COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
Thank you Tom and good afternoon.
I am happy to report there are now 5,205 Albertans who have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 1,131 active cases in the province.
Currently, 65 people are hospitalized, with 10 of those admitted to ICUs.
We have confirmed 50 new cases out of 4,816 new test results completed over the past 24 hours.
Sadly, I must also report one additional death of an individual in a Calgary continuing care facility.
This brings the total number of COVID-related deaths in the province to 121. My sympathies go out to all those who have lost loved ones during this time.
There are 100 active cases from outbreaks in continuing care facilities and 569 residents who have now fully recovered.
We continue to monitor all of our outbreaks very closely, working with the operators to contain the spread, and making sure that all public health measures are being taken seriously.
Many Albertans have questions, or may be unclear about what stage one of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy means for them.
I’ve also heard concerns from Calgarians and residents of Brooks who are feeling that it is unfair that we are taking a more gradual approach to relaunch in their communities.
I want to reinforce that the recommendations I have made are never taken lightly.
Since last week, we have been focusing our planning on a balance of protecting the health of Albertans from COVID-19 and the health of Albertans from the impacts of a prolonged shut down.
If we move too far in either direction, neglecting the other, our outcomes will be worse. Our best path is in seeking that balance, and making adjustments along the way.
As I drove into the office this morning, I could see signs of preparation for business resumption today.
No matter where you live, I’m sure you have seen some retail businesses that are opening their doors to customers…
Perhaps parents who are planning to cautiously drop their children off at daycare or an out of school care program.
Earlier today, the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Royal Alberta Museum opened their doors to guests.
In communities outside of Calgary and Brooks, coffee shops and restaurants are able to open at 50% capacity.
While others, including those in Calgary and Brooks, are choosing to continue to offer pick up or takeout options.
Hair salons and barbers are taking appointments or preparing to welcome customers.
For Brooks and Calgary, these businesses will be able to resume on May 25.
I understand having to wait the extra 10 days is frustrating for residents of these communities. The reason for this 10 day wait is to allow us to monitor any increase in spread caused by the opening of retail, daycares and other activities in these communities where there is a higher baseline rate.
Although a full incubation period for COVID is 14 days, in other jurisdictions where reopening has started, it has been possible to see a rapid rise within 7 days where there have been problems.
This relaunch will require patience from all of us, and continued practice of public health measures so we can continue with our relaunch plans as quickly as possible.
I have also been asked for clarity on what businesses are allowed to open in Stage 1. All businesses that are not specifically named as opening in Stages 2 or 3 are included in Stage 1. . You can find the Stage 2 and 3 lists on the Relaunch webpage.
Let me be clear. Businesses starting to re-open does not mean it’s back to normal.
We will need to continue supporting each other’s health and safety by practicing physical distancing, frequent handwashing and other measures. This will not change and this is our new normal.
If you are a business owner, please know you have flexibility in choosing the right time to open after the stage that your business is in begins.
And you must feel confident that you are re-opening at a time that is safe for you, your staff and your patrons.
I know many business owners and facility operators have questions about what they can do to help mitigate the risks.
At the same time, Albertans have asked for greater reassurance that the businesses and facilities they visit are following public health precautions.
That is why, as part of the relaunch strategy, we are requiring anyone who is reopening to identify what they are doing at their site to reduce the risk of transmission.
Within 7 days of opening, businesses must fill out a short template that can be found online at the Biz Connects site, and post it at their place of business, or online.
Places of worship and funeral services will be required to do the same.
This action is intended to give you a clearer sense of what measures are appropriate for each location.
And to reassure customers and staff that each business is taking appropriate action to protect their health and safety.
I encourage businesses to visit the Biz Connect web page and download the template and also review the Government of Alberta’s guidance for all business owners as well as any sector-specific guidance that may be applicable.
We will continue to update this page frequently with new guidelines and information.
I have also been asked to clarify the difference between restrictions on the number of people allowed to be in a particular place, with different numbers in different contexts.
First, let me say that we have taken a risk-based approach to setting numbers in Stage 1, and that one of the key factors in differentiating between settings is the presence of a responsible or accountable party for a setting.
In restaurants that are opening for dine-in service, the maximum number of patrons allowed is 50% of the total capacity, with no more than 6 patrons per table, and 2 metres of distance between tables.
While there could be more than 15 people in that room or that business, the expectation is that each table of 6 is distanced from the others, and that dining parties are not interacting with each other.
Restaurant owners and managers are responsible for ensuring that the space is set up in such a way to facilitate following those spacing rules.
In places of worship, we are allowing 1/3 of the typical worship attendance, or 50 people, whichever is smaller, to attend a worship service with additional restrictions in place such as no group singing.
Again, in this setting, there is an institutional responsible party who is accountable for ensuring that communities of faith are following the distancing rules, sitting separate from each other, and not engaging in socialization before or after the service.
I know this will be very difficult for these communities, and I ask that they choose other ways to show their friends how much they have missed being together – perhaps connecting by phone before or after a service, or other creative ways to connect.
We have not set a single maximum number for retail stores, as each setting is a different size, and one number would not suit every setting. Retail businesses are responsible for ensuring that their measures, which may include limiting the number of people in their store at a given time, make it as easy as possible for patrons to stay 2 metres away from others at all times.
Finally, the 15 person rule that we have been following for months continues to apply to any gathering where people are coming together for a common purpose where there is no single person or organization who is accountable for ensuring that public health measures are implemented.
Social gatherings with 15 people or less can take place as long as those attending remain physically distant, and the attendees are not sharing food or drink.
Before I take questions, I’d like to talk a bit more about the use of masks while out in public.
In the coming days and weeks, we can expect more and more Albertans to be out and about, eating at restaurants, walking through shopping malls and visiting museums, as well as enjoying some of Alberta’s beautiful trails and park systems.
In these public spaces, physical distancing might not always be possible.
However, wearing non-medical masks can help limit your exposure and protect those around you.
Remember, even if you are feeling fine and showing no sign of symptoms, you may still be able to transmit the virus to others if you have been exposed.
Wearing a mask in public settings is a useful measure to protect those around you.
The mask will keep any respiratory drops that you may put out – and think of those as when you breath out on a cold day what you can see in the air, that’s your respiratory drops - and the mask can keep those from contaminating people, surfaces and objects.
Let me be clear, wearing a mask does not replace other important measures.
If you are showing any COVID-related symptoms, you must still isolate.
Other measures, such as physical distancing whenever feasible, frequent handwashing and covering any coughs or sneezes are still essential.
Think of masks as that last line of defence in the event other measures are not possible.
As I mentioned yesterday, guidance is available online that provides some general tips on how to properly wear and care for non-medical masks, as well as some general advice on how to create your own if you wish to have a cloth mask.
I strongly encourage you to review these guidelines and to think about where in your daily routines you might be able to adopt the use of masks.
Taking public transit to and from work, or stocking up on groceries are a few examples.
Please consider mask usage in any public situation to limit the risk to those around you.
In the coming days I will have more information to share with you on this.
We are entering a new world together, and we will succeed by supporting each other through the challenges that relaunch presents. We have never needed each other more than we do now, and we will get through this together.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take any questions.