Check against delivery
As Premier identified, there were six new cases of COVID-19 identified in the last 24 hours.
Bringing the total to 29 cases in the province. All cases have been travel-related or in close contact with a returning traveler.
One patient continues to recover in hospital and is in stable condition, while all others are in isolation at home.
We continue to take aggressive public health measures to limit the spread in Alberta.
However, I expect new cases will continue to be identified in the coming days.
Yesterday, we announced additional measures to limit the spread of this virus.
We recommended restrictions on large gatherings of 250 individuals or more including conferences, sporting events and community events.
We want to reiterate this information today and we thank event organizers who reached out for further clarification on what this means for their organizations.
Many public gathering places will remain accessible, and I encourage these places to consider enhancing their hygiene and risk mitigation practices including sanitizer stations, ensuring that there is a mechanism for keeping anyone ill from attending, and distancing between attendees.
Additionally, we announced that travel outside Canada is not recommended at this time. Given the rapid global spread of COVID-19.
Cases have been reported in four new countries in the last 24 hours.
I also announced that all travellers returning from outside of Canada since March 12 should self-isolate for 14-days and monitor symptoms.
Certain professions may be exempt from travel restrictions. I am assessing exemptions on a case by case basis based on discussion with those industries and a strong understanding of the measures these industries are already taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At this time, I have exempted flight attendants and pilots from this recommendation.
At this time, self-isolation does not extend to family members. However family members must practice good hygiene and take precautions to reduce potential exposure.
We have not taken these steps lightly.
I know that asking Albertans to cancel mass gathering or international travel plans has a profound impact on the lives of many Albertans.
While Alberta’s cases have all been travel-related, there has been significant spread of COVID-19 in other jurisdictions in conferences, nursing homes and other places.
The measures we are taking will help protect Albertans, especially those who are most likely to have severe disease.
I now want to talk about schools. I know that many parents and teachers are worried about the risk of COVID in schools. We have seen other provinces and countries close schools as a preventive measure. What is important to know is that school closures are not universally agreed on as an effective intervention to prevent spread. In some other provinces that have chosen to close schools, they have not taken the other aggressive measures we announced yesterday.
It should be noted that the World Health Organization does not recommend school closure as the only way to prevent spread in the age group of young children. Instead, they also offer a safe schools checklist which describes the ways that school environments can be kept as safe as possible for students, teachers and staff.
Given the current situation in Alberta, the fact that any school closure would need to be in place for months, not weeks to be effective, and the fact that students may still be at risk of spreading infection in other settings besides schools, I have advised that school closures not be implemented at this time.
To be clear, schools, daycares and post-secondary institutions can remain open.
But steps should be taken to ensure that no more than 250 individuals are in the same room at any given time. This includes limiting whole school activities, and canceling sporting events or after school activities where necessary.
Tomorrow, I will be talking to school authorities to walk them through guidance documents and provide information directly to answer their questions.
We are not requiring post-secondary institutions to close at this time, however we are working with these institutions to explore other alternatives, such as offering large classes online or remotely if possible.
We are actively monitoring the situation and will continue to keep Albertans fully informed of any developments in the days ahead.
The best thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is practice good hygiene
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or with your elbow.
And, if you are feeling ill, stay at home.
By slowing the spread of the virus we can reduce the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, police, schools and vaccine-manufacturers time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed.
The spread of COVID-19 is evolving daily, and we cannot predict what the outbreak will look like next week, or the week after.
What I can say that we will continue to closely monitor the evidence emerging in Alberta and around the world, and take the steps needed to protect public health.
As I have often said, we are all in this together, and the coming weeks are vital in our fight to protect Alberta from COVID-19.
We are calling on every Albertan and organization to assist our public health efforts and do their very best to comply with the public health guidance.
I know many Albertans are on information overload.
We are updating our website – alberta.ca/COVID19 – twice daily with all the up-to-date information.
Things are changing rapidly, and we may not have every answer today, but we will continue to provide regular updates.