COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
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Good afternoon everyone.
Today, we have confirmed 297 new cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 4,017.
Of the new cases, three are in a First Nation community within the Calgary Zone.
The infected individuals are in isolation and the community is working with Indigenous Services Canada to prevent further spread in that community.
Alberta Health Services is also investigating two cases at the Mountain View Poultry chicken processing facility in Okotoks.
All supports are in place to prevent spread in that facility.
1,397 people in our province have now recovered from COVID-19.
I must also report there have been five additional deaths in the province. This brings the total number of lives lost to 72.
My sincere condolences go out to everyone grieving the loss of a loved one today.
Nothing can ease this pain, but please know we are doing everything we can to prevent further deaths from this illness.
Since yesterday, I have heard from many Albertans who are profoundly disappointed or even angry about my statement regarding summer events.
The message I am hearing is that Albertans have sacrificed so much already, how can I ask them to give up their summer when we don’t know for sure what the situation will be like in one or two months?
I hear this loud and clear, and the question of how we came to the decision regarding summer events is a valid one.
So today I would like to provide more information on why I am convinced this measure is necessary.
First, I know the curve shown in our modelling work may have left the impression that the virus will go away over the summer.
That is not the case.
The virus that causes COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and the relatively low case numbers we are seeing in most of the province are the result of our collective efforts and sacrifices.
COVID-19 is still with us.
And it spreads rapidly through social interactions.
I want to give a example of how this happens.
We have had several instances in the province of social gatherings where one person passed the virus on to many others at a single event, before the individual knew they had COVID.
The bonspiel in Alberta is one example I have talked about before.
Of the 73 people who attended that event, 40 ended up with COVID-19.
We have had other social events where over 80% per cent of attendees were infected, and the common theme in all of these is that the source did not know they had COVID, or there was possibly an environmental source, such as high-touch surfaces.
The attendees were trying to be careful, with regular hand sanitization, and trying to follow distancing rules, but the gatherings were social in nature.
From these events, a single gathering resulted in between 13 and 40 additional cases, with subsequent spread to household contacts of those who attended.
In some cases, these household contacts were health care workers.
We are working to map out the ripple effects of spread started by these gatherings.
These gatherings happened early in our epidemic, before we fully understood the reality of transmission before the onset of symptoms, and I want to be clear I am not blaming the people involved for this spread.
What I want to underline is that the kinds of social gatherings we are used to, even in the summer, can result in significant spread of the virus from just one person who may not even know they are infected.
The results can be explosive, far-reaching and deadly.
These are extraordinary times, and I am asking a lot of all of us.
I hear every day of the things Albertans are giving up to fight COVID-19, and it does not seem fair to ask for more.
Unfortunately, this virus does not respect our feelings.
We have no easy options.
We only have each other, and our commitment to protect one another by continuing to make sacrifices.
I am keenly aware of the depth to which these measures are affecting everyone.
I do not take them lightly.
I ask you to do the same.
Many Albertans may not feel directly affected by COVID-19.
But there is a growing number of us who are.
I want to talk today about the importance of supporting these people.
For example, those affected by the outbreak in High River.
Not everyone who works at Cargill is a close contact of a confirmed case.
There is no reason to assume that everyone connected to that facility is infected.
These individuals are not in mandated isolation, unless they are a confirmed case or a close contact of a confirmed case, and should not be restricted from accessing businesses such as grocery stores or banks when necessary.
The people who are affected by this outbreak are experiencing many difficulties.
And they need support and compassion as we work to stop further spread.
The same is true of all those working at continuing care sites experiencing outbreaks, including health care workers and many others. This is also true of those who may have the illness or be close contacts of someone who has it.
In the interest of transparency, we will begin posting health care worker case numbers online next week.
To start, these statistics will only reflect information from AHS staff.
Recognizing there is a desire to have a clear picture of the broader healthcare worker population, AHS is working to ensure physician data and Covenant Health data can be included as soon as possible.
This data may give the impression health care workers are at greater risk of spreading the virus, but this is not the case.
As I have said before, health care workers take hygiene and sanitization practices seriously at all times, and even more so now.
Do not be afraid to reach out to them and offer support when it’s needed.
We need to thank those who are staying home because they feel sick, whether or not they have yet been tested.
We need to make sure that, by our actions and attitudes, we encourage people who are sick to get tested.
So those people do not feel shame or fear that makes them hide their symptoms and risk further spread.
I have spoken often about our new normal.
I want to make sure that this new normal both maintains physical distance and encourages social connection, compassion and understanding.
The more we commit to this, the more effective we will be at stopping the spread together.
I hear you when you tell me what you have given up already.
I hear you when you worry for your children’s well-being, and the health of your loved ones.
I know the sacrifices that are being made are taking a tremendous toll on all of us.
I want you to know I do not take these decisions lightly.
I feel the weight of your sacrifice with every step we take.
But I know they are necessary to save lives now, and provide a path forward to a time when they are no longer needed.
Thank you. I am happy to take your questions.