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Good afternoon, thank you all for coming.
Since yesterday, we have confirmed 49 new cases of COVID-19.
This means that 195 cases have now been identified in our province.
We suspect up to 11 of these cases may be community transmission.
Ten individuals are now hospitalized and five are receiving care in the ICU, which is three additional ICU admissions over the past 24 hours.
There have been no additional deaths.
The good news is that we’re now starting to see numbers of Albertans who have recovered from COVID-19. As of today, three individuals have reported to us as recovered.
Other developments to celebrate include the hard work of our health teams.
One example of innovation in Alberta is the quick training of many medical students to enhance our contract tracing capacity.
We also are incredibly proud of all of the hard work our lab services have been doing. World-wide, Alberta has been conducting among the highest number of tests per capita.
I have been hearing from individuals who are waiting to hear on their test results, and I want to assure you that we doing our best to get back to you.
Staff are prioritizing call-backs to individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, so it sometimes takes longer to return calls to those who have negative tests.
We are continuing to monitor the development of COVID-19 in our communities, evaluate our public health response, and make adjustments and implement new measures to ensure we are all protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Today, we are putting additional measures in place at seniors’ facilities.
Previously, visitors were restricted to family, friends or paid companions whose care and companionship was necessary for the well-being of a resident.
Now, only a single individual from this group who is designated by the resident or a guardian may visit.
Each essential visitor must be verified and undergo a health screening prior to entering the facility.
This may include a temperature check or a questionnaire.
Facilities must have security staff or a greeter to conduct this screening and verify the visitor is designated.
Exceptions to these essential visitor rules will be made for family members to visit a person who is dying, so long as only one visitor enters the facility at a time.
These measures will be extremely difficult for residents of seniors’ facilities.
While they are necessary to protect our seniors and staff who work with them from the spread of COVID-19, there are additional steps we can all take to make this easier on seniors who are affected.
One of the most meaningful actions Albertans can take is simply picking up the phone.
Even spending just a few minutes on the phone with a senior can go a long way toward reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This is especially important for seniors who are living alone in addition to those in residential care facilities.
All of us can make regular phone calls with our elder loved ones part of our “new normal.”
I know that the measures we have put in place continue to strain families, businesses and all Albertans.
I must reiterate their importance.
If you are feeling sick with fever or cough or even mild cold-like symptoms, you must stay home and away from others.
Those who have returned from travel outside the country must stay home for 14 days after their return, even if they are feeling well.
Measures such as restrictions on gatherings and closure of several types of businesses we previously announced must be followed.
And while those who are feeling well and haven’t returned from travelling can be out in the community, be sure to wash hands frequently and stay 2 meters away from others as much as possible.
My team and I are receiving many questions about applying these measures to people’s daily lives.
One question has been about whether it is safe to be outside when someone is self-isolating. I want to be clear that there is no danger to others if someone who is self-isolating goes for a walk outside and stays 2 metres away from others.
Being outside and active is an important support for health, both physical and mental, and should be encouraged.
With respect to other activities, I know under normal circumstances, many Albertans would be gearing up to visit their local farmers’ markets this weekend.
At this point, these markets are in the same category as grocery stores and shopping centres and can remain open, but, again, I urge you to practice social distancing and excellent hand hygiene if you leave the house.
For those experiencing loss of a loved one, funerals may still be held, provided there are fewer than 50 attendees.
But you must maintain social distancing. Anyone ill, even with mild symptoms, must not attend.
I know it is heartbreaking to refrain from hugging loved ones during something as difficult as a funeral.
But please trust that these practices, as painful as they are, are necessary to prevent the spread of this deadly and contagious illness.
Finally, I want to share some stories Albertans have shared with me through my Twitter account of acts of kindness during these extraordinary and trying times.
Stories of neighbours taking the pet of someone in self-isolation to the vet so the animal could receive care, organizations going above and beyond to help travellers get home safely, people taping drawings and paper snowflakes to their windows to brighten others’ days, I want to thank teachers for their continued work to support students’ learning, others are simply reaching out to people who are struggling, whether it is online or over the phone.
Albertans are responding to this extraordinary situation in extraordinary ways.
Please continue to share your stories using the AlbertaCares hashtag.
Continue to take care of each other and yourselves.
The importance of self-care in these uncertain, stressful times cannot be overstated.
With that in mind, I will be taking some personal time this weekend to rest and recharge.
My colleague, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Marcia Johnson, will provide tomorrow’s update so I can spend some time with my family.
Thank you for your support as we respond to this serious situation.
Thank you for supporting each other.
I look forward to joining you again on Monday.