Check against delivery

Good afternoon, thank you all for coming.

As I previously shared yesterday, I was tested for COVID-19 and I am pleased to confirm that my test results were negative.

I am feeling better and pleased to be back with you for today’s update.  

Over the last 24 hours, we have confirmed 23 new cases of COVID-19.

Bringing the provincial total to 97, up from 74.

As I reported yesterday, we now have confirmed cases in every health zone in Alberta.

Currently, five cases are hospitalized, of which two were admitted to the ICU. These are the same numbers as previously reported.

All other confirmed cases are self-isolating at home and expected to make a full recovery.

New Measures

As was announced by Premier Kenney earlier this afternoon, we are taking new, aggressive measures in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Government of Alberta is finalizing the signing of a state of public health emergency, empowering authorities under the Public Health Act to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

New public health measures under this state of emergency will limit the time Albertans spend in large crowds and crowded spaces.

Effective immediately

Mass gatherings are limited to no more than 50 attendees. This is inclusive of places of worship, funerals and weddings, where Albertans must ensure appropriate social distancing and other sanitization practices.

Grocery stores, shopping centres, health care facilities, airports and other essential services are not included.

Any other organized gatherings of more than 50 people must be cancelled immediately.

All Albertans are prohibited from attending public recreational facilities and private entertainment facilities, including casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo halls.

They should also not attend all recreational facilities, gyms, arenas, science centres, museums, art galleries and community centres, fitness centres and swimming pools.

This prohibition also extends to attending bars and nightclubs, where minors are prohibited by law.

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I know this will disappoint many, but we must take action to limit the amount of time Albertans are spending in crowded spaces.

Sit-down restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with a minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people

At this time, not-for-profit community kitchens, soup kitchens and religious kitchens are exempt, but sanitization practices are expected to be in place and support will be in place for this practice.

Food services in work camps are also exempt, but in addition to appropriate sanitization practices, arrangements should be made to provide for workers if they are self-isolated.

These are aggressive steps that we do not take lightly, but these are necessary to keep us all healthy and safe.

The only means we have to prevent this virus from spreading is to limit contact between people. The more we can slow the spread of the virus down, the less likely it is that there will be a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system’s capacity to care for those who need hospitalization or intensive care. You may have heard this described as “flattening the curve”. This is why we are taking these measures.

In addition, the health care system is preparing for an increase in the number of cases that need hospital care. Alberta Health Services is postponing all scheduled and elective surgeries.

Urgent and emergency surgery, as well as oncology and scheduled Cesearean procedures will continue.

AHS will be contacting Albertans scheduled for procedures and will reschedule as soon as possible. We do not have a timeline for this due to the ongoing pandemic.

We understand that many of you will be anxious to hear from AHS on your surgery. We ask for your ongoing patience. Please do not call 811 or your clinic. You will be called by AHS.

This decision will have an impact on those waiting for elective or non-urgent procedures, but it is a necessary step to ensure the health care system can sustain its pandemic response and be able to respond to emergencies.

Front line teams will be redeployed to other areas of the health care system to meet demand and ease pressure points.

I understand the tremendous impact these measures will have on all of us.

We will get through this together, but we need your help and support by following these orders and all other public health guidance.

I can not stress this enough. We all must take measures to improve sanitization and cleanliness.

Regardless of where you are, or what you are doing, we all have a responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus.

Even though it may seem simple, practicing good hygiene habits such as washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds and covering coughs ad sneezes will help to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Critically, if you don’t feel well, stay home and self-isolate. 

I am also advising all Albertans to take all appropriate steps to socially distance themselves from others during their day-to-day lives.

All measures, however small they may seem, play an important part in reducing the risk for all Albertans.

Try to avoid overcrowding on elevators, for example.

Stay 2 metres away from others when possible.

In the weeks to come, we will all need to be mindful of each other and take these crucial steps to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

The measures introduced today will be hard on all of us, but I believe we are ready, and able, to rise to the challenge before us.

Albertans’ health is and will always be our top priority.

Thank you.