COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
Check against delivery
Good afternoon, thank you all for coming.
Since yesterday, we have confirmed 22 new cases of COVID-19.
This means that 119 cases have now been identified in our province.
We suspect that seven of these cases are community transmission.
Of those confirmed cases, six individuals are receiving treatment in hospital, with three in Intensive Care Units.
One previously diagnosed case was admitted to the ICU yesterday.
All others are recovering in isolation at home with support from public health officials.
As committed, aggregate data, showing cases by age range and zone, as well as by local geographic areas, is now available online at alberta.ca/COVID19.
As of this morning, the online self-assessment tool had been accessed more than 1.3 million times.
And to date, we have performed close to 15,000 tests. To put that into perspective, when accounting for population size, that is 35 times higher than the per capita number of tests in the US.
Multiple cases of COVID-19 have been reported from attendees at the Pacific Dental Conference held in Vancouver March 5 to 7.
As has been reported, we know that cases have been identified from that conference in other provinces across the country.
I am asking that all individuals who attended the Pacific Dental Conference self-isolate immediately and until 14 days have passed from the conclusion of the conference (March 22).
Individuals who attended the conference and currently have symptoms should continue to stay home, self-isolate and complete the self-assessment tool online at ahs dot ca forward slash covid to arrange for testing and further instructions.
Do not go to the hospital or your doctor for assessment.
As a result of these confirmed cases, the Alberta Dental Association and College announced yesterday a mandatory suspension of all non-emergency dental treatment and services.
Emergency dental treatment will continue.
Yesterday, we also announced that all non-urgent scheduled and elective surgeries in Alberta are being postponed.
Alberta Health Services is continuing to contact Albertans scheduled for procedures and will reschedule as soon as possible.
Urgent and emergency surgery, as well as oncology and scheduled Cesearean procedures will continue.
The decision to postpone elective surgeries and procedures was made to ensure AHS has the staff, equipment (including personal protective equipment) and beds available for the expected increased demand on our healthcare system caused by COVID-19.
This is not just about increasing bed capacity.
We need adequate numbers of frontline healthcare workers, as well as PPE, to handle the anticipated demand.
This is a precautionary measure to ensure we have the resources necessary to respond quickly the rate of hospitalization increases.
Later this afternoon, Alberta Health Services is moving to further restrict visitors to hospitals and care centres to protect patients and the most vulnerable.
All visitors will need to be completely symptom free and only one visitor will be allowed at a time.
Children will be restricted from visiting. Children do not necessarily show symptoms of COVID-19.
Exceptions for children will be reviewed and approved by unit manager or nursing staff on case-by-case basis.
If you have an illness that can be transmitted – with symptoms including fever, cough, loose stools, rash, or feeling unwell – you cannot visit a loved one in the hospital. You will not be allowed in.
If you are on self-isolation for COVID-19 or if you are being tested for COVID-19, you cannot visit a loved one in the hospital.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 you cannot visit and will not be allowed to visit until you have recovered and receive clearance from medical officials.
If you are unable to visit, please use other methods to be in touch with your loved one, such as a phone call, video calling or use FaceTime.
We recognize that this may be difficult for families and loved ones but we must do all we can to minimize the risk of infection to our residents and staff.
As you heard early from the Premier, the effects of COVID-19 are wide spread and unprecedented.
COVID-19 has forced us to make some extremely difficult decisions.
We have had to weigh lives against livelihoods.
And in order to save lives, I have had to make recommendations that will take away livelihoods for many Albertans over the next several weeks to months.
I know that many Albertans are suffering as a result of these measures, and I ask that we all reach out to our neighbours and networks over the next while with compassion and support.
We need to support not just those who may be infected with COVID or self-isolating, but also those who have been impacted in other ways…through lost jobs or less income as a result of the measures we have needed to put in place to slow down the spread of this virus.
There are no easy solutions to the situation we are in, not just in Alberta but around the world.
We need to face this together, and respond to this extraordinary crisis with extraordinary kindness.
While the measures we have taken are necessary, and required to contain COVID-19, it does not make them any easier.
I take these decisions very seriously, and the repercussions will be felt in all aspects of our lives and society.
The days and months ahead will be difficult for all of us.
We are all needed in this response, and the actions each of us take are important to pulling through together.
As an example, I want to share some good news stories with you.
In several of the most recent cases that have been reported to me, returning travellers had followed all advice, self-isolated and then called Health Link for testing.
When their positive result came back, they had few or no contacts who were at any risk, because of the decisions they made to stay home and away from others.
It is this kind of action that we all need to take, whether or not we have returned from travelling. Stay home when sick, stay home for 14 days after returning from outside the country, and support others to do the same.
We will get through this together.
Thank you, and I am happy to take questions.