COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
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As we end another week, I am happy to report that there are now 5,317 Albertans who have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 1,073 active cases in the province.
Currently, 62 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with nine of those admitted to ICUs.
In the last 24 hours, out of 4,505 new test results there were 58 new cases.
I can also share today some early results from the asymptomatic testing in Calgary. Since testing started earlier this week – so over the course of the week since Monday - we have identified 50 COVID cases who are reported as having no symptoms.
It is important to note first of all that I do not have information on how many of these are asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases, and how many have no known exposure.
Secondly, it is important to know that we do not yet have the full investigation on all these cases. We know from other jurisdictions who have done asymptomatic testing that sometimes, on further reflection, those who initially report no symptoms do identify mild symptoms that they may have had earlier.
I will have more information to share next week, but, it seems from this early information that the asymptomatic testing program in Calgary is helping us identify additional cases.
As we do further evaluation on possible locations of exposure, I will share more information.
I’m sad to report four additional deaths in Calgary Zone. All were in continuing care facilities.
This brings the total number of deaths in Alberta to 125.
Even while we begin to enter stage one of our relaunch, let us remember this virus still poses a risk, particularly to the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions.
We need to remember that no Albertan is expendable and their lives matter as much as any of ours, and to keep the grieving family and friends of those we have lost to COVID-19 in our thoughts.
In this stage we need to be mindful of continuing to minimize infection risk. One way of helping businesses and locations that are reopening to apply guidance to their location is through a template that we have posted on our relaunch webpage.
For businesses or locations that are newly opening, we have extended the time frame to complete that template from 7 to 14 days after they open.
I also want to clarify that for those locations that have remained open throughout the last few months, completion of this template is voluntary.
For those that wish to complete this and post it, it can serve as an additional reassurance to employees and patrons of all the ways that they are being protected from the spread of infection.
As we head into the long weekend, I know many of us are turning their thoughts to the outdoors.
Alberta's Relaunch Strategy recognizes the importance of the outdoors and recreation for Albertans' sense of well-being, while also recommending limiting non-essential travel outside the province at this time.
With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that, effective today, outdoor gatherings limits are being increased to a maximum of 50 people, no matter where you live, as long physical distancing of at least two metres is being maintained between different households, and everyone attending that gathering follows proper hygiene practices.
I also encourage you not to share food or drinks at any of these gatherings as this practice has frequently been linked to transmission of the virus.
As we start to ease certain restrictions, it is increasingly important that we all continue to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including frequent hand-washing, always staying home whenever you feel ill and considering use of a non-medical mask while out in public particularly if you will be within two metres of others.
We must also use our best judgment when determining whether a gathering can go ahead.
For example, if you are planning a gathering of friends in your backyard, only invite as many people as your yard can hold while maintaining two metres of physical distance between people from different households, and encourage people to bring their own snacks and drinks and to not share these items.
You may also need to clean and sanitize doorknobs, faucets and bathroom facilities partway through the gathering if people from outside your household are using them, and have hand sanitizer available to your guests.
Hold off on any gathering if you are uncertain you can follow public health orders and guidelines.
Again, this new order permitting gatherings of less than 50 people applies only to outdoor gatherings.
Indoor gatherings not specified by the measures I spoke about earlier this week must still be limited to fewer than 15 people.
For those who are looking to get away to a summer cottage this weekend, respect the health and safety of small communities along the way by planning your trip without stops for gas or food, where possible.
We should continue to avoid non-essential travel outside the province.
When outdoors or in public, we must take all the necessary precautions to protect our health and the health of those around us.
Some municipalities continue to restrict access to playgrounds.
Please follow these restrictions where they apply.
Where playgrounds are not municipally restricted, they can be accessed. I recommend encouraging your children to play with children in the same household or cohort family.
Also sanitize hands before and after playing on a play structure, and remember to wash your children’s hands and your own thoroughly when you get home from the playground.
Please download the ABTraceTogether app and turn it on both when you leave your home and when inviting people to come to your home.
The app currently has almost 172 thousand users, and the more people who use it, the more effective our contact tracing ability will be.
I know we are all noticing how different this May long weekend looks, and one group in particular is the graduating class of 2020.
Graduating is a major milestone and an achievement worth celebrating.
This year’s graduates have found creative ways to adapt to our new realities while working hard to complete their studies.
That ingenuity, flexibility and forward-thinking will serve you well as you continue on to further studies or your chosen career, and as you look for unconventional ways to safely celebrate your achievements during this year’s unique grad season.
Congratulations to all graduates of the class of 2020.
I wish all Albertans an enjoyable long weekend and hope you can take a break to have some fun.
It’s well deserved after so many long and difficult weeks.
Stay socially connected, but do so as safely and responsibly as possible.
I will be enjoying some time with my own family this weekend and like previous weekends, we won’t be holding media availabilities.
And, after the long weekend, I will start to provide my updates on a reduced schedule.
The pandemic is far from over, however, in consideration of the reduced number of cases overall, and the fact that we have begun to resume operations under stage one of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy, I made the recommendation to scale down the frequency of my availabilities.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak with all Albertans every day, and I know many have become accustomed to these daily updates.
I assure you I remain committed to transparency, and while the number of availabilities may decrease, I will continue to provide the information you rely on.
Next week, updates will be held on Tuesday and Thursday. The following week, we will schedule availabilities on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Should there be an event of significance, we will be sure to schedule an availability to share information with Albertans.
Case information will continue to be posted online daily.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.