It's up to all Albertans to protect those who are most vulnerable, says Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw – even those with a mild illness who spread it to others could cause "a chain of transmission" that could lead to the death of someone else.
Hinshaw's words came as the province confirmed a man in his 60s who had underlying health conditions has died from COVID-19 – the first virus-related death reported in the province.
The man was admitted to intensive care in the Edmonton zone on March 12, after contracting the virus in the community (as opposed to while travelling). He passed away late yesterday, March 18.
"This is extremely sad news, and all of us involved in Alberta's COVID-19 response feel this very deeply," Hinshaw said, noting the man's family is receiving support from Alberta Health Services.
"As heartbreaking as this is, it was expected. This is a dangerous virus."
New resources about how to practice social distancing have been posted online. Tips include shopping during off-peak hours, wiping down baskets and shopping carts before and after using them, and sanitizing your hands when you get off public transit.
The province confirmed 27 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 146 confirmed cases. Seven people became sick with the virus through community transmission, one is still being confirmed. Two people are receiving treatment in intensive care.
While most people only experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, it can be fatal for seniors and those with underlying health conditions.
"I know this news is frightening, and will add to people's anxiety. We are doing all we can to fight the spread of this virus," Hinshaw said.
"This is why we have taken the extreme measures we have. We will get through this."
Hinshaw urged Albertans to take the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 seriously, which include restrictions on mass gatherings, recreation facilities, and limitations on restaurant capacity.
"Do your best to limit your social interactions, and practice social distancing," she said.
"These measures are hard on all of us. I urge you to take them seriously. We must continue to stand strong together, even from a distance."
As of March 19, more than 17,000 tests have been completed for COVID-19 in the province.
Hinshaw reminded residents to not call 911 with reports of others not following public health guidelines.
"I have been hearing reports of this happening, and we must leave this line open for true emergencies."
On March 17, the government declared a state of public health emergency, empowering authorities under the Public Health Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alberta is the fourth province to record a death from COVID-19, following British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.