 people being treated in ICUs. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw advised Tuesday that if hospitalizations continue to increase, further restrictions could be introduced to bring numbers under control.

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— With files from Lauren Pullen, Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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