Thank you Premier.
I want to start by acknowledging that, while we are focusing on COVID-19, I know that many Albertans continue to face a wide range of other health issues every single day.
Babies are still being born. Essential surgery is still taking place. People are still receiving care after suffering injuries while others are receiving cancer treatments.
Deaths are still occurring from a wide range of illnesses.
While we are focusing on the pandemic before us, I want to stress that all lives are important, and our health system cares about all of them.
As the Premier noted, since yesterday, we have now confirmed 117 new cases of COVID-19.
This brings the total number of cases in Alberta to 871.
I know this large jump in cases might seem alarming. It is the result of our provincial labs completing a backlog of tests now that they are back to working at full capacity.
We have conducted more than 4500 tests in the last 24 hours. Of these, around 98% came back negative, an indicator in line with previous days.
Last night, we also passed a significant milestone with over 50,000 tests completed.
I would like to again acknowledge the tremendous work of our laboratory, which continues to lead many other jurisdictions in testing per capita.
We continue to see cases rising in the province. We suspect 94 of our total cases may be community transmission, an increase of 24 from yesterday.
I am pleased to share that we can confirm 142 Albertans have recovered. That is 22 more than yesterday.
Sadly, I must report two additional deaths related to COVID-19…
- one was a male in his 80s in the North zone.
- Another, a male in his 80s in the Calgary zone.
I wish to convey my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of these individuals.
Every loss of life is a tragedy, whether due to COVID-19 or some other reason. It is also a call to action to do everything we can to stop the spread and limit transmission.
At this moment, my greatest concern is about the health and safety of those in continuing care and other congregate settings.
Alberta currently has 41 cases of COVID-19 in continuing care facilities.
This includes outbreaks in 4 locations across the province. To date:
- 35 cases have been confirmed at the McKenzie Towne Long Term Care Centre,
- 1 case has been confirmed at Carewest Glenmore Park
- 1 case has been confirmed at the Father Lacombe Care Centre
- And 4 cases at Shepherd’s Care Kensington.
Each of these outbreaks needs, and has received, close attention. Shepard’s Care and Carewest Glenmore Park have had no new cases for many days.
Alberta Health Services is working closely with each site to do everything possible to protect residents while also ensuring they continue to get the daily care and support that they need.
Strict infection prevention protocols have been implemented at each site to stop the spread.
Updated operational standards are now required by law at all congregate settings to further protect the residents and staff in these facilities. This includes requiring enhanced cleaning multiple times every day and daily screening of all staff.
AHS Medical Officers of Health are also in daily contact with sites on outbreak and, where needed, are providing additional support to make sure enhanced care and cleaning standards are followed.
These are measures that are being followed across Canada and have been proven to stop outbreaks of influenza and other viruses.
Yet, I am still concerned about potential cases.
We are actively looking at what other steps can be taken to protect the residents at these facilities, and I plan to have more to say in the coming days.
I know that many Albertans are concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. I am as well.
It is now April 1. The virus was first identified in Wuhan in late December.
I know that many Albertans are tired, and concerned, and it might feel like it’s impossible to think or talk about anything other than COVID-19.
It is important to stay vigilant and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as best as you can.
But it is just as necessary to take care of your overall health – both physical and mental.
I have heard concerns from family physicians that patients are afraid of seeking care due to concerns about COVID-19.
It is important to connect with your doctor to discuss any concerns that you have.
This is true whether you’re experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms or for a unrelated health issue. You can call ahead and speak with your doctor. They can support you through a virtual visit, if necessary.
If you are on self-isolation because you have returned from travel or have been in contact with a case of COVID, but you have a critical health appointment that you need to attend, please talk to your doctor about how you can safely do that.
I have created an exemption for this purpose as long as the health care setting that you are visiting is aware that you are on self-isolation and can take the appropriate steps to make sure that you can receive care safely and to keep others safe as well.
I have also created an exemption to make it clear that those with symptoms who have an appointment can leave their home to go for the purposes of COVID-19 testing, as long as this is done safely and in accordance with directions from 811.
I know we are all concerned about COVID-19 and this can sometimes lead us to inappropriate behaviour.
Yesterday, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and the Alberta College of Pharmacy issued a statement that noted that there has been an increase in the number of prescriptions for certain antivirals, antibiotics and antimalarial therapies that have been touted as potential treatments for COVID-19.
Some reports received by the two colleges include reports of prescribing for office use, personal use, and for family members.
This is inappropriate. While different research projects are underway to assess effectiveness of these therapies, there is no robust evidence yet on treatment.
These behaviours must stop. These very same medications are used for patients suffering from chronic conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and HIV.
In a time when there are serious concerns about potential shortages of medications - any misuse, stockpiling or inappropriate prescribing or dispensing should not happen.
Let this be a call to all of us trusted to prescribe and dispense medication - we above all others, must remember to put our trust and faith in evidence-based care.
I know physicians and pharmacist want to help their patients, and for physicians who are interested in enrolling patients in research studies underway on experimental therapies, we will send information out in the coming days so physicians who want their patients to have access to these therapies can put them in touch with the right people.
We are all impacted by COVID-19 and I know that we all want this pandemic to be over tomorrow.
There is, unfortunately, no vaccine or proven treatment for COVID-19. That is one of the challenges with this virus.
However, there are simple, effective things that all of us can do to reduce the risk of infection for ourselves and those around us.
Stay home if you’re sick. Clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based rub or soap and water.
Practice physical distancing while embracing social connectedness.
And finally, help and support those around you.
One of my staff lives in a condo building that recently created a list where residents who are elderly or self-isolating can request groceries or other materials, and they are purchased the next day by healthy neighbours living in the building.
This is a great example of the community spirit that we all must embrace in the days ahead.
We are all in this together, and each of us must do everything we can to flatten the curve and keep Albertans healthy.