Thanks, Minister. Good afternoon.
Before I begin, I want to note that yesterday, Alberta Health incorrectly listed Carewest Garrison Green as an outbreak.
It is not an active outbreak. There have been two cases at the facility, both of which have long since been recovered. We are working on our outbreak reporting processes to ensure that the outbreak information is timely and accurate.
I am pleased to report that today 6,754 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19, leaving 371 active cases in the province.
Currently, 42 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, with six of these in ICUs.
Proactive testing is a cornerstone of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy as we move safely into stage 2 this Friday.
We have now completed more than 310,000 tests. Out of 6,582 new tests completed in the last 24 hours, there were 47 new cases.
Thank you to everyone for getting tested—even if you did not have symptoms.
In the last 24 hours, there have been no deaths in the province. The total number of lives lost remains at 151.
We must always remember that COVID-19 can be fatal, and that many families have been devastated by this virus.
I must also report that there has been a small outbreak in a unit at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. Four staff members have tested positive to date. No patients have tested positive.
AHS has taken swift action to implement outbreak protocols and ensure that all staff and patients are being tested.
Testing lets us take action quickly to make sure that all are kept safe.
As we move towards stage 2, I know that many Albertans are looking forward to more activities.
I know there are students who want to take their diploma exams, and schools and school boards eager to make that happen.
I know many are excited that we are now able to safely reopen recreation centres, libraries and theatres, participate in arts and sports activities, and attend some cultural events.
I also know that many other Albertans are feeling anxious about this reopening.
It is important to remember that both responses are natural, and valid.
We are in a time of balance where we need to balance the needs of some Albertans for the reopening and the needs of others for safety and we need to hold those together in tension.
This virus is still with us, and I remind all Albertans we are the best protection for ourselves, our friends and our neighbours.
Indoor gatherings can now include as many as 50 people while staying 2 metres apart.
For outdoor gatherings or seated audience events indoors or outdoors, the maximum is now 100, with appropriate physical distancing.
We have posted guidelines, but it is on all of us to apply them to whatever gathering we are organizing or attending.
The same goes for other activities, such as worship services, that no longer have a cap beyond the number that can be accommodated…
…while ensuring that physical distancing of two metres is in place between households or cohort families.
I urge all organizers to apply the available guidance as best you can, and in every possible way.
Stage 2 is an important shift for our province, and I know that many questions exist.
We posted guidance documents and will continue to expand this information in the coming days.
I want to emphasize that no businesses or services are required to open this Friday.
Reopening should happen only when they are ready.
We are all responsible for our health, and for moving at our own speed.
I have had many questions about cohorts, or small groups of people that don’t have to consistently stay two metres apart.
As I mentioned yesterday, you can expand your cohort group to friends and other households to a maximum of 15 people. We will be sharing additional guidance in the coming days.
As you just heard from Minister LaGrange, we are hopeful students can return to learning in school in September in a way that’s close to normal operations.
Important hygiene measures will be in place…
…cleaning and disinfecting, routine screening for illness,
…a stay-at-home policy for staff and students who are ill,
…and physical distancing wherever possible.
Students may be grouped in cohorts, and rooms could be reorganized to create more space.
Masks would not be required, though they could be used if a student is ill or in cases where physical distancing is not possible.
There are a lot of details here, and I encourage everyone to read the re-entry plan.
I know there will be many questions, I am happy to answer them today and in the coming days.
I do want to emphasize that we will continue to monitor the situation in Alberta closely.
As Minister LaGrange noted, the government will make the final decision on which scenario to follow by August 1.
I’m hopeful, as I know many of you are, that we can safely return to in-person operations with health measures in place.
A safe and successful school year can be possible if we all work together over the summer and into the fall to keep transmission low.
For us to maintain this low level of transmission, we must all do our part.
This is especially true as more of us are leaving our homes and starting to see others.
Please, if you get sick, stay home and arrange for testing. Keep your physical distance when around people not in your cohort, wear a mask when that’s not possible, and wash your hands regularly.
You can also use our relaunch map to see where active case rates are at in the province in different municipalities. Today, we have one local municipal district that has moved into the ‘watch’ category with 10 active cases.
We are in discussion with local officials about the cases and whether any further measures might be necessary.
With testing at such high levels as we currently have, it is not surprising to see areas with small populations go in and out of ‘watch’ level—as only 10 cases are needed in these small areas to trigger this level.
I want to remind Albertans that this ‘watch’ level simply means that we in the ministry work with local public health and local officials to determine if any additional measures might be required. It does not automatically mean that additional public health measures are put in place.
I want to encourage people to participate in our asymptomatic testing, especially if you are part of a cohort group.
As I mentioned earlier, testing is an important way for us to monitor the spread of the virus.
I also encourage everyone to download our voluntary contact tracing app, ABTraceTogether.
Coupled with testing, this app will help us prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more of us spend time in our communities.
I want to end today by saying how grateful I am to everyone for following the public health guidelines.
Together, we continue to slow the spread and protect our friends and loved ones.
Every Albertan should be very proud. We are weathering this storm and protecting each other.
Let’s continue to take pride in that protection of each other as we move forward—to enjoy our activities, but with caution and care for those around us.
Thank you and we will be happy to take questions.