EDMONTON -- Thousands of Alberta families are doing their best to follow the rules to contain the spread of COVID-19, but many are also struggling with the impact the situation has had on our daily lives.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw addressed some of the issues many Albertans are working through now that their circumstances have changed because of the virus and said there are certain things families can do to reduce their own stress and the pressure on others.

"I know many Albertans are now at home with kids or are working from home. These are big changes for everyone. And you may start to feel closed in families may need to find creative ways to keep children occupied," she said during Wednesday's update.

One of her suggestions was partnering with a "cohort family," a group of close friends whom you are certain have self-isolated themselves, have not recently travelled and do not pose any risk of being infected with COVID-19.

Hinshaw says that such a group would only work if those families remain committed to the agreement of self-isolating themselves with one another.

"By doing this, the two families would only be exposed to each other, limiting close contacts, children have would have opportunities to play in a controlled environment, and parents would have opportunities to connect."

She added the recommendations could also work in response to situations involving children with shared custody agreements between their divorced parents.

"We know that many families are in different situations," Hinshaw said. "Families in that situation obviously they need to think about how they are containing the number of people in total that their children and their families are in contact with."

Changing family traditions

The holidays associated with a number of faith groups, such as Easter and Ramadan, are right around the corner and that means even more changes. While it will be tough for many, Hinshaw says you'll need to give up on some of those traditional get-togethers.

"I had the opportunity to talk to provincial faith leaders about how plans for these celebrations will need to change. Now is not the time to plan any travel, even to other cities or provinces, or to attend large family gatherings or dinners. We must maintain social distancing practices," she said.

Make hygiene part of your plan

Hinshaw also reiterated that good hygiene practices are currently the best defence against being infected with COVID-19 and said outbreaks can be caused when those measures aren't followed.

"This direction became abundantly clear following the Edmonton bonspiel, where almost half of Alberta health care workers in attendance have tested positive for COVID. We suspect the virus was spread at a buffet where serving spoons were handled by many people."

While it may seem odd to limit particular methods of serving meals at home, Hinshaw says it's important for parents to model those behaviours for their children and prevent others from getting sick.

"We need to limit sharing of open food, even between family members. Don't share snacks like a family popcorn bowl. Open candy, nuts, or other snacks like this. Limit the availability of a communal fruit bowl. Don't share cups, drinks or utensils and have one person as a designated person to serve all others so that a serving utensil is handled only by one person."

Albertans are also invited to share their own creative ways to connect with others while staying physically distant using the hashtag AlbertaCares.

There are now 486 confirmed cases of the illness in Alberta after 67 new cases were discovered Thursday. Twenty-seven patients have recovered from their illness.