Premier Jason Kenney asked Edmontonians and Calgarians to stop having get-togethers at home after Alberta Health counted more than 1,400 COVID-19 cases in two days.

Kenney joined Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw in Friday’s COVID-19 update and lamented the voluntary guidelines for the two cities nearly two weeks ago were not enough to bend the coronavirus curve.

A ‘STRONG REQUEST’

He said 40 per cent of cases in Edmonton and Calgary, each with more than 2,500 infections at last count, were transmitted in households and get-togethers.

“Now is just not the time to hold parties or large extended family dinners. Until cases slow, we must press pause on hosting any gatherings involving people outside your core family or immediate household,” Kenney said after he announced 802 cases for Wednesday and 609 for Thursday.

“This is a strong request that Albertans in Edmonton and Calgary stop holding social gatherings at their homes, that they just keep to their family core group at home — period. We’re not going to be sending out police to monitor this.”

GUIDELINES IN OTHER MUNICIPALITIES

In addition, officials are introducing mandatory restrictions and voluntary guidelines for areas under Alberta’s watch category.

Albertans in these communities can't have gatherings with more than 15 people and are encouraged to have no more than three cohorts and wear masks in indoor work settings.

Kenney said people in Edmonton and Calgary were moving their social events to smaller communities to get around the COVID-19 rules, but now cases are surging there too — especially in municipalities just outside the two big cities.

“Both Calgary and Edmonton continue to see rise in cases and other parts of the province as well,” Hinshaw said.

CONTACT TRACING

A day after Hinshaw announced Alberta Health Services would shift its approach to only trace contacts for people connected to high-priority settings such as continuing care homes and schools, Kenney said his government would prioritize the hire of nearly 400 new contact tracers as soon as possible.

Kenney also encouraged Albertans to download the ABTraceTogether app and explained why the province would not adopt the Ottawa’s app.

“ABTraceTogether is also directly integrated into Alberta’s contact tracing system, unlike the federal app, making it a much more federal tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“ABTraceTogether is, from our view, simply a better and more effective public health tool.”

TECHNICAL TROUBLES

Alberta Health conducted routine maintenance on its website last weekend, but data problems persisted this week when numbers were delayed on Wednesday and not fully reported on Thursday.

“The challenge we are experiencing seems to be in the data pipeline that connects our analytics infrastructure to the frontline lab and data systems in Alberta Health Services,” Hinshaw explained.

“The frontline systems are all working well so there is no risk that cases are not being identified or notified right now. We are able to get the high level case numbers from these frontline data systems but we need to fix that data pipeline to be able to get all the details into our analytics systems to be able to produce our dashboards.”

She says more than 20 people are working on it and will fully update the website on Monday.

Dr. Hinshaw reported nine deaths Friday and said there are 171 Albertans with COVID-19 in hospital.

“The bottom line is this: We must all do our part,” Kenney said. “Our collective action is crucial to limiting the spread of the virus, and keeping our schools and our economies safe and open.”

Alberta Health will begin to report COVID-19 data every day starting this weekend.