Check against delivery

Good afternoon everyone.

Today, I’d like to provide an update on COVID-19 in the province, as well as take a moment to talk about other ways you can protect your health.

First, I want to update you on the service disruption that I mentioned yesterday.

Late Tuesday night, a power failure in our data centre caused a small electrical fire and brought down the reporting system.

As I said yesterday, I know many Albertans are interested in the daily COVID-19 updates.

Teams are working around the clock to restore all applications as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience as we get the system running again, and hope that all will be resolved by tomorrow.

Although we do not have in-depth data available today. I hope to provide our usual data as part of tomorrow’s update.

What I can tell you is we have identified 162 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

This brings the total number of cases to 2,158

We have completed 2,779 tests over the last 24 hours.

Sadly, I must report two additional deaths related to COVID-19:

  • A male in his 70s in Calgary Zone
  • A female in her 80s in North Zone.

I want to express my sincere condolences to the families and friends of these individuals.

The scale of this pandemic means we often talk in case numbers, but we must never forget that every case is a person.

Every death is a tragedy for the people who love them.

I’d also like to update on several outbreaks that have garnered significant attention recently.

Yesterday, I announced an outbreak had been confirmed at the Kearl Lake oil sands project.

Alberta Health Services continues to work closely with the company to implement outbreak procedures at the site.

We are doing everything possible to limit the risk of transmission.  

My Alberta Health Services colleagues also continue to work with the operators of the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River.

They have assured me all appropriate measures are being taken and Cargill has voluntarily and fully cooperated to ensure the health and safety of staff.

In addition to complying with all public health measures, Cargill has  increased physical distancing between employees and slowing down the lines while ensuring meat processing can continue safely.

I would like to stress to Albertans, that everything that needs to be done to keep people safe in Kearl and other camps, and food processing facilities, like Cargill, is being done.

I have also been asked a number of questions recently about cases in health care facilities.

Last week, seven staff members tested positive at the Foothills Medical Centre maternity ward.  

As soon as tests came back positive, health officials took immediate action to limit the spread to staff and protect patients.

No patients were affected, and no new staff cases have been reported in the past week.

I want to assure Albertans there is no increased risk to pregnant patients coming to the Foothills Medical Centre.

The maternity units continue to be a safe and appropriate place to deliver babies and receive care.

I know many Albertans have concerns about protecting hospitals and other health care facilities from the spread of COVID-19.

I also share these concerns.

This is why aggressive measures have been put in place to protect the health of staff and patients in every facility.

This includes prohibiting non-essential visitors and implementing strict Infection Prevention and Control measures.

We have not yet seen the peak of COVID-19 in Alberta.

It is likely that we’ll continue to see occasional cases in every part of Alberta, including some health care settings.

When cases do arise, health officials take every possible step to isolate anyone who may be exposed and to ensure there is no broader risk to any patients.

It’s important to remember that COVID-19 is not airborne. Only specific individuals are at risk when positive cases are identified.

If patients are at risk of being exposed, we will alert Albertans.

Before I conclude, I’d like to talk about opportunities we have to improve our health, even during these tough times.

Specifically, I want to talk about smoking, vaping and drinking alcohol.

As you know, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus.

Many Albertans have asked me if smokers and vapers are more at risk, and if stopping smoking will protect you from COVID-19.

Smoking and e-cigarettes can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals. It is not yet clear whether these exposures increase the risk of catching COVID-19, however they do increase the risk of severe illness for those who do get infected.

There is growing evidence to suggest quitting smoking or vaping — even temporarily — can have positive outcomes in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Smoking increases the risk of poor outcomes from any lung infection, and this virus mainly affects the lungs.

When you are smoking or vaping, you are also touching your mouth and lips. This can make it easier to catch the virus from your hands.

Given all these factors, I strongly recommend that anyone who smokes or vapes take steps to quit or cut down during this pandemic.

I know quitting is not easy. It takes incredible determination and support.

This is a stressful time, and quitting can add to the stress that many already feel. Having said that, in a time when it feels like we have little control over many things, this may help to focus on one thing you can control.

Please check with your pharmacist or doctor to see if phone support is available to answer questions about your options to help support quitting or cutting down.

Alberta Health Services also has several programs that can help, including a free Alberta Quits hotline that can provide confidential support every day of the week.

It’s also important that we limit drinking alcohol during this time.

Alcohol consumption can make many things worse, including health issues, risk-taking behaviours, mental health and violence.

All Albertans should be mindful of how much they are drinking – no more than about two drinks per day are recommended for women and three drinks per day for men. Canadians can also follow the national low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines for details for when alcohol is considered a risk

It’s more important now than ever to look after your mental and physical health.

These are challenging days, and I know this virus is taking a heavy toll on families and communities.

I know many Albertans are wanting to see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Rest assured, we are doing everything possible to limit the spread in Alberta and get our province through this incredibly difficult time.

Remember, the best thing anyone can do to protect ourselves from COVID-19 is to practice physical distancing, wash their hand regularly, and follow every other public health measure we’ve put in place.

We will get through this together.

Thank you. I am happy to take any questions you may have.