COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
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Good afternoon everyone.
We have confirmed an additional 187 cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in Alberta to 3,095.
Of these, 1,273 people have recovered.
I am sad to report two additional deaths today, bringing our total to 61.
One of these deaths involved a resident from High Prairie’s J.B. Wood continuing care centre.
I want to offer my sympathies to the family and friends of these two individuals.
As of today, there are 367 cases in continuing care facilities across Alberta from 29 active outbreaks.
We continue to closely monitor the outbreak I previously mentioned at Cargill, where 401 cases have now been confirmed; at JBS, where 77 cases have now been confirmed; as well as the outbreak at the Kearl work camp.
Employees at the Kearl work camp who are currently on site are being swabbed this week as an added measure for outbreak control. Similar testing is being offered to workers at Cargill and JBS.
We currently have 20 confirmed cases at the Kearl work camp, as previously reported. And as I mentioned earlier, we are working with other partners in provinces across the country to determine where there may be other cases.
As a precaution, with respect to the Kearl work camp, all workers who were at that location prior to April 16 when the outbreak was confirmed and control measures were put in place, must self-isolate for 14 days after they left the camp.
This is important because these workers may have been exposed without being aware and they could be incubating; and they must be watching for signs of illness and call 811 or go online to do the AHS self-assessment if they develop any of the following signs of illness: fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat.
Starting today, we will be posting the location and facility name of active outbreaks in the province in continuing care, long-term care and acute care sites.
I know the word “outbreak” may seem alarming, especially when there are a number of them and when some of them show a large number of cases.
But it is important to remember that the outbreaks we are posting are any sites where we have seen two or more cases. This is usually an indication that transmission has occurred within that facility.
Even before this happens, public health is involved with facilities because all congregate care sites in the province are required to report to public health if they have even one resident or staff with a COVID symptom. A precautionary outbreak is declared if even one staff or resident is confirmed to have COVID.
Having this low threshold for reporting and outbreak measures ensures that public health is immediately involved to support the facility to protect residents and staff from spread of the virus.
An outbreak is declared over only when four weeks have passed with no new cases.
Right now, we have only listed outbreaks on our website in continuing care and acute care facilities. However, our goal is to expand to other settings in the weeks to come.
I will continue to update you on new outbreaks with unusual circumstances in these daily updates.
In the months since cases first emerged from Wuhan, we have experienced a large volume of information being thrown at us.
I appreciate many may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what’s important to know and what information has changed.
One constant question that comes up to me is about the use of masks, and when and where they should be used. In order to better understand my advice on this, it is important to understand how the virus spreads.
We know the virus spreads by droplets that can be produced by coughing and sneezing, but also by talking, laughing and even singing. This is with a person who has COVID-19.
It is also spread by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
My advice is to stay at least two metres away from others and this is because of the spread by droplets.
Droplets do not stay in the air for long periods of time or long distances. This disease is not passed through airborne transmission, with some exceptions for specific procedures in medical settings that can generate aerosols.
In other settings, staying at least 2 metres away from others, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and regular hand washing are protective measures.
What we also know is that people who are infected can start to spread the virus to others in the day or two before their symptoms start.
This is where masks come in for the general public.
If those who are not able to maintain a two metre distance from others during their day consistently wear masks, this reduces the chance that someone who is infected, but not yet sick, would spread the virus to others.
I want to emphasize that mask wearing is in addition to, not a replacement for, all other guidance like regular hand washing, staying home when sick, and not touching your face.
Also, masks need to be worn properly in order to work – they should cover both the mouth and the nose, they should be put on and taken off with clean hands, and promptly disposed of or stored safely in a bag and then washed. Hands should immediately be washed after taking off a mask.
As we head towards the second month since Alberta’s first case was announced, I am hearing a lot of discussion about wanting to start opening up, and getting back to more of a normal routine.
I sympathize with this desire – I too want to get back to normal as soon as possible.
The challenge we are facing is that in some ways we are a victim of our own success.
We have collectively pulled together to reduce the spread of this virus and to a large measure we have succeeded.
The temptation we need to resist is to think that because we haven’t yet seen the spread that our model predicted, that means the problem has gone away. That is not true.
The virus is still with us, and we need to continue to take it very seriously, even as we start to think about reopening again.
We can think about this virus as a tidal wave that could have swept in and left a trail of destruction behind.
This didn’t happen because we collectively formed a barrier by our actions to prevent the full force of this wave from striking us.
As we start to change our behaviour in planning to reopen segments of our society, we need to remember that the potential force of that tidal wave is still there.
We will need to keep following core elements of the public health measures for many months to come.
Even as we plan to open businesses, we need to seek a balance between minimizing virus spread and ensuring our society can function to support the best mental, physical and economic health of all of us.
This means that we all need to stay committed to avoiding large gatherings, washing hands regularly, cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces, staying home when sick, keeping two metres of distance between us, and wearing masks in public when we can’t keep two metres of distance between ourselves and others.
We cannot take our success for granted and we need to continue being vigilant.
We must keep collectively forming that barrier by our actions if we want to be successful in reopening.
Every day, through the actions we’ve collectively taken, through the experiences and research of others, we’ll continue to learn more about this virus and its impacts.
Learnings that will guide us in the future and improve our efforts to prevent the spread.
I am grateful to Albertans for the way that we have responded to this challenge, and protected each other. We need to build on our efforts, and guard against complacency. This will be a team effort for many months to come.
And finally, I’d like to reinforce that most of Alberta’s family physicians continue to provide services during COVID-19, but that these services may be provided differently than in the past.
Patients should continue to consult with their family physician for non-urgent health concerns, including chronic conditions and any new health concerns unrelated to COVID-19.
I encourage patients to call their family physician’s office first to determine how best to meet their needs, whether by telephone, virtual health appointment, or in-person if required.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, the online self-assessment at AHS is your best resource.
If you think you are having a serious or life-threatening injury or illness, go straight to an emergency department or call 911.
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms and are having a medical emergency, please call 911 and inform them of your symptoms.
By telling 911 when you call, it ensures you will get the care you need without putting others at risk.
Thank you. I am happy to take questions.