COVID-19: State of public health emergency declared. Mandatory measures are in effect.
Thank you, Mister Litun, Minister and Premier. And good afternoon, everyone.
I would like to start today by providing further details on some of the health measures that will be in place as children return to school this fall.
The most common question that students, parents and staff have right now is probably, how will we keep schools safe?
As a parent of young children, I know this is top of mind for all of us who have direct connection with the school system.
I want to stress that there is no risk-free approach to living with COVID-19. Yet we still have to learn to live with it. There are no easy choices in front of us.
We know as you’ve heard that extended school closures negatively impact children’s overall long-term mental, emotional and physical health.
As has been outlined, current evidence indicates that school-aged children typically have very mild disease and young children do not seem to transmit to others as often as adults.
Despite this, COVID-19 still needs to be taken seriously, for the health of all those in the school and others, such as the families of school children.
We will almost certainly identify cases of COVID-19 in students and staff in the fall.
Because of this, we are putting measures in place to protect the health of children, staff and families by limiting onward spread within the school.
As Minister LaGrange noted, there is a re-entry toolkit designed to prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year.
Under our current guidance, things will look a bit different when students and staff return in the fall.
Several public health measures will be put in place to protect everyone in class, and to protect their families and cohorts outside of school.
The new measures will require students and staff to monitor symptoms on a daily basis and stay home if they are feeling sick.
Students must wash or sanitize their hands before and after entering school and classrooms. Surfaces at schools and on buses will be disinfected more often.
Students and staff may choose to wear a mask and should be supported in choices to do so.
We recognize how difficult masking would be for many students, especially at the lower elementary grades which is why we are not relying on any single public health measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the school setting.
Other practices such as physical distancing, cohorting, frequent hand washing, enhanced cleaning and a number of changes as to how classes and schools operate will also help.
Keeping students in cohorts will help reduce the risk of widespread transmission by limiting contact and potential exposure to a small group rather than the entire school.
Everyone in the school community will have to do their part and follow public health guidance to keep each other safe.
This means that parents, students and staff will be required to complete a daily self-screening prior to entering school each day.
If a student shows symptoms while at school, they will be separated from others, and parents or guardians will be asked to pick them up immediately.
If there is a case of COVID-19 in a school or school community, health officials will work with school authorities to ensure follow up testing is conducted as needed, and all other measures are put in place to limit the spread including quarantine of those who were in close contact with that case.
Jurisdictions around the world are trying to determine the most effective ways to resume schools. We continue to watch their experiences closely.
In the days ahead, we will continue to refine our public health advice for schools based on best available evidence to minimize the risks of staff and children being exposed.
This is part of living in the new normal of COVID-19. We must be agile, adaptive and guided by the evidence as it emerges.
This is the best way to protect the health, safety and well-being of students, staff, families and communities.
That brings me to today’s update.
I am pleased to report that 8,363 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.
We’ve conducted more than 7,813 new tests and, unfortunately, we have identified 141 additional new cases in the province.
Currently, 93 people are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care.
Two more Albertans have died, bringing the death toll to 172.
As always when we have additional deaths to report this reminds us of the seriousness of this illness.
I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of these two individuals and all those who have lost loved ones during this time.
I am concerned by the continued rise in active cases. Our health system is watching this situation closely, but I want to be clear…we all have a role to play in reducing the rise in cases that we are seeing.
If you have a child, a grandchild, a relative or a friend in school this fall, think of them as you make decisions about your activities now. We need everyone’s help in limiting the spread of this virus.
The best way to have safe and healthy schools this fall is to start the school year with a low count of cases in the population.
If you have a parent, grandparent, or relative who is older or has a chronic medical condition and at risk of severe outcomes, we need your help, too.
To protect those at risk of severe outcomes and to slow the recent rise in cases, we all need to do our part.
We heard from Albertans a few months ago that they didn’t need formal restrictions to be able to make the right choice to protect each other.
Now is the time to show each other that that is correct.
Now is the time to recognize that COVID cases and hospitalizations can rise quickly unless we all take actions every day to stop the spread.
COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. It’s on all of us to adopt the public health guidance and protect each other.
This weekend, beaches around the province showed us that this is possible. Two weeks ago, we had widespread reports of overcrowding, inadequate physical distancing and general disregard for public health measures in place.
Last weekend we saw clear improvements.
Thanks to coordinated efforts by beach communities like Sylvan Lake, Chestermere and Alberta Beach, as well as health officials and law enforcement, but most of all thanks to the commitment of Albertans…we had very few reports of issues at beaches across the province last weekend.
The future is up to us. And we can change it.
And just like we worked together to address the specific issue of beach overcrowding, we can address other issues, limit the spread of the virus, lower our daily case numbers and ensure a safe school year.
We are all in this together.
Thank you and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.