EDMONTON — Three of the Alberta doctors who contracted COVID-19 at a curling tournament earlier this month in Edmonton had contact with patients and colleagues in the days that followed, the Alberta government announced Tuesday.

It raises questions of why, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, the event went ahead, said Tim Caulfield, the Canada Research Chair in health law and policy and a professor in the faculties of law and public health at the University of Alberta.

“A bonspiel is not an essential activity,” Caulfield wrote in an email. “I know our health-care providers are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny right now, but hard not to wonder why this event took place.”

The Alberta government had announced on Monday that 11 of the 47 Alberta health-care workers who had attended the bonspiel, held at Edmonton’s The Granite Club, between March 11 and 14, had tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, they updated that figure to 12; what proportion were physicians, as opposed to other health professionals, is not known.

Of those 12 who’ve tested positive, three of them — all physicians in Red Deer, a city half way between Edmonton and Calgary — came into contact with patients and co-workers. In total, 58 patients were seen when the doctors worked early last week, and they were in contact with 97 other health professionals. The doctors worked less than a day while symptomatic, the government said.

“There have been no deaths linked to this bonspiel. No patients have tested positive with COVID-19 to date,” the province said in a statement. “At this time, no other patients appear to have been exposed from cases to the bonspiel. ”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, has said her understanding is that roughly 72 people curled, and some 45 people were at a related banquet. At the time the bonspiel was held, both officials and physician groups have stressed, there were no rules prohibiting such an event.

A bonspiel is not an essential activity

As well, Saskatchewan has announced that 11 of the 22 health professionals who attended the bonspiel from that province have also tested positive for COVID-19. Among them were the head of the Saskatchewan Medical Association, Dr. Allan Woo, who announced his case last week, and another doctor at a clinic in the small town of Rosthern, said media reports.

In Manitoba, three doctors were self-isolating after attending, said a statement from Doctors Manitoba. None of them saw patients.

Alberta said any disciplinary action would be up to the provincial physicians’ colleges, but that the focus is on “caring for patients.”

“It is not on disciplining physicians, particularly at a time when we need them the most,” said the satement from the Alberta government.

Earlier this month, the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver also resulted in an outbreak of COVID-19. Reports are beginning to emerge of the death of a dentist who attended the  event at which nearly 15,000 dental workers, such as  dentists and hygienists, attended.

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