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Thank you. Good afternoon.
We have identified 138 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta in the last 24 hours.
The vast majority are in the Calgary Zone, where we have increased testing over the past several days in order to identify opportunities to limit spread, given that this Zone has consistently had the highest rates of illness.
I anticipate that we will have more information later this week about what this increased testing is showing us.
This brings the total number of cases to 1,870.
Of these, 914 people have recovered. This is 37 more than yesterday.
While we are seeing a steady rise in recovered cases in the province, we should also expect to see a rise of cases in the coming days as a result of expanded testing.
We have completed 2,868 COVID tests in the last 24 hours.
Sadly, I must report two additional deaths from COVID-19.
This includes one new death at the McKenzie Towne continuing care facility. There have now been 21 deaths at this facility.
The other death occurred at the Shepherd’s Care Kensington facility in Edmonton.
To the family and friends of these people and to all who have recently lost loved ones to any cause, I offer my deep condolences.
While we can start to become numb to these numbers as time goes on, each one of these individuals had a life that mattered, and people who loved them and it is in order to prevent further losses that we are focusing measures on these high-risk areas.
There have now been 214 cases, including 30 deaths, in continuing care facilities in this province.
I know that many Albertans have concerns about their loved ones at these facilities.
I hear their concerns and want to assure them that we are doing everything possible to help seniors and other vulnerable individuals living and working in these facilities to stay as safe as possible.
On Friday, I announced new measures to limit the spread, including requiring all workers in continuing care and designated supportive living facilities to work at only one site.
Work is underway to implement this in a way that also ensures facilities have enough staff to safely care for residents.
We are testing any staff or resident who display any symptoms at continuing care facilities.
Any resident who has a routine interface with staff is being actively screened daily for symptoms. This includes a temperature check as well as questions and observations about their health.
Staff in these facilities who need to be within 2 metres of others during the course of their work are required to wear face masks for the duration of their shift.
We have also implemented mandatory enhanced cleaning and disinfection requirements, and mandatory outbreak protocols to protect staff and residents.
Alberta Health Services continues to closely monitor every confirmed outbreak, working with the facility to provide supports to limit the spread and ensure proper outbreak protocols are in place. This also extends to any suspect or probable outbreaks and begins at the first onset of any symptoms in a resident or staff member.
If we need to modify our approach in the future, we will do so. Protecting the health of residents and staff in these facilities is our top priority.
I know that many Albertans may tired of hearing about COVID-19 and thinking about how to respond.
Our hair may be getting shaggy, our tempers may be getting short, and those of us with young children may be running out of ideas on how to entertain them at home.
We are missing spending time with friends and family, and many are struggling to make ends meet with the impact these measures have had on workplaces.
For all of us, I wonder if one of the hardest things to manage is the uncertainty looking forward, and the fact that we can’t yet make plans for when life will return to more normalcy.
I am guessing that all Albertans want their lives back, and as soon as possible.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic, and it has impacted every one of us. We are all grieving in some way.
I know some Albertans are grieving the loss of loved ones, and this is the hardest grief of all.
Other Albertans are grieving the loss of jobs, income, or health.
Some are grieving the loss of control and the close physical connection to others that we all crave.
We are all mourning the normalcy we once knew.
During these times, it is a natural reaction to experience different expressions of this grief, including anger, bargaining, denial and even depression.
These are all normal reactions and responses. We all must process the losses caused by this new situation, and the changes to our everyday lives we now face.
As a physician, I know that the experience of grief is highly personal and also that it changes over time. We can be there for each other through this; holding each other up when we need it. This will not last forever.
Part of looking forward is adjusting to a level of uncertainty when it comes to planning for the future.
Many are wondering when we’ll be able to plan family gatherings, take vacations and schedule other important life events.
Now that we’ve been able to significantly expand testing to provide more robust data, I hope to provide some more structured timelines soon to the Emergency Management Coordination Committee of Cabinet for them to consider next steps going forward.
Even still, it’s important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is something that we’ll all be dealing with for a while.
There may be certain habits brought on by our new normal, such as frequent hand washing, that should be applied for the foreseeable future.
Large social gatherings are another thing that may take a while to return.
We have seen from cases here in Alberta that large social gatherings carry significant risk for transmitting the virus.
For those who have made plans for weddings or other large gatherings in the next few months, I would strongly encourage you to consider postponing or at least planning for smaller gatherings should the orders for mass gatherings remain in effect.
I realize this is not welcome news, and I share in your frustration at the situation. Believe me when I say I wish it were within my power to give everyone back the life they had three months ago.
Without that power, what we do have is each other and the basic measures to prevent spread that will be with us for months to come.
The most important steps we can take to prevent the spread of infection remain the same.
Consistent adherence to good hygiene such as regular hand washing, staying home whenever possible, particularly if you are feeling ill and practicing physical distancing when you do need to go out…are the best ways to keep yourself and those around you healthy.
These practices continue to be critical in the coming weeks.
I would like to end by thanking the many Albertans who are caring for loved ones with health issues, including — but not limited to — those with COVID-19.
Caregivers, as the Minister said, play an essential role in our health care system. And I am pleased our government is providing them additional supports.
If you are part of this diverse work force that provides care for loved ones dealing with illnesses, mental health issues, disabilities or other needs, thank you for your hard work and dedication.
If you are looking for resources or information on the supports announced by the Minister today, visit caregivers-alberta-dot-c-a.
Thank you. I will now be happy to take questions.