COVID-19 Updates: Protecting Albertans from the Omicron variant.
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Today, I am pleased to report that 6,624 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 328 active cases in the province.
Currently, 44 people are hospitalized, with 6 of these in ICUs.
In the last 24 hours, out of 6,455 new tests there were just seven new cases.
I am happy to report no new deaths today.
Today’s numbers mark an occasion to be celebrated. Not only are we reporting the highest number of tests done in 24 hours in the province, we also have the lowest daily number of new cases since March 12.
The number of active cases in our province continues to trend downwards.
This is in large part thanks to your efforts and sacrifices.
One especially difficult sacrifice has been being unable to visit our loved ones receiving care in hospitals.
Though this restriction was made to protect the safety of patients and our health care workers, I know this has created hardship.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, we have continuously monitored the situation and adjusted our measures as necessary.
Effective tomorrow, Alberta Health Services will be releasing updated visitation guidelines for all patients in both acute outpatient and inpatient settings.
These revised guidelines expand the allowance of some visitation while maintaining specific criteria intended to protect patients, residents, volunteers and staff.
For more information, you can access the updated guidelines from AHS’s webpage.
I want to be clear that these guidelines only apply to hospital settings. The existing standards and rules for continuing care remain in effect.
We know that visitor restrictions in continuing care are a hardship in these settings as well, and we will be seeking input from residents, families and operators on how we can balance needs for connection and needs for safety in these settings, so we can continue to make adjustments in the best interests of all those in these settings.
As we prepare to move into Stage two of Alberta’s relaunch, and more activities in our society resume, we must continue our basic prevention measures to keep our numbers low. Although we can expect to see some fluctuations in new infections and outbreaks, it is possible for us to collectively keep our numbers stable.
If everyone practices good hygiene, stays two metres apart when that is possible and wears a mask when it is not, that will help reduce the spread.
Our pandemic response will help to keep Albertans safe during relaunch.
Today, I’d like to talk about two key objectives for our pandemic response, and what you can do to help keep each other safe.
The first objective is enhancing our testing and monitoring of the virus.
Strategic and widespread testing is crucial to discover cases before they have the chance to spread.
Our public lab system has done a remarkable job to build its capacity, so now we are able to provide testing to anyone in Alberta, with or without symptoms.
Even if you are feeling well and showing no symptoms, I encourage you to complete the online assessment and book an appointment for testing, or go to one of the drop-in testing centres available in Edmonton or Calgary.
Most importantly, anyone who has symptoms of COVID should stay home and arrange for testing as soon as possible. This makes sure that we can keep our case numbers low, since if an infection does happen, it’s very important to find out if any exposure has occurred and to take immediate action to contain the spread.
This is done through contact tracing, where a public health nurse or other allied health professional investigates if and where exposure might have occurred.
These investigators can then contact at-risk individuals and get them to isolate before the virus has a chance to spread any further.
You can help us in this critical, time-consuming detective work by downloading and using the province’s contact tracing app, AB TraceTogether.
By using this app when out in public, you can help identify potential sources of exposure.
Should someone you were in close contact with get COVID, having this app makes it more likely that you will be notified of this so you can isolate and get tested to break the chain of transmission.
AB TraceTogether is voluntary, free, and your data will not be used without your consent.
It’s important to remember that while the danger from this virus is low for most of us, we know that the virus can have severe consequences for older people and those with some health conditions.
This brings me to our second objective: protecting each other.
Current data shows that over 90 per cent of those who died from COVID-19, and about two thirds of those who were admitted to ICU, had at least one underlying health issue, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or a history of smoking.
Older age is also a common characteristic. People over the age of 70 represent the majority of deaths we have seen.
Because of this, we’ve taken additional measures to protect those most at-risk, such as seniors living in long-term care. These measures are important, but by themselves they are not enough, not only because there are many seniors and individuals with chronic medical conditions living in the community, but also because keeping seniors in continuing care strictly isolated from the community for long periods of time is negatively impacting other aspects of their health.
Our success in protecting Albertans who are at the highest risk of severe outcomes rests on our collective action to keep our numbers low in our communities. When each one of us takes pride in our individual actions to keep our communities safe, this keeps our elders and loved ones protected in all settings.
Think about who you are protecting when you stay home if sick, when you wear a mask, when you keep 2 metres away from others, and when you keep gatherings small.
We continue to all be in this together.
On that note, I was pleased to hear this afternoon’s announcement of 200 additional short-term ventilators donated for Alberta’s COVID-19 response.
I want to thank Exergy Solutions, Suncor Energy and our other partners for this wonderful gift.
Thanks to ongoing efforts by Alberta Health Services and this recent donation, we are
well-positioned to meet the COVID-19 demand should we experience a second wave as we move forward with relaunch.
While our health system continues to prepare,
you can too.
As Alberta continues to relaunch, it’s important that we all keep considering what we can do to protect our family members, friends and neighbours.
Let’s keep everyone healthy and ensure Alberta’s relaunch continues to be successful.
Thank you, and I will be happy to take questions.