Thank you, Minister. And good afternoon.
I am pleased to report today that 7,096 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.
We conducted over 6,500 new tests yesterday, and identified 45 additional cases in the province.
Currently, 37 people are hospitalized with
COVID-19, with six of these in ICU.
I am happy to report that there are no new deaths to report in Alberta.
I want to inform the public that, recently, our lab identified a group of 800 samples that were collected last week but delayed in getting tested due to a transportation issue. There were six positive tests in this group and the individuals who tested positive have been contacted and contact tracing is underway.
Out of an abundance of caution, a small number of those who tested negative may need to be retested if they were symptomatic.
The likelihood of an inaccurate result is extremely low. But the lab will be contacting those individuals who tested negative to let them know that there was a delay in testing their sample and discuss whether or not they need another test.
Today, I also want to let you know we are listing an outbreak at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. This outbreak is confined to a single unit, and so far 6 patients and 2 staff have tested positive.
Outbreak protocols have already been implemented and all staff or patients who may have been exposed are being tested.
We currently have 532 active cases in Alberta, with 236 of them in the Edmonton zone. I know that many are following these numbers closely.
We also continue to monitor the situation closely, including adding the northeast region of Edmonton to Alberta’s watch list yesterday.
It’s important to remember that this list is simply an indicator that health officials need to take a closer look at what is going on.
We are in contact with Alberta Health Services and the City of Edmonton and at this time there no are additional measures that are needed.
As many of you know, a number of restaurants closed in Edmonton this weekend. And I’ve had multiple people ask if Alberta Health or AHS ordered those businesses to close.
We did not require closures and, to date, there are no known outbreaks at these locations.
As part of the guidance we have provided, all restaurants are expected to have procedures in place for rapid response if a staff member or patron develops symptoms of COVID-19. These closures were operational decisions made by the owners of these restaurants.
I know that restaurants, cafes and pubs play a significant role in our society, and that this news was concerning for some Albertans.
It is an important reminder that the virus is still here.
As we move forward, we will continue to see some new cases in all sectors, including the food service industry, and ongoing use of preventive measures is needed to keep this spread low.
It’s important to take every case seriously, but also to remember one case does not automatically require a business to close for public health reasons.
It also does not mean that anyone who visited that same establishment is automatically at risk.
Determining who is at risk is something that our contact tracing teams closely assess, based on when the individual became symptomatic and two days prior to that point. Anyone at risk of exposure is immediately contacted, offered testing, and required to isolate.
When needed, AHS will work with employers and confirmed cases to determine the source of exposure and provide advice on infection prevention and control measures, such as enhanced cleaning that might be needed.
Ordering a business to close is only a last resort. Taking this step would be at the discretion of AHS or the local public health inspector if it was needed.
I want us all to remember that it’s okay for businesses to close temporarily for operational reasons, to clean their establishment or enhance protections.
This is not a sign they are tainted or dangerous. It’s the opposite.
It’s a sign that they care about their patrons and they’re taking the health of their customers and their employees seriously.
We need to foster an environment where people are supported to do the right thing – addressing cases as they come and reaching out for guidance.
At the same time, the closure of these restaurants serves as an important reminder…
…that we have developed detailed public health guidance for a reason.
The sun may be out, but you can still catch COVID-19 in any restaurant, business, park or building in Alberta if precautions are not followed.
There are no completely risk-free options.
I do not say that to alarm anyone, but rather to stress once again that we all need to follow the guidance to the best of our ability.
For businesses, this means respecting and following the guidance that we have put out.
For customers, this means showing compassion and kindness to staff if our outing looks a little different than it used to, or if things are taking a little longer because of measures to keep us safe.
I was thinking today how there was snow on the ground on March 5th, that long-ago day when we identified Alberta’s first case of COVID-19.
Now, summer is officially here.
I know especially after weeks of staying in, that many people are excited to get out and enjoy the – too few – warm and sunny days. My family and I are, too.
We’ve come a long way in keeping our case numbers and hospitalization rates low.
Let’s all continue to protect one another by acting responsibly and doing our best to follow the guidance every single day. We are each other’s best protection against COVID-19—now and in the days ahead.
Thank you. I’d now be happy to answer any questions.