Thank you, Minister. Good afternoon.
For today’s numbers, there are currently 73 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 12 of those admitted to ICUs.
In total, there are now 4,659 people who have recovered from the virus, leaving just 1,524 active cases in Alberta.
In the last 24 hours, out of 2,864 new test results, there were 47 new cases.
I’m sad to report 2 additional deaths, which occurred in continuing care facilities in the North and Calgary zones.
Two previous deaths that were reported have since been ruled as unrelated to COVID-19.
Therefore the total number of COVID-related deaths in Alberta remains at 117.
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 navigating that difficult terrain right now.
Outbreak case numbers
As of today, there are 102 active cases in outbreaks at continuing care facilities across the province.
542 residents of continuing care facilities have recovered.
At the Cargill facility, there are now 36 active cases in workers and 911 workers who have recovered.
Unfortunately, one death reported over the weekend was an employee from Cargill who fell ill last month. Although we are speaking about this today, the individual was hospitalized about a month ago. I offer my sympathy to the friends and family of this individual and all those who have lost their lives from COVID.
There are also 58 active cases among workers at the JBS plant in Brooks. At this facility, 548 have now recovered.
And at Harmony Beef, there are 16 active cases in workers and 22 individuals have recovered.
One additional case has been identified at the Calgary Remand Centre, again through the facility’s rigorous screening process when individuals are admitted.
This case is not related to the case I reported last week…
…meaning there is still no evidence of transmission within the facility.
I would also like to mention that we have three confirmed cases in workers at two unrelated Calgary daycares. The cases in question are isolated and the daycares are currently closed as a precaution.
All those who work in or attend the daycares are being offered testing, but at this time there is no evidence that the transmission happened in these settings.
Public health officials continue to respond to each outbreak, contain the spread and ensure all public health measures are enforced and being taken seriously.
I also want to provide an update on the cases at a Canada Post location in Calgary that I was asked about last week.
There are six cases that have been identified in workers at this facility, however there were no connections between them and their exposure seems to have been outside the workplace.
A deep cleaning of the facility has occurred, and there is no evidence of transmission at the work place, meaning there is no need to do testing of staff who do not have symptoms.
It may seem odd to contemplate re-starting the economy after hearing about these outbreaks.
While the final decision on entering Stage One has not yet been made, today I want to talk about why we can consider relaunch at this time.
First, the outbreaks I mentioned represent pockets of infections that we must deal with.
However, much of the province has been successful at flattening the curve.
Hospitalizations and ICU admissions are down…
…recovered case numbers are up…
…and I am encouraged to see fewer daily new cases than even one week ago.
We continue to see cases of community transmission…
…and people have asked me how we can re-open our province when the virus is still spreading in our communities.
We put our first restrictions in place after identifying one case of community transmission.
That was in early March.
I know it feels like a long time ago…
…and that is exactly the point.
Much has changed in our society since then…
…and it will remain different for a long time still.
Our societal norms around hygiene and physical distancing are different today.
We are in the habit of washing our hands thoroughly and often.
Whenever we unpack our groceries…
…handle goods delivered to our home…
…or come back home from any location…
…we wash our hands for at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water.
We also maintain physical distance.
We are well aware what two metres looks like and are accustomed to keeping this distance between one another.
These will remain habits and, in fact, will become even more important as we leave our homes more often.
We have put in place protective measures for those who are most vulnerable to severe outcomes by enhancing protections in continuing care facilities across the province, to keep them safe from this virus.
We have also enhanced our lab capacity and our ability to trace contacts and contain outbreaks.
With this capacity, even though we will continue to see some cases of COVID-19 in our communities…
…we have the testing capacity and contact tracing ability to quickly identify new cases and prevent further spread much more promptly than we could at the start of this pandemic.
With this expanded testing capacity, we also have the ability to do extra sampling in certain situations where we need more information about the spread of the virus.
This week, we will be offering extra testing in Calgary, as we are still seeing higher case numbers there than the rest of the province.
While we don’t know how much asymptomatic spread may contribute to transmission in a population, we know it is possible.
Therefore, to get a broader snapshot of infections in Calgary, we will be making testing available for one week, starting today, to asymptomatic Calgary Zone residents who work outside the home.
We can only test up to 1,000 people per day in order to be make sure we leave room to test those who are sick, but I encourage anyone in the Calgary Zone who is interested to participate to go online and register for a test.
Booking will be first come, first serve up to a maximum of 1,000 asymptomatic people per day.
It is important to remember that testing people who aren’t sick just gives a point in time picture of whether they have the virus at a particular moment in time.
It is possible, if someone has had an exposure, that they could test negative but go on to get sick later. However, offering testing to this group of people will give us more information about COVID-19 in Calgary at this point in time.
Anyone who lives in the Calgary Zone, works outside the home, and isn’t feeling sick but who wants to be tested needs to go to the AHS online assessment tool and register for testing this week.
Please do not call 811 unless you are feeling sick – use the online form instead.
I want to remind people that our priority continues to be testing those with symptoms, including our now longer list that can be found online.
Testing those who are sick is the most important way to track virus spread and I encourage all Albertans who have any of the symptoms listed to use the online form or call 811 and arrange for a test.
And I again encourage you to download the ABTraceTogether app and use it whenever you are out, to further improve our contact tracing ability.
I know the idea of re-launching our economy evokes strong emotions in many of us. Some are eager to move forward and feel we are going too slowly. Others are worried we are moving too fast.
There are as many opinions on this as there are Albertans, and it’s ok to have different perspectives.
I understand that yesterday, some were expressing their perspective at the Alberta legislature grounds…
…and I want to emphasize that while public health orders are in place to protect Albertans, there is still room within to practice peaceful protest.
Individuals who are respecting physical distancing guidelines are able to peacefully protest in outdoor public venues.
I am listening to all perspectives and ultimately making my best recommendations for the overall health of Albertans.
We will advance to relaunch cautiously, but we must proceed, for our collective health and well-being.
To make this work, we will need to do this together.
It will take all of our efforts to continue to keep our infection rate low and prevent a surge in cases that would require us to restrict movement and businesses again.
Those businesses that will be allowed to re-open in stage one will be subject to strict guidance to prevent infection to staff and the public.
As I have said, we are not going back to the way things were. We cannot go back; we must go forward.
But we are moving forward in a manner that will allow us to continue taking steps towards some idea of normalcy in the future.
Albertans have done a tremendous job following public health orders and guidance.
Even when it was difficult, we have persevered.
We have adapted.
We have refrained from visiting loved ones in continuing care to keep them safe.
We have held funerals with 15 people or fewer where we couldn’t hug those with whom we were grieving.
We have cancelled vacations.
Our kids have missed sleepovers with grandparents.
We have all missed visits with our extended families and friends.
We have had to get creative to connect with our loved ones.
We have done all of this to get to a time where we can safely lift some of these restrictions.
That time will soon be upon us.
We must continue making certain sacrifices so that we can move forward together.
I know we will succeed if we all commit to this goal.
And while some restrictions will be lifted, we will maintain our new habits of connecting with each other even if we are apart…
…of staying home when sick…
…of supporting one another when we are struggling…
…and prioritizing the health of others and our province as a whole.
There is no going back from that.
Thank you. I am happy to take questions.