COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
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Good afternoon, thank you all for coming.
Since yesterday’s update, we have confirmed 57 new cases of COVID-19.
This means that 358 cases have now been identified in our province.
We suspect up to 28 of these total cases may be community transmission.
19 individuals have been hospitalized and of which seven are receiving care in the ICU.
Three Albertans have recovered from COVID-19 so far, according to our data. We are working on a stream-lined process for getting recovery data and we anticipate those numbers to change.
Long-term Care Infection Cluster
Today I must also sadly report the second death from COVID-19 in our province.
This individual was a female in her 80s, and a resident at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.
I would like to extend my sympathies to this woman’s family and loved ones. This news is extremely sad – for all of us.
Though we are doing everything we can to limit cases of critical illnesses and death from this serious virus, tragically we know that deaths will occur.
We have also learned that one staff member and two other residents at this facility have also tested positive for COVID-19, with an additional 11 residents showing symptoms.
These residents’ tests are pending and investigation continues to determine the source of the infection.
Of the two other residents confirmed to have COVID, both are in stable condition.
The staff member who tested positive for the virus had no travel history, and did not work while symptomatic.
Staff who were in contact with residents who tested positive will be identified and isolated.
News of this death, and other potential infections, in a long-term care facility will be distressing for many people.
You may be listening to me right now from a long-term care facility, or you may have a loved one who lives in one.
Although I want to reiterate that most people who become ill with COVID will experience only mild symptoms, it can make others very sick.
This is why we have taken the extreme measures we have and why I cannot emphasize enough the importance for all Albertans to follow all public health guidance.
In long-term care and other continuing care facilities, where some of our most vulnerable citizens reside, we have taken additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, we restricted access to these facilities to only essential visitors, all of whom must undergo health screening prior to entering.
We are continuing to look at additional measures for continuing care and long-term care facilities that operators and staff could implement to further limit the risk for residents.
As soon as these are finalized, we will communicate them.
As I’ve said before, we will take all steps necessary to protect Albertans’ health.
In addition, we are continuing to look at additional measures to prevent this virus from spreading further.
I know that this is scary.
But we will get through this.
This isn’t just about the actions that the government is taking. It’s down to each and every one of us.
Practice social distancing if you go outside, even if you are just taking your dog for a walk.
Today’s report of a second death and the increasing numbers of affected Albertans, is why these aggressive measures are in place.
And it’s why every day we are working together to ensure that we are doing everything we can to stop the spread and keep each other safe. Every single Albertan has a role to play.
The restrictions we have put in place on mass gatherings, the closures of public recreation facilities and the limitations on restaurant capacity are all in service of this goal.
We all need to take these measures seriously.
If you are sick, stay home.
Do not go to your doctor’s office, ER or clinic unless you have symptoms of an urgent nature.
Take the COVID-19 self-assessment. Follow its recommendations.
Call Health Link 811 if instructed.
And most importantly – and I cannot say this enough – stay home if you have mild symptoms of cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat…because those are the symptoms, even if mild, that can be linked to COVID-19.
The health and wellbeing of your family, friends and neighbours are at stake – and we all owe it to each other to take this seriously and keep each other safe.
In the past week, we have also seen an increase in Albertans returning from their international travels to come home.
I want to reiterate the importance of all returning travellers to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they are feeling well.
This is especially crucial for older Albertans, who are at higher risk of illness from COVID-19.
All of these measures are critical to keeping ourselves and each other safe and healthy.
Case update: Bonspiel and Red Deer physician
I want to now give an update on the Edmonton bonspiel with Western Canadian physicians and other health care workers that occurred March 11th to 14th.
As I said yesterday, all attendees have been contacted and are self-isolating.
We have been informed that 12 of the 47 Alberta health care workers who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19.
All of their close contacts from the time they had symptoms, including some patients, are being notified as usual through local public health follow up.
Three of the infected individuals are physicians working in Red Deer.
There are also infected physicians from the Edmonton zone and Calgary zone.
From the three cases in Red Deer, although they each worked less than a day while symptomatic, a total of 58 patients and 97 other health care workers have been or will be contacted as potential close contacts of these three.
As I said yesterday, symptoms can be mild and these physicians did not know they had been exposed to a case of COVID-19 when they became ill. They simply finished out their shifts, went home, and self-isolated. This experience is a reminder that it is critical to immediately self-isolate at the first sign of symptoms. This can be challenging, and the health system needs to support health care workers to take these steps.
Isolation and Testing changes
Yesterday, I updated you on changes to isolation timelines for COVID-19.
I want to re-iterate those changes.
We have updated our self-isolation guidelines for those who are sick. The current recommendation for anyone sick with cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath is to stay home until you are feeling well and at least 10 days have passed from the start of symptoms.
If symptoms continue past 10 days, self-isolation should as well.
This 10 day timeline is for those who are sick.
Travellers returning from out of Canada or people who are close contacts of a confirmed case will still need to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return, or after last exposure even if they are feeling well.
Should they start to experience symptoms within this time period, they must also follow the same 10-day guidance which is true of anyone who is sick.
Finally, I know that today’s news of a second death, and an outbreak in a long term care facility will be distressing for many people.
It re-enforces the need to practice physical distancing.
But we need to make sure that while we are keeping a physical distance between us, we are staying socially connected.
It’s important to remember that we are all in this together.
Now, more than ever, we need to take care of each other.
I want to again extend my condolences to those grieving the loss of their loved one due to COVID-19 today, and to those whose family members are affected by the infections in this long-term care facility and elsewhere.
We will get through this together.
Thank you. I will now take questions.