COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
Thank you. Good afternoon.
I hope everyone was able to enjoy the long weekend and found ways to connect with loved ones.
I was delighted to hear and read of the many examples of how Albertans were celebrating this weekend.
Bridge Church in Fort Saskatchewan held a drive-in Easter Sunday service, allowing community members to come together in faith while keeping their distance.
I’ve also heard of a number of churches, synagogues, gurdwaras and mosques that are choosing to celebrate online, either through live broadcasts or by connecting worshippers to online resources.
Not specific to the weekend, I’ve also received messages describing milestone birthday celebrations for those in long-term care or other facilities where using technology like Zoom made it possible to connect people across the country – and beyond – to create a bigger virtual party than what could be possible for an in-person party.
Thank you for sharing your stories of the moments of joy and the unanticipated small benefits that have been found in the middle of this unusual time.
I want to say thank you to all of you for doing your part to prevent the spread this weekend. You have helped save lives.
For our numbers today, we have confirmed 81 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
This brings the total number of cases to 1,732.
Of these, 877 people have recovered. This is 54 more than yesterday.
We suspect 254 of our total cases may be as a result of community transmission.
Sadly, I must report an additional two deaths from COVID-19.
One of these deaths occurred in the Carewest Sarcee continuing care facility in Calgary Zone.
I want to offer my condolences to the family and friends of these individuals. This is a difficult time. The loss of these lives is a reminder of why we are taking the measures that are implemented now. Preventing the spread prevents deaths.
Another way of preventing the spread is through testing and putting measures in place for confirmed cases and contacts. In the weeks since the first case in Alberta, our provincial lab has done a remarkable job of increasing its capacity for testing to meet the demand.
Our labs completed 2,465 tests in the last 24 hours, bringing our total to 77,007 people tested since our response began.
We have seen from other jurisdictions that have successfully flattened the curve, that aggressive testing is essential to controlling the spread.
As I’ve said before, it’s extremely important to not just complete as many tests as we can, but that we are also purposeful in our testing.
In the past few weeks, we have adjusted eligibility requirements to ensure those most in need or at highest risk are able to access testing.
Starting about ten days ago, when our lab was able to clear the backlog of samples from returning travellers and was also able to expand their ability to run more daily tests, we started testing health care workers in addition to anyone with respiratory symptoms admitted to hospital, anyone ill in continuing care settings, and samples taken in our primary care influenza surveillance sites.
Shortly after that, we added first responders and correctional facility staff.
Most recently, we expanded eligibility for testing to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms in the Calgary Zone and anyone 65 years or older or who lives with someone 65 years or older across the province.
Even with all these expansions, we still have capacity to do more testing, and so at this point we are expanding further.
You have previously heard me say that we were not able to test every Albertan with a cough or runny nose, but we believe that we may now be at the point where we can do so.
That is why, effective immediately, we are expanding eligibility for testing to anyone in Alberta who has a fever, cough, shortness of breath, a runny nose or a sore throat.
If you have any of these COVID-19 symptoms, it is important to remember the critical first step: stay home if you’re sick.
Your next step should be to take the AHS online assessment form in order to arrange testing. There is no need to call 811 for those who complete the form — and completing this online form is the more efficient want to arrange for a test.
We will carefully monitor the volume of completed forms and tests that are done, and may need to make adjustments at some point in the future if we have more requests for testing than capacity to perform them.
Having said that, as long as we maintain our testing and lab capacity, it is my hope that we can continue to offer this broad access to testing.
With this change, going forward, we will see a further increase in the number of cases confirmed every day as a result of this testing. We have already seen this increase over the past few days with the expansion that we have already done.
I know seeing this increase in numbers may be a concern to some.
But it’s important to remember that the number of daily confirmed cases as a percent of the tests done every day has remained approximately similar throughout the past several weeks.
When we look at the provincial numbers by the date the swabs were collected, the percentage of tests that have come back positive has been approximately 2% for the past several weeks.
This indicates that the rate of infection has remained relatively stable over the last while.
Another thing we look at is the rate of hospitalization, which is currently a more accurate indicator of the trend than our total case numbers.
This is because, as I mentioned, our total case numbers are determined by our testing eligibility which has changed over the last 10 days. Going forward, testing all symptomatic Albertans will give us a more complete picture of trending over time.
In the coming days, I will be releasing COVID-19 hospitalization trends, which will give us a better picture of the spread of the virus over the past several weeks.
Our knowledge of this virus and how it spreads continues to grow. Our testing and surveillance approach will continue to adapt as needed, and the information we gain will inform adjustments to our public health measures going forward.
Thank you. I will now take questions.