Check against delivery

Good afternoon.

First, I want to report that we learned this morning of an inmate at the Calgary Remand Centre who has tested positive for COVID-19.

This is someone newly admitted who was exposed before they arrived. I want to share this information today both because it is the first case we have had in the province in a correctional facility and also because it is a story of how all precautions were taken.

The individual was admitted directly to the quarantine unit in the facility upon arrival.

He did not report any symptoms on arrival and was quarantined with one cellmate who was admitted at the same time and who also had no symptoms.

The individual reported feeling unwell the following evening at which time both he and his cellmate were placed in isolation and the symptomatic individual was swabbed.

All inmates are assessed for exposure and symptoms upon admission to the facility or transfer from another location, as well as at minimum once per day while in the Centre.

Any inmate who develops symptoms is moved to isolation. 

Both of these inmates that I mentioned, are now in isolation and the facility has proactively implemented outbreak processes as a precaution.

Generally and where possible, correctional centres are quarantining new admissions for 14 days upon entry. 

This added measure allows for increased monitoring of new admissions for the development of symptoms before moving them onto other living units.  

Corrections has been working with AHS to ensure appropriate infection prevention protocols are in place at correctional facilities=.

In this case, this this work helped officials identify this infection early.

And, when correctional staff reviewed video footage, it reinforced that appropriate health and safety protocols were followed.

Alberta Health Services will continue to work with the facility to ensure all appropriate steps are taken to prevent the spread of the infection and that these practices continue with the safety of staff and inmates as a priority.

As we prepare for Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy, I am shifting how I present the daily case information to you.

This is intended to help Albertans have the best understanding of the measures we are watching as we consider the timing of stage one of relaunch.

One key measure is our hospitalization and intensive care unit admissions related to COVID-19. We are seeing a decline in these numbers in Alberta.

Currently, 80 people are hospitalized, with 17 of those admitted to ICUs.

It is encouraging to see these numbers coming down from last week because it means fewer people are experiencing severe outcomes from this virus.

It also means our health care system has capacity to handle potential additional COVID-19 cases if needed.

In total, there are now 4,020 people who have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 1,963 active cases in Alberta.

In the last 24 hours, out of 3,232 new test results there were 81 new cases.

I’m sad to report one additional death has occurred, a woman in her 80s in a continuing care facility in the Calgary Zone.

This brings the total number of deaths in Alberta to 115.

I struggle every day when reporting this number to not have it blend in as just another statistic.

It may sound mundane at this point, as I have said it so many times, but every day, I think of the friends and families of those individuals who have died, and all those affected by the recent loss of a loved one from any cause.

We are forced to grieve differently in this time of pandemic, physically distant from extended family and friends, and I offer my sympathy to all those who are navigating that difficult terrain right now.

Outbreak case numbers

As of today, there are 678 cases in outbreaks in continuing care facilities across the province.

At the Cargill facility, there are now 95 active cases in workers and 849 workers who have recovered.

There are also 96 active cases among workers at the JBS in Brooks. At this facility, 497 have now recovered.

And at Harmony Beef, there are 21 active cases in workers and 16 individuals have recovered.

Public health officials continue to work closely with the operators to respond to each outbreak,   contain the spread and ensure all public health measures are enforced and being taken seriously.

Recreational Activities

The seriousness of these outbreaks is an important reminder that we must remain vigilant as we move towards stage one of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy.

The next stages of our relaunch plan will depend on our collective ability to keep infection rates low as we begin to relax public health measures.

I continue to remind Albertans of the importance of responsible action. One setting where we can already be more active already is outdoors.

Spending time outside and enjoying outdoor activities is a great thing to do for both physical and mental health, but we need to do so while being mindful of each other’s health and safety, and while maintaining distances of two metres between ourselves and anyone from outside our household.

I have received many questions and requests to clarify what activities are allowed under existing orders.

Outdoor activities such as the following are permissible with restrictions:

Golf courses and driving ranges were able to open on May 2, with safety measures to ensure adequate physical distancing and increased sanitization and limited contact with high-touch objects and surfaces.

Earlier this week, outdoor gun ranges were also allowed to open with similar precautions.

Operators and Albertans can visit our webpage for more information, including specific directions and recommendations to responsibly participate in these activities.

The Alberta Relaunch Strategy identified that on May 14, online provincial campground reservation systems will open for bookings at select campgrounds with camping in those locations starting June 1st.

There will be restrictions in place to ensure safety.

Private and municipal campgrounds will be able to operate in stage one of relaunch as early as May 14 as long as they follow appropriate guidance.

This is intended to limit risk for employees and campers.

For campers wishing to enjoy the outdoors this May long weekend, please remember that physical distancing and restrictions on groups of 15 or more still apply.

I have heard from many Albertans hoping to travel to summer homes, cabins and cottages within Alberta.

Responsible travel to these locations within the province is permissible, with consideration to local community guidelines.

Travel to summer homes outside the province is still not recommended.

I encourage any person who is considering travelling within the province, to respect the health and safety of small communities and plan their trip with minimal stops where possible.

Pack your own food and stop only for gas if necessary.

As always, take all the necessary precautions to protect your health and the health of those around you.

Communities that include private recreational facilities like lakes, sports courts, or trails, may also be wondering when they can safely resume operations for their members and visitors.

Operators of these private facilities may choose to do so, but must follow the guidance available on our website.

Guidance that is general and labelled workplace guidance can also be used in these settings to make sure that enhanced cleaning and sanitization, distancing measures, and other measures that are needed to prevent transmission are in place.

Private pools and gyms must remain closed, due to the high risk inherent in these activities and in lake settings I discourage the use of communal features like inflatables or trampolines that could increase the risk of transmission of the virus.

Tracer app

If you plan on going anywhere, please consider voluntarily downloading the ABTraceTogether app and having it open on your phone when in public.

I cannot overstate how important contact tracing will become as we open up our economy and people begin moving around more.

Contact tracers will need the help of the app to track new cases in the coming weeks and months.

If we cannot rely on that information, contact tracing will take longer, the virus may spread further, and we may have to consider pulling back on our relaunch steps and putting restrictions back in place if the virus spreads at a high rate.

Finally, this summer, I wanted to let people know that water testing at Alberta beaches will be delayed.

This is a result of public health staff and testing laboratories prioritizing monitoring and testing for COVID-19.

As lab capacity increases and lab staff return to work as part of our province’s relaunch plan, we will reassess our water sampling program to see if some testing can resume later this summer.

In the meantime, Albertans should use lakes and beaches at their own risk and take precautions if they choose to enter water bodies.

This includes checking for visible signs of blue-green algal blooms and following advice that may be posted at beach sites.

I know there will be bumps in the weeks to come for businesses, and I know many of these directions may feel confusing.

Albertans have many questions about specific activities that they enjoy, and I will continue to offer as much guidance as I can as we work through relaunch together.

I have seen comments from Albertans who are worried about going back to work and returning to some activities, and I want to remind everyone to be kind to one another.

Albertans have pulled together to support one another through this pandemic, and that support remains as essential as ever.

Public health officials are continuing to work on advice to determine what activities can safely resume and what additional measures will need to be in place.

I ask Albertans to be patient while this work continues.

More information and details will be shared in the days ahead through the Alberta relaunch section of the website.

Please be mindful to the risk associated with the activities you choose to pursue as we move towards relaunch and stay safe.

Before I conclude, I would like to wish all Alberta mothers and those involved in mothering a very happy Mother’s Day this weekend.

I know this year will feel a little different, but I hope you can find the time and ability to connect with your loved ones, even if it’s in a different way.

This holiday can also be difficult for some Albertans who have lost a mother, or for mothers who have lost a child.

These feelings may be even more overwhelming during this time of isolation.

Continue to check in with your loved ones about how you can support them.

For those planning to celebrate the occasion by visiting a family member in a continuing care facility, please remember the rules around masks, physical distancing, and the need to call ahead to make sure there is an ability to visit safely so we can keep everyone safe.

Thank you. I am happy to take questions.