Alberta reports 325 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

An illustration of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Photo by CDC

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Alberta reported 325 new cases of COVID-19 Friday as the NDP Opposition called on the provincial government to re-establish an independent seniors’ advocate with investigative powers.

With seniors in care making up the majority of COVID-19 deaths, NDP seniors and housing critic Lori Sigurdson said the pandemic has shone a light on existing and growing problems in seniors care, but there are few avenues for seniors to turn to for help or to push for reforms.

“Staff are working at multiple sites, which has spread COVID-19 across different facilities. There have been numerous reports of residents not receiving support for bathing, being left in their own waste for extended periods of time, and being socially isolated,” said Sigurdson.

Linda Burns, whose mother-in-law is 96 and lived recently in an independent living facility with dementia, said seniors need help navigating their concerns with the care system.

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“Can you imagine having your meals brought to your room, quickly plopped down in your room to eat by yourself? The utensils are wrapped in plastic that your arthritic hands cannot open? You can’t take the lid off your coffee? And because of your dementia, you cannot find the words or form the sentences to ask for help — how humiliating that must feel?” said Burns.

She added she does not know how a senior is expected to manage in this province without an advocate to help them navigate a complicated system.

Doug Martin, vice-president of the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said the need for an advocate was more important than ever.

The UCP announced it would roll the previous Seniors’ Advocate role into that of the Health Advocate in 2019.

Alberta’s Health Advocate, Janice Harrington, has been silent as the pandemic continues to fail Alberta’s seniors, said Sigurdson.

In a statement, Natalie Tomczak, spokesperson for seniors and housing, said in January 2020 the Office of the Seniors Advocate was combined with the Office of the Health Advocates to address seniors’ concerns more efficiently.

“Alberta seniors, their families and service providers are able to access information and referrals on issues of concern at a centralized organization,” Tomczak said.

She added former NDP leader Brian Mason did not see value in having the extra office. “Mr. Mason didn’t think it was necessary, yet Ms. Sigurdson does.”

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Seniors looking for information, advocacy and referrals are able to call 780-422-1812 or visit albertahealthadvocates.ca.

Across the province, there are currently 4,840 active cases of COVID-19. Nearly 9,400 tests were completed in the last 24 hours for a positivity rate of about 3.6 per cent.

The Edmonton zone, which includes the city of Edmonton and surrounding municipalities, has 1,260 active cases. The city of Edmonton has 1,022 active COVID-19 cases, or 98.5 per 100,000 people.

There are 352 people are hospitalized and of those, 55 are in intensive care units. Seven more deaths raised the provincial death toll to 1,812.

The province identified 14 more cases of COVID-19 variants on Friday, bringing the total to 253. Of those, 246 are of the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the United Kingdom and seven are of the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa.

As of Thursday, 160,423 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and 61,519 Albertans are fully immunized.

With files from Lisa Johnson

ajunker@postmedia.com

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