EMERGENCY: Alberta has declared a Public Health Emergency to protect the health care system from COVID-19. Indoor social gatherings are the top source of transmission. All indoor social gatherings have now been banned. This ban will be enforced with $1,000 fines. Learn more
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Good afternoon, everyone.
Today, I want to provide an update on COVID-19 in our province over the weekend.
I am pleased to say that there are currently 8,774 recovered cases in Alberta; however, the number of active cases has now risen to 1,430.
We continue to identify high numbers of cases across the province. We identified 110 new cases on Friday, 103 on Saturday and 91 on Sunday.
Almost 28,000 tests have been conducted since Friday, meaning there have now been over 651,000 tests completed across the province. Currently, 88 people are in hospital, including 17 in intensive care.
Sadly, I must report that eight more Albertans have died. These deaths were all reported to Alberta Health since Friday, and all but one occurred in the last four days. This is obviously a heartbreaking number to report.
We cannot forget that this virus can have severe and even fatal impacts on our health.
I would like to extend my condolences to the family and friends of those who have lost loved ones, and my sympathies to those who have suffered severe complications during this pandemic.
Five of the deaths I’m reporting today occurred at the Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre in Edmonton and were reported to Alberta Health over the weekend. There are now 78 cases linked to this outbreak, including 12 deaths.
We are taking this outbreak very seriously. Local health officials have been working with the operator and have determined that additional supports are needed to protect residents and staff.
As a result, late last week, Alberta Health has asked AHS to work with Good Samaritan to implement a number of measures, which includes including securing necessary staff.
I know that many families in and around Edmonton have been impacted by this outbreak.
It is yet another example of COVID-19’s ability to spread rapidly, and of the devastating impact this virus can have on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
We all must take extra precautions any time we are going to be in contact with anyone who lives in a continuing care facility, who is over the age of 65, or who has underlying medical conditions.
As we see in the case numbers, the curve is no longer flat in Alberta.
We all need to assess our own lives for where we are at risk of spreading or contracting the virus. All of us can make changes to our daily routines to prevent the spread of COVID.
For those who may be at higher risk of severe outcomes, we have created a new online risk assessment tool to help you identify your level of risk for severe outcomes and to guide your protection decisions. You’ll find it on Alberta.ca.
While all of us need to regularly take actions to protect those around us, independent of our risk level, this tool will help Albertans understand their personal risk for severe outcomes should they become infected.
This is something we have been asked for by Albertans who want to know which medical conditions are linked to the highest risk of severe outcomes.
For everyone, independent of risk, if you are sick, or concerned about being exposed, please get tested. For those who have been tested, many have asked if there is a quicker way to receive COVID-19 test results. There is good news on this front.
Albertans can access their own health information through a secure online portal called MyHealth Records.
This portal gives you a secure place to see your health information, including immunization records, prescribed medications, and lab test results, including COVID-19 test results.
This is the fastest way to get your results as you can see them online as soon as they are available.
I encourage Albertans to sign up for a free MyHealth Records account at alberta.ca/myhealthrecords.
This is an easy, proactive step you can take that can make things easier if you are tested and waiting for results in the future, and it has the added benefit of giving you access to other parts of your health record as well.
In addition, we are working hard with Alberta Health Services to shorten the wait times between testing and results, and to connect those who have COVID-19, or contacts of cases, to our public health teams as quickly as possible.
This will also help us bring our case numbers down by preventing onward spread of the virus.
With the rise of cases in recent weeks, I know when I talk about statistics, we can forget that there are real people behind these numbers.
It’s important for us all to remember that these are real people who caught COVID-19 while simply living their lives.
They went to gatherings at friends’ houses for social connection, funerals to grieve the loss of loved ones, workplaces to support their families, and exercise classes for mental and physical health.
There are powerful underpinnings to our actions that lead us to activities that provide benefits to us.
People who catch COVID-19 aren’t bad people, and at the same time, people who avoid COVID-19 exposure aren’t fearmongering.
As much as possible, we need to support each other to meet our needs for human connection, meaningful employment, and access to basic requirements like food and shelter, while at the same time doing our best to also protect each other from the spread of infectious diseases like COVID.
I know many are tired of hearing me say that COVID-19 is not over. Sometimes I’m tired of saying it.
The truth is, though, that COVID-19 is still here.
You may remember a few months ago I talked about COVID-19 as a wall of water heading towards us.
Our public health measures are the barrier that keeps this wall from landing on us with full force.
We can tolerate some gradual streams of cases as long as they stay gradual. What we need to prevent is a scenario where the breaches get so large that we become swamped with cases that overwhelm our system.
This can happen quickly if we let our guard down.
COVID is out there waiting for us to be too tired to wash our hands, too distracted to notice whether we are within two metres of someone else, too busy to stay home if we are feeling sick, or too polite to suggest we all bring our own food to a gathering.
Our individual actions do not affect only ourselves. When we don’t take simple, everyday precautions, we let one another down.
When we have the mindset that the virus can’t touch us, or if it does, all that matters is that we will personally recover, we let one another down.
And that’s not how Albertans are. We have shown time and again that we are here to lift one another up.
It is within our control to get our case numbers moving in a positive direction.
We can get back to where we were just a month ago, when we moved forward with relaunch because our active case numbers were low.
Every step we can take as individuals to stop the spread is a step in the direction of health and safety for everyone.
Continue to physically distance, practice good hand hygiene, wear masks if you are going to be in crowded places and stay home when you are sick.
I continue to encourage you to wear a non-medical mask anywhere it may be hard to stay two metres apart, especially in indoor spaces.
This could be on a bus, in a mall or during your trip to the grocery store.
Many Albertans are wearing homemade and cloth masks – and I’ve enjoyed seeing the masks on Twitter on the hashtag AlbertaCares.
I’d like to thank everyone who is doing this—for making masks accessible, and adding a sense of fun and creativity that I hope will encourage everyone to wear a mask every day when they’re outside their home and in public places.
I’d like to see more of the masks you have found that showcase your unique personality. Please show others your favourite mask by tweeting a picture and using the hashtag #AlbertaCares.
I’ve done that, and if you go my account, you can see a picture of me wearing my favourite mask—one with the periodic table on it.
While COVID-19 may be causing changes to our lives, they don’t all have to be gloomy.
When we can find creative ways to follow public health advice, keeping each other safe while having some fun, we should do that!
We can turn this around. It is in our hands.
Thank you and I am happy to take any questions you may have.