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UPDATE: Kearl Lake oilsands outbreak spreads to other provinces

UPDATE: Kearl Lake oilsands outbreak spreads to other provinces

FORT MCMURRAY, ALTA. — Health officials in B.C. and Saskatchewan have issued warnings to travelling workers as cases from a COVID-19 outbreak at the Kearl Lake oilsands facility north of Fort McMurray, Alta. have begun to rise and spread to other provinces. 

During a press conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, confirmed that there are currently 12 cases in Alberta and eight in other provinces related to the work camp outbreak. This has grown from the three confirmed cases at the facility Hinshaw announced on April 15.

“We are working to confirm numbers for the work camp outbreak, as cases diagnosed in other provinces take time to incorporate into our counts,” said Hinshaw.

Interior Health (IH), B.C.’s health care provider in the Southern Interior area, issued a warning to workers travelling from Alberta.

“Many residents in the Interior Health region travel to work camps in Alberta for employment and that there is potential for transmission between communities and between our provinces,” reads a bulletin from IH. “IH medical health officers recommend that people who are contacts or potential contacts from this site self-isolate for 14 days from their last exposure to the site or to their flights home. As well, anyone in the community who experiences signs of illness, such as a fever or dry cough, immediately self-isolate for 14 days.”

In Saskatchewan, the Office​ of the Nor​​thern Medical Health Officers for the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, confirmed there is currently a contact tracing investigation underway after they identified new cases of COVID-19 in the northern part of the province. Linked to travel between north-west Saskatchewan and Alberta, they believe it could relate to the Kearl Lake outbreak. 

“In recognition that there are close connections between communities with regular interprovincial travel for work and other reasons, there is a potential for community transmission with continued non-essential travel between communities across the border,” reads a release from the province. “As such, regional Medical Health Officers are advising against all non-essential travel between north-west Saskatchewan and northern Alberta effective immediately and until further notice.”

The province also recommended that, effective immediately, all northern Saskatchewan residents self-isolate for 14 days upon return from northern Alberta. During that period of self-isolation they should monitor themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19. These include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, chills, diminished sense of smell, body aches, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. They should call HealthLine 811 or their community health centre for evaluation and advice if they develop any of those symptoms.

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