The Province has put additional protective measures in place as they work to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says effective immediately, all large events and mass gatherings should be cancelled.

"COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving global threat, it's more severe than seasonal influenza, and more contagious than viruses like SARS. There's a window of opportunity for Alberta to slow the spread of the virus, and thereby protect the health of Albertans. Other countries who have faced this crisis have proven that immediate public measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and protect public health." Hinshaw explains "These are extraordinary circumstances, and our public health response must rise to the challenge we face. That is why, effective immediately, the emergency management cabinet committee has approved my recommendation that all large gatherings of over 250 people or international events in the province are to be cancelled."

A mass gathering is being defined as any gathering of more than 250 people and include sporting events, conferences and community events, but do not apply to places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres.

Hinshaw says any gatherings that have less than 250 people but still include international participation or that involve vulnerable people should also be cancelled.

"Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations should also be cancelled. Events that do not meet these criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation must be in place such as sanitizer stations and proper distancing between attendees."

Currently, day cares and schools are not being forced to close, but preemptive steps such as monitoring temperatures, hand washing before entry and increased sanitation protocols are being recommended.

Four new cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed in the Province as of Thursday, March 12, all located in the Calgary Zone which brings the provincial total to 23 cases.

Hinshaw says all cases are travel related but one does involve a young child.

"The cases involve a range of ages and individuals who recently returned from traveling in Jordan, Egypt, France, Germany and the United States - more specifically Florida. One of the cases is in a young child who is now recovering at home."

The child in question was on a family vacation in Florida and started to display symptoms once they arrived home in Calgary, their test was confirmed on Wednesday, March 11.

Hinshaw says the child did attend day care while displaying symptoms, but is now in isolation and is recovering well at home.

"As soon as the case tested positive, health officials took immediate action to protect the health of this child and other Albertans. On the advice of Alberta Health Services, the day care has temporarily closed to limit exposure to the virus. All close contacts and those who were put at risk have been contacted by AHS."

Those in close contact are in self-isolation and are being monitored, the child is expected to make a full recovery.

As a mother, Hinshaw says news of a child contracting the virus is upsetting but enforces why those symptomatic with any cold, flu or COVID like symptoms, need to stay home.

"Children are a vulnerable group and when they get sick, it can hit close to home. I want to assure all parents that cases of COVID-19 in children are typically very mild." She adds "despite that we need to take the same measures with children, that we take with any other case, isolate those who are ill, find close contacts and ask them to stay home for fourteen days while monitoring their symptoms."

Once again, Hinshaw urges anyone who feels sick and is experiencing a fever or cough to practice good hygiene, and to avoid places of work, hospitals, doctors' offices, long term care facilities and to call Health Link.

She also advises parents to talk to their children and educate them with facts about the virus. 

The provincial information page is being updated twice daily and can be found here, while AHS also has a coronavirus dedicated web page here.