COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
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Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming.
I would like to begin today by sharing some sad news.
In addition to the death reported yesterday, I am very sad to inform you that we have had five additional deaths today, bringing Alberta’s total to eight.
Two of the deaths occurred in long-term care facilities or seniors housing — a female in her 70’s at Calgary’s McKenzie Towne facility and a male in his 80’s at Edmonton’s Rosedale facility.
The remaining three deaths include a female in her 50’s in Calgary Zone, a male in his 80’s in Edmonton Zone and a male in his 30’s in North Zone.
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of these individuals.
This news is heartbreaking for all of us. Although these individuals had risk factors like older age or chronic medical conditions, their lives mattered as much as any of ours. This has been one of the hardest days yet, imagining the grief that these families are facing and my heart goes out to them.
These deaths speak to the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, and why aggressive measures from all of us are needed to contain the spread.
In the last 24 hours, we have confirmed 29 new cases of COVID-19.
While the number of confirmed cases in the last few days has been less than we’ve seen previously, this is due to several factors. We have stopped testing returning travellers, so we knew that our daily positive numbers would go down. We have also had a decrease in the daily total tests in the lab over the past few days, given the challenges with lab testing supplies.
It will take us several days more of this new testing protocol to get enough data to understand our trends. I expect, by the end of this week, we will have a better sense of what this data means to our risk in Alberta.
We suspect that up to 65 of the total cases to date may be the result of community transmission. Let me remind you that this number refers to those new cases that do not have a clear link to a previously known case. This is a concerning number.
We have also had an increase in cases from the McKenzie Towne outbreak in Calgary. At present, there are 36 residents and five staff who are probable or confirmed cases. I note that these additional cases are included in the new case counts over the past two days, as it has taken time for the links to be made in our administrative databases. We have also identified two additional cases in Shepherd’s Care Kensington in Edmonton, with a total of six confirmed cases in this facility.
These are worrying numbers. We must redouble our efforts to protect those who are most vulnerable to the effects of this virus.
I ask all those who work or live in these, or other, seniors’ facilities to follow all guidelines and take care of yourself and others in this difficult time.
Please remember, following the public health guidance will save lives. Those of you on home isolation, thank you for doing your part. Those of you who chose to stay home and away from others because you had a mild illness, thank you for doing the right thing.
Those of you who go to work in critical jobs like taking care of vulnerable people in long term care, thank you for doing so safely. We are all in this together.
On the topic of how we can all do our part, yesterday, I had the opportunity to connect with my counterparts across Canada as part of our Special Advisory Committee on COVID-19 response.
During this call, we had significant discussion about the rules under the federal Quarantine Act that require any Canadian under mandatory self-isolation to remain on their property for the duration of the self-isolation time.
While some provinces, such as Alberta, had previously allowed those who are in self-isolation and who were well to leave their property for short walks, the discussion with my colleagues was weighing out the potential risks and benefits of this exception.
At the end of the discussion, we came to consensus that because there is a risk of people getting ill while they are out, we will have a uniform recommendation across the country. If you are quarantined because you recently came back from outside the country, or you if you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID, you must remain on your own property, rented or owned.
You are only permitted to go outdoors on your deck, in your back yard or on a balcony. Under no circumstance should you leave your property during the 14 days of self-isolation.
This means that if you are under mandatory self-isolation, you can no longer go for walks in your neighbourhood or at the park, until your self-isolation period ends.
Do not have visitors over. Do not go to public areas and spaces, or community settings.
Arrange to have someone pick up essentials like groceries or medication for you.
People who live in apartment buildings or high-rises must stay inside their unit and cannot use the elevators or stairwells to go outside.
This applies to everyone under mandatory-self isolation, including both people who are feeling well and those who have symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath.
I know this is incredibly difficult. Staying indoors or close to home for 14 days is a very long time. But this is what we must do to protect each other.
This also means that we need to look out for our neighbours who are in a time of self-isolation. We need to help each other with groceries and other essentials so that those who are on self-isolation can follow the rules.
Staying inside can save lives.
In addition to staying home when sick or in quarantine, physical distancing is also important. This means staying two metres – or about a hockey stick length apart – at all times. Having said that, I know that there are some situations where this may not be possible, such as carpooling.
If you are not under mandatory self-isolation, you will not be fined for travelling in your vehicle with your family or carpooling with coworkers.
However, if you are feeling unwell, you must stay home.
This is also not the time for people to go out to their summer cottages or seasonal villages to self-isolate. Services and supports are limited in these communities. Please stay in your own home, and away from others, if you are feeling unwell.
Each of us must continue to do everything we can to flatten the curve and keep our friends and family healthy.
While Albertans must practice physical distancing, it is important to remain socially connected.
Text or call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Video chat with a family member or loved one.
We will need to find new ways to connect with each another, while being physically separated.
It is though helping and looking out for one another that we will overcome COVID-19.
I call on all Albertans to treat each other with kindness, acceptance and respect. Look out for each other. We are all in this together.
I will now take your questions.