COVID-19 outbreak connected to southern Alberta church hits 37 cases

CALGARY — Health officials say an outbreak connected to a church community in southern Alberta has reached 37 cases, but they are working with leaders to contain the spread.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, confirmed during Thursday’s COVID-19 update that the outbreak involved the Good News Centre in Coalhurst, Alta.

She says, as with all recent outbreaks involving faith groups, the close interaction between church leaders and health officials has been a “critical success factor.”

“We do know that worshiping and gathering and faith communities can potentially be a risk factor if all of our guidance isn’t followed. And so we have had several meetings with faith leaders in our province and I really appreciate all of the (safety) measures that leaders across this province have taken.”

While worship services have been allowed to take place in Alberta without maximum restrictions since June, Hinshaw says outbreaks are still likely to happen from time to time.

“Each one is concerning and does get that follow up but again it’s an opportunity to highlight how leaders of faith communities have really stepped up to the challenge and kept their community safe. And that is something that I would encourage them to continue to do because again this is something that can only be prevented by our collective action.”

The outbreak was first declared on Oct. 4.

Alberta recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 infections Thursday, when 364 new cases of the illness were confirmed over the past 24 hours.

No new deaths were reported, but Alberta Health did acknowledge the two deaths connected to the Foothills Medical Centre reported by Alberta Health Services on Wednesday.

There are 2,097 active cases of coronavirus in Alberta, with more than half of those reported in the Edmonton zone.

The Calgary zone has 604 active cases while the South zone, where the church outbreak is located, has 92 active cases.

Coalhurst is located approximately two hours southeast of Calgary.

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