Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw provided an update on COVID-19 and the ongoing work to protect public health from Edmonton on June 25, 2020. (Government of Alberta)

Alberta's top doctor expressed concern about the COVID-19 spike in Edmonton as she reported 578 new cases and eight deaths Monday.

After more than 45,000 tests, Alberta Health Services added 97 cases of the coronavirus on Friday, 263 on Saturday and 218 on Sunday.

There are 1,783 confirmed active cases across the province — Alberta's highest active case count since May 8.

EDMONTON INCREASE 'CONCERNING'

The Edmonton zone has more than half of Alberta's active count, with 894 cases in the city of Edmonton.

"The large number of cases identified over the weekend in Edmonton is concerning," Hinshaw said. "We're taking this increase seriously and looking closely at what causes are driving this increase that we are seeing."

"This is an important juncture. If together we cannot control the spread, we may be forced to consider additional, more restrictive measures."

Hinshaw did not elaborate on what those particular restrictions would be, but that city and health officials are now having those discussions.

She also expects cases to continue to grow in Edmonton in the next one to two weeks even if restrictions came into place right now.

"Which is a product of past transmission, and so we're looking at those transmission patterns to help us understand what would be most effective and if there other changes that we need to make to our framework to prevent Edmonton from continuing to have increase in numbers of new cases," Hinshaw said.

Six of the eight latest deaths were reported in the Edmonton zone, including two at Shepherd's Care Centre and two at Extendicare Eaux Claires. The other two deaths are linked to the outbreak at the Foothills Medical centre in Calgary.

There are 62 Albertans in hospital, including 14 in ICU.

Alberta has reported 18,935 cases and 280 deaths since March.

AN 'ALARMING TREND'

The chief medical officer of health continued to reiterate the importance of staying home when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms as Thanksgiving nears.

Alberta Health recently released guidelines on how to celebrate the holiday as safely as possible during the pandemic, including keeping gatherings small and eating outside weather permitting.

"This is not a normal Thanksgiving," Hinshaw said. "The greatest tragedy would be to have Thanksgiving dinner turn into an opportunity for COVID to spread to our loved ones, potentially with severe consequences."

Hinshaw said health officials have discovered an "alarming trend" where 11 per cent of current active cases went to work or social events when they had symptoms and were waiting for their test results.

"This is a significant risk and is one of the factors causing our case numbers to rise. I want to be clear: if you are sick, you need to stay home. If you are sick, you should not go to social gatherings of any kind. This includes the upcoming thanksgiving weekend."