Check against delivery.

Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon.

Today, I want to provide an update on COVID-19
in our province over the long weekend.

I would like to start by thanking Albertans for looking out for each other these last few days.

We heard many positive reports of mask use and of people following the public health guidance that we’ve put into place.

I am happy to report that more than 9,750 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19.

I’m also pleased to report that our most recent daily case numbers have declined slightly.  Testing identified

  • 97 new cases on Friday, July 31st;
  • 67 on August 1st;
  • 74 on August 2nd;  
  • And 65 on Monday, August 3rd.

More than 34,000 tests have been conducted since Friday.

Currently, 85 people are in hospital, including 23 in intensive care.

Sadly, I must also report five additional deaths since Friday, including three at the Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre.

My sincere condolences go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19….and to all those living in and working on this particular outbreak site… those who are dealing with this tragedy daily.

I am continually mindful of the devastating impact that COVID-19 is having on families and communities in our province in many different ways.

I know that many are concerned about the outbreak at the Good Samaritan Society Southgate. 

I am as well.  

It is now the most deadly outbreak we have seen in this province, and heath officials are doing everything possible to contain the spread.

Unfortunately, this virus spreads rapidly in close contact. Many of the recent cases and deaths in this outbreak were exposed weeks ago. 

AHS is working closely with the operator, has deployed staff on-site to provide extra assistance, and is meeting with leadership daily to ensure that all necessary steps are being taken.

Health officials are doing everything possible
to support those who’ve tested positive,
and prevent others from being exposed.

The facility is following the outbreak protocols that have worked successfully in other outbreaks, both in Alberta and across Canada.

This includes making sure that all necessary staffing, infection prevention control and outbreak management measures are in place.

We will continue to keep Albertans informed as we work to manage this tragic situation.

This outbreak underlines the importance of our collective efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

Part of this protection requires continually evaluating our response efforts and using the best available evidence to update our approach when warranted.

One example of this is this morning’s announcement on updated recommendations on masks in schools.

As we have discussed the return to schools this fall, I have heard a lot of questions from parents and teachers about the plan.

One frequent question I receive is why we closed classes in the spring when there were fewer active cases, but are resuming in-person classes now.

It is important to remember how far our understanding of COVID-19 has come.

In March, we did not know much about this virus.

We did not know how it spread among children, whether children were a high-risk group, and what sorts of locations or gatherings were major drivers of spread.

We were forced to rely largely on our knowledge of how other viruses like influenza had spread in the past.

With those illnesses, schools can act to amplify the spread of a virus in the community. 

Also, the March school closures were part of a broader restriction put in place as we fought to avoid the surge in cases that was seen in other countries…..and that could have left our health system overwhelmed.

However, we now know much more about this virus.

We know that the burden of COVID-19 is higher in adults and that younger children are less likely to transmit to each other, although transmission can still occur.

Evidence in jurisdictions around the world suggest that schools do not appear to be a major driver of community spread.

We also know that this virus has been with us for five months – and will be here for many months to come.  

Closing schools has significant emotional, physical and mental health impacts on kids, particularly those who are the most vulnerable.

All of these facts have informed the guidance that I have provided to schools.

Returning to school with precautions in place seeks to balance all the needs of our children.

There is no one perfect way to respond to COVID-19. Each path has advantages and challenges. The most important thing is to continue to learn.

I will continue to watch the emerging evidence and, as always, adapt my recommendations as needed in the days and weeks to come.

As I said, there is no silver bullet that will make any setting completely risk-free, and no region or community that is free from the virus.

However, today’s data shows our collective power to take on COVID-19 and limit its spread.

Two weeks ago, I called our numbers a wake up call.

Today, we are starting to see the result of Albertans answering that challenge.

The number of active cases has decreased by more than 200 since last week. There are now 1,191 active cases in the province – down from more than 1,400 on July 28.

Also, nine regions in Alberta have now left the provincial watch list.

We still have a long way to go – but these are encouraging signs. They remind us that we are not powerless in this fight and that working together we can limit the spread across Alberta.

It is now August 4th, just a few weeks from the end of summer and the start of fall.

The choices we all make now will determine caseloads through late August and early September.

It is within our control to get cases as low as possible for the fall, to support students returning to school and businesses that are returning to work.

Now is the time to make the changes for your kids who want to be able to go back to school in the fall.

Now is also the time to teach your children how to safely put on, wear and take off a mask.

Simple steps save lives, and can slow the spread.

Wash your hands, physically distance, wear a mask when you can’t and, if you’re even slightly sick, stay home and get tested.

We need to act each day as though everyone we spend time with may have COVID-19, even if we’re among loved ones, and even if we feel healthy.

This is the best way to protect the health, safety and well-being of students, staff, families and communities.

Thank you, and I’m happy to take questions.