Thank you, Tom. And good afternoon, everyone.
Before I begin today, I want to talk about a troubling issue that has come to my attention.
I have received reports that some Siksika First Nation members were recently denied access to local businesses as a result of recent cases being reported in their community.
This is not the first time that we have heard such reports around COVID-19.
I know that Albertans of Chinese or other ethnic heritage, and some religious groups, have also at times been singled out and discriminated against.
COVID-19 doesn’t care where people come from or what a person’s heritage may be. The virus is not restricted to any particular race, region or community.
In the case of the Siksika First Nation, leadership in that community have acted quickly, transparently and proactively to control spread of the virus.
When the result of that prompt and transparent action is stigma against their members, it sends a message against transparency and risks discouraging people from being tested or cooperating with public health.
The members of the Siksika Nation deserve better than that. All Albertans of every heritage deserve better than that.
The communities and facilities that publicly report cases are all working closely with health officials to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect public health.
Anyone who contracts the virus deserves our compassion and support to work with public health. That is the only way we can control the spread of this virus.
Now to today’s update. I am pleased to report that 8,048 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.
Currently, 55 people are in hospital, of which 13 are in intensive care.
We conducted almost 6,000 new tests yesterday, and have identified 86 additional cases in the province.
Today, we have also added Wheatland County to the province’s watch list. Alberta now has four regions coded in blue, for Watch status.
We are monitoring these regions closely, and no additional health measures are being implemented at this time.
I am sad to have to report an additional two new deaths, including one linked to the outbreak at the Misericordia hospital.
My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones during this difficult time, whether to COVID-19 or any other cause.
I know that many are concerned about the outbreak at the Misericordia. This outbreak currently has a total of 49 cases, with 17 active patient cases in hospital, and 17 staff cases which are currently active. Sadly, there have now been six deaths associated with this outbreak.
There are multiple measures in place to keep staff and patients safe, and an evaluation of how the spread happened is underway, so we can be sure to learn and apply any lessons from this experience.
This is a challenging time for any public health response. The virus has now been in Alberta for four months and, while we saw cases decline from the peak seen in April, our daily cases have begun to rise numbers over the past few days.
Much of the public advice that we have been providing, including washing your hands and physical distancing, has been repeated for months now.
This pandemic has been a long haul, and I worry that Albertans may be starting to tune the messages out.
It can seem like old news, and many are tired of hearing the information.
As the Premier and I both mentioned yesterday, we are concerned about the recent rise in cases we are seeing.
Also of concern is the younger age of people infected with the virus. Over the past two weeks, 780 new cases have been identified in the province, with 57 per cent of these cases being under the age of 40.
Of these, 30 per cent have not yet been linked to any known source.
This is a reminder that COVID-19 can spread quickly, and cases can rise rapidly if we don’t all do our part.
The best way to defeat the virus has not changed. Stay two metres apart when you can, and wear a mask when you can’t. Wash or sanitize your hands. Stay home if you are sick and get tested.
It’s also critical to respect the limits for cohorts – a maximum of 15 people outside of your household for family members and friends, up to 50 for sports cohorts and performers, which are cast members and crew.
It is also important to remember that sports cohorts of up to 50 players should not interact with other cohorts. Now is not the time to plan or arrange tournaments that include players outside a single cohort.
We need to avoid overcrowding in public spaces, and social gatherings.
That’s how we keep our families and communities safe – by following the guidance, not by discriminating against fellow Albertans who also are doing their best to follow public health measures.
It is natural to feel a bit of COVID-19 fatigue.
If anyone is tired of following the public health guidance, or feels that they are not at risk, please remember that your actions are protecting more than yourself.
Anyone can become ill from this virus, but older Albertans and those with heart disease, diabetes or other underlying medical conditions are the highest risk of experiencing severe health outcomes.
To date, 148 of the 161 deaths reported in Alberta were individuals over the age of 70. Almost 90 per cent of those who died from COVID-19 had two or more underlying conditions.
Every one of us acts as a shield that protects our friends, families and neighbours from this virus.
By taking simple, everyday actions, we can help limit the spread, particularly to those most at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Every time we step out the door, we should all ask ourselves: ‘Who am I protecting today?’
We all need to continue respecting each other and working together to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Thank you, and I’d be happy to take any questions.