Thank you, Tom. Good afternoon, everyone.
I am pleased to report today that 6,961 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.
We’ve conducted about 9,000 new tests in the last 24 hours, and have identified 46 additional cases in the province.
Currently, 39 people are hospitalized with
COVID-19, with six of these in ICU.
In the last 24 hours, I am happy to report that there were no COVID-19 related deaths.
We are now a week into stage 2, and more than a month has passed since stage 1 began.
By far, the most common question that I am hearing these days is why the number of active cases has gone up, and not down.
This is a natural question. On Friday, June 5th, we had 339 active cases in the province.
Today, we have 512 active cases, with many of these occurring in the Edmonton and North zones. This means we have about 173 more active cases than there were two weeks ago.
I want to talk today about what this increase in cases means, and what factors seem to be contributing to the spread of the virus.
First, it is important to note that, so far, our hospitalization rates have remained steady and have actually gone down slightly over the past two weeks.
And, as I have mentioned before, we did expect to potentially see an increase in cases during stage 2, as more Albertans began interacting in their communities.
We continue to monitor the level of cases and the hospitalization rate closely. It is a valuable measure of how the relaunch is going.
The recent data also shows some positive trends.
For example, most of the active cases in Alberta right now are from a known source. That’s positive, as it means we can stop the spread faster.
There are also now only 26 active cases in continuing care facilities, with more than 708 recovered cases across the province. So far, we have not seen outbreaks or significant transmission related to any outdoor activities. These are all positive signs.
However, there are other trends which remind us that we have to remain vigilant to prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19.
We are continuing to identify active cases in all age groups, and Edmonton zone now has nearly as many active cases as Calgary.
The locations of our new cases have largely shifted from continuing care environments to community settings, such as workplaces and large gatherings such as funerals.
For example, two recent funerals have led to a combined total of 24 new cases in Alberta, with many more close contacts potentially exposed. The total number of cases will likely rise in the coming days. This shows how easily the infection can spread.
Other key areas of risk are social gatherings like birthday parties and work meetings where distancing and masking are not in place. It’s important to note that indoor gatherings have a higher risk than outdoor gatherings.
The bottom line, though, is that anywhere people are gathered together, not distanced or wearing face masks, COVID-19 can easily pass from one person to the next.
In some of the examples we have seen lately, the person who was the source of infection did not have symptoms at the time.
They only developed illness later. Yet, they were infectious before their symptoms started, which enabled the virus to spread.
As many Albertans make plans to return to working in person rather than remotely…
…workplaces need to consider how they will ensure that distancing and masking when needed are firmly embedded in their return-to-the-workplace strategies.
We also have at least one example of transmission in an apartment building where we have identified 12 cases in a single building.
At the moment, it seems that transmission is most likely to have happened through common high-touch surfaces, emphasizing the need for cleaning and disinfection of these surfaces.
Today, we are also listing a new outbreak at the Materials Recovery Facility in the Edmonton Waste Management Centre. AHS is keeping a very close watch on every active outbreak, providing whatever testing and other support is needed.
So what does this all mean?
It means that the virus is still here, and it is not going anywhere.
It also means that, even if we are feeling healthy and symptom free, we all need to continue operating as though we could spread the virus to others, and could catch it from those around us.
This is not the time for complacency. We are not out of the woods yet, and will not be for quite some time.
We must all be vigilant in following the public health measures, particularly when indoors or attending any group event.
By now, I believe most Albertans could recite my health advice in their sleep: Stay two metres apart. Wear masks when you can’t. Get tested.
And stay home if you’re feeling ill.
The biggest lesson from the last two weeks is that we remain each others’ best defence against the virus.
Every Albertan has a role to play in keeping their friends, family and neighbours safe.
This weekend, I challenge each Albertan to be the voice of leadership among your friends and family.
It is a good thing to remind others of the health guidance in place, and to promote good hygiene practices at a birthday party or family outing, or wearing masks while out in public.
Diligently following the public health measures in place means that you are being considerate and caring, not over-cautious or afraid.
Let’s all see it as our personal responsibility to follow the measures and keep others safe.
The health system will continue doing its part.
Our labs continue to test more people than ever, and our health officials are working extremely hard to identify new cases and implement all appropriate measures to contain spread.
We are all in this together.
Thank you. And I’m happy to answer any questions.