The number of E. coli cases linked to an outbreak in Calgary daycare centers that began in late August appears to be leveling off, a “clear indication” that the outbreak of initial infections has peaked, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said. .
The official opposition is calling for an independent investigation into how hundreds of children were infected with a preventable disease. However, the premier appears to be sticking to her comments about including the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) outbreak in the review of the province's COVID-19 response.
On Monday, AHS announced there were 348 lab-confirmed cases linked to the outbreak, an increase of six from Saturday and 11 from Friday.
Of those, 27 were secondary cases, four more than Saturday, but no additional secondary transmissions were confirmed Sunday, AHS said.
There were nine patients in Calgary-area hospitals, 12 fewer than Saturday, all with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe kidney and blood failure. Three patients required dialysis, half as many as on Saturday.
“We are seeing clear evidence that the outbreak associated with the initial exposure has peaked,” AHS said.
Seven daycare centers remain closed after children suspected of the outbreak visited them:
- 1st Class Child Care main room of the Shawnessy daycare center
- Active start child care
- Cancare Children's Center Scenic Acres
- CEFA Early Learning Calgary South
- Renert Junior Kindergarten
- Calgary JCC Child Care
- VIK Academy by Thornhill Child Care in Okotoks
Some children and staff will not be allowed to return to MTC Daycare until a negative E. coli test is received and symptoms are relieved.
The provincial health authority said 642 children linked to the outbreak have been cleared to return to day care centers.
AHS declared the outbreak on September 4th.
Six more daycare centers in Calgary have closed in connection with the E. Coli outbreak
Preston Manning examines health care law; the opposition is calling for an independent investigation
The Alberta NDP wants the government to conduct an independent, public inquiry into one of the worst E. coli outbreaks in Canada's history.
Calgary-Acadia MLA Diana Batten said the kitchen believed to be at the center of the outbreak was allowed to continue operating despite health inspectors finding several serious violations. These violations were often corrected on the same day of the inspection.
“Clearly not enough has been done to ensure the safety of our children. Public health violations have not been properly dealt with and there appears to be a serious breakdown in health control processes,” Batten said.
The opposition critic for childcare and child and family services also questioned how clear communication was with the parents of children affected by the initial outbreak and whether this could have prevented further transmission.
Batten wants an external, independent investigation into the outbreak itself and the systemic circumstances that led to it.
Alberta is dealing with an E. coli outbreak
“We need people who have no personal interest in the outcome of this investigation. So we need people who are completely impartial, who are just there with the facts, who follow the research and give our best guidance to help our children,” said the Calgary-Acadia MLA.
If a full investigation is conducted, it would follow in the footsteps of another E. coli outbreak that is setting national records.
The E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, in May 2000 had one two-part report published January 2002, which details the events and series of mistakes that led to the contamination of the water supply, infecting thousands and killing seven. The reports also recommended ways to improve water quality and public health in Ontario.
Associate Judge Dennis R. O'Connor was appointed commissioner of the Walkerton Inquiry.
Saturday on Your province, your prime ministerSmith suggested the investigation into the E. coli outbreak should be integrated into an ongoing review of the province's COVID-19 response.
E. coli outbreak: Alberta provides $2,000 per infected child
“We are in the process of a public health review,” the prime minister said on Corus radio. “As you know, I have assigned Preston Manning to review all legislation related to the response we have had during the (COVID-19) pandemic. And in his opinion, the health law is right with a number of different recommendations. So that needs to be added.”
Global News is owned by Corus.
Smith suggested that one change could be to change the requirements for food handling certificates and align them with the requirements for serving alcohol. Currently, anyone in a licensed establishment that serves alcohol must complete a course to become certified.
“We may need to do the same for food safety courses. From what I understand, at least one person in the kitchen needs to take food safety classes, but maybe everyone who works in food preparation needs to take them,” she said Saturday.
The Calgary political scientist questions whether E. coli compensation in Alberta is conditional
Landfill search protests are planned across Canada on Monday
Ontario court rejects challenge to sex workers' charter, advocates delighted
On Monday, Smith reiterated her commitment from last week to get to the bottom of what happened at Calgary's daycare centers and explained how the former Reform Party leader would help.
“I had asked Preston Manning to consider the full range of legal changes that may be necessary to consider what the next response to the pandemic should be. And so the Public Health Act is part of that,” Smith said Monday. “But I think there are seven or eight more laws that he’s looking at.”
Batten said Smith's government should not investigate itself and said it would be “a terrible idea” for Manning to take it over.
“Preston Manning has openly denied science and promoted several harmful conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic. He has no credibility whatsoever to lead this public inquiry or any other public inquiry into this matter,” Batten told reporters.
“Let’s listen to science and reason.”
A parent of a child infected by the outbreak would rather see “consequences” than an investigation.
“I really think it's more about looking at how it came to this, why it came to this and what can we implement now? And we have those answers. We have the answers to how this happened and why current guidelines have no consequences if they are not followed,” said Kate Maxwell.
“There has to be some consequence. That’s why I would like to see consequences if people are no longer allowed to operate.”
Parents affected by E. coli outbreak receive compensation and promise of new laws
Maxwell wonders what precedent was set by allowing daycare centers to reopen in the face of an E. coli outbreak.
“(This precedent) says you can do this to children. It does not matter. You can continue working as usual,” she said.
AHS confirmed that the kitchen will remain closed starting Monday.
The lack of national child care standards is a result of the free market approach, a child care policy researcher told Global News.
“We find ourselves in this situation across the country because we never developed child care as a system and never set out to develop quality child care. So it was all left to chance or entrepreneurs or parent groups,” said Martha Friendly, executive director of the Child Care Resource and Research Unit.
And after the federal government signed agreements to provide funding to dramatically reduce child care costs for families, the country is in a position to de facto build a child care system.
“We're hopefully in a transition period where probably the provinces – and some of them too – have strategies in place as to how they're going to develop public and non-profit child care, which is what's favored in the new program,” Freundlich said.
She said food safety standards must be fundamental to child care, with nutritional value also important.
The child care researcher said an investigation into the Calgary daycare outbreak is an opportunity to examine how food handling and child care policies interact.
“Not only should it trigger a review of food handling and childcare – which I think is questionable because of the way some of the childcare policies work around food – it should also trigger a review of food handling .”
–with files from The Canadian Press