Check against delivery
Thank you. Good afternoon.
I want to first clarify information that I provided yesterday regarding a positive case of COVID-19 reported at the YWCA Calgary’s Sheriff King Home.
This case was confirmed on Saturday, March 21 and since then there have been no more individuals with symptoms at this location.
For our numbers today, as the Premier mentioned, since yesterday, we have confirmed 107 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
This brings the total number of cases to 1,075.
Of these, 196 people have now recovered. That is 22 more than yesterday.
We suspect 137 of our total cases may be community transmission, an increase of 29 from yesterday.
Sadly, I must report five additional deaths related to COVID-19, including four at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary.
There are now eight deaths related to COVID-19 at this facility.
Today’s reported deaths also include a woman in her 20s from Edmonton. It is not clear at this time whether she had underlying health conditions.
This is a tragic reminder that it is not only the elderly or those with underlying conditions who are at risk.
The measures we have in place are to protect all of us.
I want to say that I have heard questions about whether we should try to let spread happen in young and healthy groups to increase our population’s immunity over time.
I completely understand this question, but the problem is that we don’t know who will have a severe case of this disease.
Some people who are young and healthy will go on to have severe disease and even die, so until we have more information about who may be at greatest risk, and more evidence about treatments, the best way to prevent severe illness is for all of us to perform physical distancing, stay home when possible, to avoid non-essential activities.
To limit further deaths, we must all follow public health orders.
There are many grieving families in our province today, and I extend my sincere condolences to each and every one of them and all the loved ones of those we have lost.
We can honour these people by re-committing to physical distancing and staying home whenever possible.
It is particularly important as the spring approaches that we make different decisions about our vacations.
Please do not plan to travel to vacation homes, especially those in other provinces or in smaller communities.
We need to be staying close to home over the coming months to limit spread of the virus.
I want to talk now about what we are learning from our data.
Last week, I announced that we were shifting our testing approach to better understand and identify the spread of this virus in our province.
We stopped testing returning travellers with mild symptoms earlier this week, and instead prioritized at-risk populations and those at highest risk of local exposure such as health care workers.
This was a necessary step. We need to use resources effectively to protect people at risk and quickly identify spread in the community.
Looking at the graph of confirmed cases you see posted on our web site, it may appear we are seeing a spike in the number of people infected in the last few days.
What we are actually seeing is the excellent work of lab services to work through a backlog of swabs that were waiting to be tested…
To be clear, we continue to see ongoing new infections, but the sudden increase we have seen recently represents the date the lab completed the test, not when a person became ill.
One of the most important numbers we have been tracking all along is the number of new cases we are seeing who don’t have a link to another known case. We have called these community acquired.
Although we have announced additional cases in that group over the past few days, what I can tell you is that when we look at the number of these cases by the day the swab was collected, instead of the day the lab tested the swab, we are seeing that our new daily numbers of community acquired cases have remained relatively constant over the last 10 days.
Every one of these cases is concerning, and we follow up with every case to ensure we are limiting spread. However, it does not seem at this moment in time that we are seeing a rapid rise in local transmission.
We will continue to closely monitor these numbers.
Our collective work to flatten the curve is more imperative than ever.
The world learns more every day about COVID-19.
Someone asked me yesterday when this will end.
We cannot say for certain, but we should expect that we will be responding to this infection for many months.
I know this is difficult to hear.
Thank you for doing your best to adjust to the new normal.
And, as Premier and Minister have mentioned to make sure your time, energy and abilities are contributing to the collective effort to respond.
I encourage you to continue to reach out to each other for support, especially through virtual means.
Also, please continue to place your trust in health care professionals.
Doctors, nurses and all medical staff are doing a tremendous job in a very difficult time.
I have recently heard disturbing reports of health care professionals experiencing discrimination due to the fear they will be more likely to carry the virus.
This discrimination even includes threats of eviction from their homes.
I assure you, these trained professionals are going above and beyond to stop the spread of the virus, both at their work places and in their homes.
The practices many of us are still adjusting to, including proper hand-washing and other preventive measures, have always been part of health care professionals’ daily lives.
Instead of being afraid, we should continue to work together and be prepared to prevent the spread, stay informed and flatten the curve.
One additional preventive measure that AHS is putting in place today is limiting visitors in hospitals.
With few exceptions, patients in hospital will no longer be able to have any visitors in person.
Please plan to support loved ones in hospital with virtual visits instead.
We are continuing to watch the situation in our province very closely.
We need to move forward together, even though we are physically distanced to ensure we take care of each other during this time.
Thank you, and I will now take questions.