Thank you Tom, and good afternoon.
Today, I am pleased to report that 6,501 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 400 active cases in the province.
Currently, 53 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with six of these in ICUs.
In the last 24 hours, out of 2,709 new tests there were 34 new cases.
No new deaths have been reported.
We are monitoring an increase in active cases in the Edmonton Zone.
Many of the new cases can be traced back to two private family gatherings.
I commend the individuals involved for getting tested as soon as they felt symptoms. This has helped us trace and limit further spread of the infection.
Outbreaks such as this one linked to social gatherings are not completely unexpected now that our gathering restrictions have been relaxed.
But I must stress that we have the ability to prevent such cases by continuing to follow public health measures when gathering.
You must still keep two metres apart from anyone outside your household or cohort family.
I would again urge you not to share food or drinks with people outside your household or cohort family as this greatly increases the risk of infection by passing objects such as containers orserving spoons from person to person.
I know it may be difficult or even seem rude to ask guests to bring their own food and drink and not share it, but it is necessary.
Outdoor gatherings have a lower risk than indoor gatherings, so if you are getting together with those outside your household or cohort family, stay outside if possible.
Finally, like this group did, it is critical to go for testing with even minor symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 and if anyone is feeling ill, do not attend a group gathering.
I note that expanded testing access means that you can go online to book your own appointment at a time that is convenient for you.
We must not shame those who test positive for COVID, but rather support those who need to be isolated if they have the infection or if they’ve been in close contact with someone who has.
Only by working together can we stop the spread, and the success of our relaunch depends on all of us doing our part.
We need to continue to follow all public health orders and guidance so we can continue moving forward.
I want to highlight a success story that showcases the power of collaboration to stop COVID-19.
You may recall several weeks ago, I mentioned that the Mountainview Poultry plant had a confirmed COVID case in the workplace.
Thanks to decisive and swift action by the company and public health to put measures in place to prevent spread, and offer widespread testing to employees…
…that outbreak was contained to only 5 people, and is being declared over today. This is a great example of what we can do together.
I also want to remind all Albertans that testing is now available to everyone, whether they are experiencing symptoms or not.
You can book a test by completing Alberta Health Services online self-assessment tool, and I encourage all Albertans to participate in our population testing to help us better understand our prevalence as we prepare for Stage 2 of relaunch.
Today, I would like to talk about seniors, the age group that has been hit hardest by this pandemic.
This week is Seniors Week, when we recognize the seniors in our lives and celebrate their contributions to our province.
Seniors have played a valuable role in building our communities.
Their knowledge and experience is invaluable and this week is an opportunity to celebrate their contributions to society and connect with and learn from them.
Of course, Seniors Week this year is difficult.
We have to find ways to reach out to the seniors in our lives while maintaining physical distance…
…and taking other precautions to keep each other safe.
Both the COVID-19 pandemic and our aggressive public health measures to limit the spread of infection have been particularly hard on elderly Albertans.
Individuals in this group are more vulnerable to severe outcomes from the virus.
138 of the 143 people in our province who have died from COVID-19 have been aged 60 or older.
We have lost friends, neighbours, parents and grandparents to this pandemic.
Each loss is felt deeply by loved ones and communities.
The strict measures we have put in place at continuing care facilities are necessary to protect vulnerable people from this dangerous virus.
But they have made many residents feel more isolated and lonely.
I thank all Albertans who are working hard to make sure the seniors in their lives, whether they are in a continuing care facility or not, feel connected to their friends and families.
I also want to thank continuing care staff for all they do to keep residents safe and ensure they receive proper care.
And I want to thank seniors who have gone the extra mile to check in on their friends who may be feeling lonely or need extra support.
As we proceed with our relaunch, these efforts will continue to be necessary.
While some restrictions have been lifted, things are still different.
Seniors may now be able to visit more freely with their loved ones, but physical distancing requirements still limit interactions.
Measures taken to keep our loved ones safe may present additional hurdles to those visits…
…such as the challenges physical distancing provides to those who are hard of hearing.
Some seniors may still be fearful of going out or visiting with others.
We need to respect these concerns and continue to do what we can to ensure the needs of our elderly loved ones are met.
This Seniors Week, I encourage all Albertans to reach out to the seniors in your life.
Offer to run errands for them if they need this…
…provide much-needed companionship in whatever way is possible and safe…
…and support them in whatever way is necessary.
However you choose to mark Seniors Week, please share your experiences on Twitter using the AlbertaCares hashtag.
We must continue to take all necessary steps to protect the health of vulnerable Albertans…
…and take the time, particularly this week, to recognize the contributions that seniors have made – and continue to make - to our communities, our province and our country.
As we move forward and restrictions are lifted, things will get easier. But we must remember that the new normal is not the same as the old.
We must remain committed to supporting each other both to stay safe and to stay connected.
Thank you. I will be happy to take questions.