Check against delivery

Good afternoon everyone.

Before I give my update, I want to acknowledge that I know that Albertans were disappointed that I did not share information on the Foothills Hospital maternity ward situation before yesterday.

I have heard clearly that Albertans rely on the information I share about unusual situations, regardless of whether or not these situations pose a public risk.  

Going forward, we are working to include information on all confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks on our webpage, to support my commitment to be as transparent with Albertans as possible, while still protecting personally identifiable information.

As part of this transparency, I want to be confident that any outbreak site is informed of this intent before their information is posted online.

We want to be sure that families with loved ones in these facilities are getting timely information from the facilities itself and will not hear about an outbreak from our web site.

I expect to be able to update Albertans on this information by early next week.

I am pleased to report our surveillance information is back online following the disruption earlier this week.

With this new data, as the Premier reported, we have identified 239 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta in the last 24 hours.

This includes 134 lab-confirmed cases and 105.

And 105 new probable cases, which is a combination of the last three days’ numbers.

While this number is a high total, I want to remind people that we did expand our testing access this week, and we expected to see more cases as we test more Albertans. In the last 24 hours, we did 3,831 COVID tests.

Another reason for the recent increase in case numbers today can be attributed in part to a surge in cases identified in households linked to a meat-packing facility in High River.

There are now 358 cases linked to this outbreak, involving multiple connected households.  

Some of these households are in surrounding communities, such as Calgary, and current information suggests that the cases in this outbreak are primarily linked to household transmission.

Alberta Health Services has put together a dedicated outbreak response team to track this High River outbreak and try to prevent further infections at any locations where transmission is occurring.

Today’s new cases bring the total number of Alberta’s COVID-19 cases to 2,397.

Of these, 1,124 people have recovered.

We suspect 400 of our total cases may be as a result of community transmission from an unknown source.  This number has increase and is a concern.

The locations where transmission is happening will be part of my updated next week once we have had more time with the data given that we lost two days of access this week and we have not had time to do this yet.

There have been no new deaths over the last 24 hours, leaving our total at 50. Of these, 32 were in residents of continuing care facilities.

I know those people with loved ones in long-term and continuing care facilities are concerned about the risk of infection at these sites.

I am too.

It is not acceptable that elderly Albertans are being put at risk in a place where their health is supposed to be protected.

We have put strong measures in place to limit the spread of infection at these facilities.

We must do more.

That is why I am working with Alberta Health Services to expand testing in the units of continuing care facilities that are experiencing outbreaks to now include asymptomatic residents and staff.

This expanded testing does not replace or change any of our outbreak measures, and a negative test in someone with no symptoms does not change a need to be isolated for 14 days if they are a close contact of a confirmed case.

What it does is gives us a better chance of early identification of new cases. Given that we now know people who may be infected with COVID-19 can potentially spread the illness before they show symptoms, testing more residents and staff in continuing care facilities will help us prevent further infections and deaths.

Having said that, testing is only one part of the larger response, and it must be taken in that context.

I know staff at these sites are doing everything they can to keep these residents safe, and we will continue to support them by ensuring our requirements around visitation, sanitization and personal protective equipment are rigorously followed at all times.

We cannot let up on these requirements during this crucial time.

One particular situation I wish to inform you about today is the outbreak at Manoir du Lac Continuing Care Facility.

Earlier today, Alberta Health Services issued a news release indicating that they will be taking over administration of this facility after public health determined that protocols for keeping residents safe and well cared for were not being followed.

The health and safety of residents in our seniors’ care facilities is of utmost importance, and these measures are being taken to ensure that residents get the care they need.

While we are focusing on this group at the highest risk of severe illness, we still need to protect each other in the general population as well.

We must continue to stay home when possible, and practice physical distancing when we need to leave the house.

And, if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 – including fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath – we must self isolate immediately and complete an online self-assessment to be referred to an appointment for testing. If you do not have online access, you can call 811.

If you are directed to get tested, please do so.

Testing is incredibly important to our COVID response strategy.

It helps us to trace the spread of the infection in our communities and identify any outbreaks as soon as possible, so we can work quickly to address them.

With increased testing, we will find more cases, and that may bring new exposures at workplaces into view. This gives us an opportunity to be sure that contact tracing and measures to prevent infection are put into place.

We are using asymptomatic testing in select outbreak contexts as an additional tool in our toolbox of local public health to make sure that those sites that have outbreaks have access to testing where it is needed and where it can help to identify cases early and prevent spread.

This knowledge also gives an opportunity to prepare proactively. I want to remind all employers that you have a responsibility to prevent the spread of infection at your work sites, and protect workers and any members of the public who may enter that site.

I know many businesses are eager to re-open and serve the public.

We are not at that point yet, but continuing to follow all public health orders and guidance will help us get there sooner.

Thank you. I am happy to take questions.