COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
Before I provide my daily update, I’d like to echo Minister Shandro’s comments and thank Calgary Health Trust and its donors for their generous donation.
As I’ve said before, aggressive, widespread testing is a cornerstone of our strategy to flatten the curve.
This investment will further build Alberta’s testing capacity—already one of the highest in the world.
Once again, I encourage anyone who has symptoms to please arrange for testing, which will help us track and manage the spread of new cases.
Today, we are reporting an additional 57 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Alberta to 5,893.
Of these, 3,219 people have now recovered.
Since my last update, we have also confirmed 2 additional deaths in the province. This brings the total number of lives lost to 106.
I extend my condolences to all those affected by these deaths, as well as anyone grieving the loss of a loved one from any cause.
As of today, there are now 622 COVID-19 outbreak cases in continuing care facilities across the province.
I would also like to confirm that Alberta Health Services has retained AgeCare to oversee administration of Millrise Seniors Village in southwest Calgary.
This change in administration is a result of challenges in staffing levels at the facility over the past few weeks, as well as concerns over how the facility has managed outbreak protocols during a COVID-19 outbreak at the site.
AHS will support the site’s day-to-day operations in collaboration with AgeCare and will continue to support staffing as this transition occurs over the coming days.
We will continue to monitor and evaluate the site staffing levels on an ongoing basis, and we will work to ensure residents and staff are safe.
I would like to reiterate that continuing care facilities remain a priority, and we will continue to closely monitor all active outbreaks.
We will take additional actions as necessary to protect the health and well-being of the residents and staff working in these settings.
In High River, there have now been 949 cases at the Cargill meatpacking plant. Of these, 810 have now recovered.
There have also been 487 confirmed cases among workers at the JBS plant in Brooks.
At the Harmony meatpacking plant, there have been 36 cases identified, and I want to emphasize that part of this case number is related to the outbreak management tool of testing asymptomatic workers.
Almost one third of these cases were found by offering testing to those who have no symptoms, which enables quicker case management and contact tracing. AHS is working closely with Harmony to limit spread.
It is important to be able to respond rapidly to these situations, and I want to acknowledge the work of all those who are responding to outbreaks in every setting across the province.
With the way that public health measures have radically changed our daily lives, today I want to talk a bit about mental health.
I have touched on this subject a number of times and it continues to be important.
It’s also Mental Health Week in Canada so a good opportunity to talk openly about mental health.
Prior to the pandemic, one in five Albertans were expected to experience a mental health or addiction issue at some point in their lifetime.
As a result of this pandemic, all Albertans may be feeling increased fear, anxiety or sadness.
Many Albertans, particularly those who experience illness, grief and loss, or financial hardships may require additional mental health support.
We are already starting to get information on the experiences of other parts of the world that dealt with the pandemic before us.
Both Canadian and international surveys have found that about half of respondents reported having moderate to severe anxiety and up to
20 per cent reported depression.
And we know that the impact on people’s mental health will be felt for a long time.
While it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a significantly larger and potentially longer lasting negative psychosocial impact than the medical impact on Albertans and while additional supports are in place, and more are coming, to support those affected mental health is still an issue that many find difficult to talk about.
This can make it challenging to find support.
We often ask people who are struggling to reach out to their family or friends but reaching can sometimes feel like one of the hardest things to do.
Instead, I challenge all of us today to try to connect proactively with our loved ones and ask how they are feeling instead of waiting for them to reach out.
Thank the people in your circle who uplift you and who improve your mental well-being and ask how you can be that person for someone else.
As I’ve noted, anxiety, depression and other disorders are very likely to become more widespread as we continue to deal with the pandemic.
We must talk openly and honestly about these issues and how they affect us.
I am lucky to have a supportive family to lean on during what has been a challenging time for me both personally and professionally.
Long hours and increased stress can take a toll.
If you don’t feel like you have a strong support system to rely on, please know you have options for support.
The Mental Health Helpline and the Addiction Helpline run by Alberta Health Services have increased capacity to take calls. I encourage you to call them if you need support. Their number is 1-877-303-2642 and you can find that number by googling ‘Mental Health Helpline Alberta Health Services’.
If you are in crisis or having thoughts of self-harm, please call 911.
Other increased supports that have been put in place include increasing the capacity of the Community and Social Services 211 helpline and the Kids Help Phone.
This pandemic… and the measures we have had to take to contain it have affected us all.
It is normal to feel anxious, scared, lonely uncertain or depressed.
While we continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we must also work together to support good mental health.
A crucial part of this work is to be honest with each other about how we are doing and having frank, supportive conversations about whether the phrase “I’m fine” really means fine or if it means someone is struggling but not sure how to explain how they’re feeling.
It’s okay if you’re not fine.
You are not alone.
We need each other now more than ever.
And even once we proceed with the re-launch of our economy, we will continue to need each other.
If there is someone special in your life you depend on, let them know.
If you think someone in your life may be struggling, support them as best you can.
As much as anything else, this acknowledgement that we must look after our own and each other’s mental health must be part of our new normal as much as regular handwashing and staying home when we are feeling sick.
We will always be stronger together, even when we are physically apart.
Thank you. I will be happy to take questions.