COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
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Good afternoon, thank you all for coming.
As Premier indicated, since yesterday’s update, we have confirmed 61 new cases of COVID-19.
This means that 419 cases have now been identified in our province.
We suspect up to 33 of the 419 cases may be community transmission, which is five more than yesterday.
Currently 20 individuals are hospitalized, of whom 8 are in the ICU.
These are significant case numbers, and they underscore the seriousness of the situation that we face.
Case updates: Group Home/LTC Investigations
Late last night, we learned of an outbreak of COVID-19 at an adult group home for people with developmental disabilities.
So far, one staff and 2 residents have tested positive.
We are also aware of 9 cases to date in staff and residents of long-term care or other continuing care facilities.
This includes the 4 previously reported, plus 2 additional cases at the McKenzie Towne facility in Calgary, as well as 1 case in Rosedale on the Park and 2 at Shepherd’s Care Kensington Village in Edmonton zone.
I know that many Albertans are concerned about these cases, and about the spread of COVID-19.
I am concerned as well, which is why, as Premier Kenney has outlined, public health orders will now be enforced by law.
This step is essential to protect the health and safety of Albertans.
Alberta’s enforcement of Public Health Orders is in addition to the decision of the federal government to implement a mandatory 14-day quarantine, under the Quarantine Act, for travellers returning to Canada.
This step is serious, and it is necessary.
We must do everything possible to stop the spread of COVID-19, to support our health care workers, and to keep our family, friends, neighbours and vulnerable Albertans safe.
As I have previously mentioned, people living in in long-term care and other continuing care facilities are most at risk of severe illness from this virus.
Over the past two days, despite the aggressive measures already in place, it’s become clear that additional measures are needed.
It is up to all of us to do everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus and to keep vulnerable populations safe.
This is one reason for the enforcement of the public health orders.
In addition, we restricted access last week to these facilities to only essential visitors, all of whom must undergo health screening prior to entering.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services has communicated with the Alberta Council of Disability Services that this also applies to licensed facilities for persons with disabilities.
Today, I am ordering additional directions that all healthcare operators and service providers must follow.
Facilities under this order include all nursing homes, designated supportive living and long-term care facilities, seniors lodges and any facility in which residential addiction treatment services are offered under the Mental Health Services Protection Act.
These new guidelines are mandatory.
They will help keep those living and working in congregate settings as safe as possible.
This includes new expectations that every facility must follow enhanced cleaning, and additional directions around the use of shared spaces and common activities.
They also outline mandatory health screening protocols for all staff, residents and essential visitors entering a facility.
An updated operational standards document will be made available on the COVID-19 webpage shortly and will also be distributed to service providers and operators.
Advice to stay healthy
As new cases arise, I know that some Albertans may be feeling tired of the constant barrage of information, and they may be wondering what more they can do.
The answer is simple: we must all do everything possible to follow all public health recommendations in place.
All of us have a role – and a responsibility – to stop the spread, and there are actions that all of us can take.
These extend to our homes, our families and our traditions.
For example, we need to limit sharing of open food, even between family members.
Don’t share snacks, like a family popcorn bowl, open candy, nuts or other snacks like this.
Limit the availability of a communal fruit bowl.
Don’t share cups, drinks or utensils, and have one person as the designated person to serve all others so that a serving utensil is handled by only one person.
This direction became abundantly clear following the Edmonton Bonspiel, where almost half of Alberta health care workers in attendance have tested positive for COVID.
We suspect the virus was spread at a buffet where serving spoons were handled by many people.
I know it might seem strange to limit these activities in your own home. However, this is important modeling that we, as parents, can share with our children and is another step that we can take to keep each other safe.
Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces often, include this in your daily household routine and make it part of the new normal for your children also.
I know many Albertans are now at home with kids, or working from home.
These are big changes for everyone and you may start to feel closed in.
Families may need to find creative ways to keep children occupied. One suggestion is to partner with a “cohort” family, where both families agree to isolate from everyone else and to focus on supporting each other.
By doing this, the two families would only be exposed to each other…limiting close contacts…children would have opportunities to play in a controlled environment…and parents would have opportunities to connect.
I must be clear, this only works if both families are completely committed…and as long as members in both families remain healthy, don’t have any underlying medical conditions, aren’t at high risk (like seniors), have not recently travelled outside of the country and are not showing any symptoms.
Another change we need to make is in our traditions.
There are several significant religious and cultural holidays approaching such as Easter or Ramadan.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk to provincial faith leaders about how plans for these celebrations will need to change.
Now is not the time to plan any travel, even to other cities or provinces, or to attend large family gatherings or dinners.
We must maintain social-distancing practices – even when we are together with family.
Now is not the time to visit grandparents for Sunday dinner.
Now is not the time to host or attend a potluck with friends.
Now is not the time to plan for a family reunion.
This is the time to stay home, and work together to limit the spread.
Please practice good hygiene and keep 2 metres between you and others.
Many families and groups of friends have been using shared video chat to stay in touch while at home.
This is a great way to connect. If you have been using any other ways to connect remotely with family or friends that you want to share with others, please share them with the AlbertaCares hashtag, so we can all learn from each other the creative ways we can stay socially connected while physically distant.
As I’ve said before, we will get through this together. Even if for now we have to stay far apart.
Thank you. I will now take questions.