By Kalinowski, Tim on March 12, 2020.
Local institutions are making preparations for any potential cases of COVID-19 in Lethbridge.
While no cases have yet been discovered in the Lethbridge region, Alberta as a whole, as of Wednesday, had 19 cases, five new over what was reported on Tuesday. All new cases were travel related.
Anyone in the region who has returned from Italy or Iran in the past few weeks is being asked to self-isolate for 14 days from the day of their last day in those countries.
Locally, the University of Lethbridge said it was preparing for all eventualities should a COVID-19 case appear on campus, but would hold a media availability today.
The U of L said in an update to staff, faculty and students on Wednesday night that the Campus Safety Office has engaged all areas of campus through its emergency response plan.
“We urge our faculty, staff and students to remain calm, rely on factual information from Alberta Health Services and Campus Safety and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of the illness. Keep in mind that while COVID-19 can cause serious illness, many patients have only mild symptoms. Frequent and thorough handwashing and contact/droplet precautions are the best protection against respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19,” the U of L said in the statement.
Caretaking Services continues to clean diligently, filling and refilling sanitizer stations throughout the university and is well stocked in supplies going forward.
“To try to contain the spread of illness, AHS advises that if you have symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing and have travelled outside Canada or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, stay home and call Health Link 811,” the update continues. “If you are not seriously ill, do not go to the University Health Centre, a physician’s office, a health-care facility or a lab without consulting with Health Link 811 first. Call 911 if you are seriously ill and need immediate medical attention and inform them that you may have COVID-19.
“The University has expanded its non-recommended travel advisory to include 10 countries. The U of L strongly recommends that employees and students avoid all non-essential university travel, specifically to China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.”
As well, the University requires all travellers returning to Canada from any of the above-mentioned countries to self-isolate for a period of 14 days before returning to campus.
Lethbridge College is also preparing plans for any potential COVID-19 cases on campus.
“Lethbridge College is actively monitoring all of the latest information on COVID-1,” a statement released by the college explains. “The health and safety of our campus community is our top concern. We are following the recommendations of provincial and federal public health agencies. We are also reviewing our institutional pandemic plan to ensure business continuity as this global health emergency continues to develop. At this time, all classes and events are continuing as scheduled.
“Lethbridge College has increased the frequency of cleaning of high-traffic areas and has installed extra hand sanitizer stations throughout campus. We encourage everyone in our community to continue to help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 by following prevention techniques advised by Alberta Health Services.”
Mayor Chris Spearman acknowledged the community’s rising concern during Monday’s city council meeting, and said the City of Lethbridge is taking its cues from Alberta Health Services on its response to any future potential cases in Lethbridge.
“Alberta’s public health officials are carefully monitoring the situation in Canada, China and around the world, and are ready to respond,” said Spearman. “They are working closely with federal, provincial and territorially partners to share information and assess potential risks, ensuring our health system is ready to respond effectively if needed. And ensuring our frontline health professionals have information about the virus. At the City of Lethbridge we rely on our provincial and federal health partners to provide information as things progress, and to help residents to keep updated on the virus.”
Residents can find up-to-date information on COVID-19 by going to alberta.ca/coronavirus or lethbridge.ca/covid19.”
Those who feel they may be experiencing systems of COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate and contact HealthLink at 811 to arrange for home testing, and not to come into a health centre or public clinic.