Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.
Today, I’d like to update you on cases identified over the weekend, and address some common questions that I have received lately.
Since our last update, I am very pleased to see that recoveries have now surpassed the 10,300 mark.
I’m sure every one of them has a story to tell.
Currently, 66 people are in hospital, including 14 in intensive care.
Sadly, I must report five additional deaths over the weekend, including two at Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre. One of these was reported by the facility on Friday.
The lab has completed more than 26,000 tests since Friday, meaning that we now have completed more than 770,000 tests.
We identified 108 new cases on Friday, 101 on Saturday, and 48 on Sunday.
There are now more than 1,090 active cases in the province. This is a slight reduction from last week, but we continue to identify a significant number of cases.
There is some irony in the fact that my cautious optimism last week was followed by three days with new case counts over 100.
It is a reminder that COVID continues to be with us, and we cannot turn our backs on this virus.
As I said, unfortunately I am reporting five additional deaths today, and my heartfelt condolences go out to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID-19 or any other cause during this pandemic.
I know there have been some questions raised about staffing in place at the Good Samaritan Southgate facility.
Managing an outbreak requires significant staffing expertise. It is essential that sufficient staff be in place to support residents with all their care needs and to limit the spread of COVID-19.
This is a crucial part of containing any outbreak.
After staffing shortages were identified as a possible risk to residents at this facility in late July as a last resort, an exemption was granted to the single site rule to allow additional staff to support the Southgate Care Centre.
I do not make exemptions lightly, but I also need to ensure that residents get the care they need, and that it’s done in a way that does not put others at risk.
This exemption allowed local health officials to address gaps in staffing and help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Regular staff of the facility are not working in any other places, and the majority of redeployed staff working at the Good Samaritan are also currently not working at any other facilities.
All staff must comply with strict precautions to prevent the spread of the virus outside the facility.
This is a serious situation. AHS is working closely with Good Samaritan and they continue to do everything possible to protect the health of all involved.
There have been no new cases identified at this site since August 2nd.
Another location we have been asked about is the BrightPath Richmond child care centre in Calgary, where I can confirm that two cases have been identified.
As with all cases, local health officials have isolated those involved and are conducting contact tracing. Anyone at risk is being contacted.
Testing is being offered to all staff and attendees of this child care centre.
These are proven processes being implemented to limit the spread and protect the public’s health.
The centre was not required to close, but the operator has chosen to do so voluntarily.
As I said last week, COVID-19 is not going away.
We all need to make wise decisions every day that make life safer – regardless of whether case numbers are rising or falling at any given time.
After six months, I know it can feel like information overload for many people.
With that in mind, I would like to address some of the questions that I have heard recently.
I believe that for every person who asks a question, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people, who also want to know the answer.
One question has to do with the online map of COVID case numbers in our interactive data app online.
The areas on the map can be viewed by municipality or by Local Geographic Areas.
Local Geographic areas, or LGAs, are organized according to an internal mapping system used by AHS.
This naming convention has been in place for some time.
However, LGA names were not created with a real-time map and a pandemic in mind. This has led to some confusion about the area names.
For example, in the LGAs named Viking and Wainwright, people are asking if all the numbers in these areas are in these towns.
That is not the case.
I want to be clear that when you are looking at the LGA map, the numbers represented include surrounding area numbers, not just the individual town.
Our officials are reviewing the map and renaming Viking, Wainwright, and any other affected areas to make it clear these are regional data, and the cases are not all in one community.
Another question that I’ve heard is why does it take so long to get test results?
I understand this concern; I share it. Currently, the average turnaround time for a positive test result to notification is two days, and this is too long.
We have put some measures in place, and are working on more, to reduce this wait time and to speed up other components of the testing process in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, if you are feeling ill and have been tested, please stay home and away from others in your household or cohort until your test results arrive.
Speaking of cohorts, another question I’ve gotten is whether families should restrict their cohorts once children return to school.
Ultimately, there is no single answer to this question.
We do know that the more people you come in contact with, the greater your risk of exposure.
Parents, guardians and family members should look at their cohorts and assess if they are comfortable with the current size or if they need to shrink it as school begins.
This is a decision that each household must make for themselves.
If you are in doubt, I would recommend considering shrinking your cohort for the first few weeks of school, and then re-assessing once the routines of school have been established.
Another question is whether COVID-19 can be passed through breastfeeding?
I’m happy to say that there have been no documented cases of transmission through breast milk or breastfeeding to date.
However, if a mother has COVID-19 and is infectious, precautions can be taken such as having the mother wear a mask to minimize the risk of transmission during the close contact between mother and child during breastfeeding.
I’ve also been asked about COVID-19 and its impact on our pets.
Research is limited, but what we know right now is that there have been very few reports of domestic animals testing positive for COVID-19.
This has occurred after these pets have been in contact with people who were already infected.
At this time, there is no evidence that domestic animals can transmit the disease to humans.
The final question I want to address today is how to store and clean a cloth mask.
I am recommending that you store clean masks in a sealed and clean storage bag in a dry area.
If a cloth mask is used only briefly, if it is not damp or soiled, and if it is removed with clean hands, it can be stored in a clean, breathable container and used again by the same wearer.
If the mask becomes damp or soiled, it should be put into a separate breathable bag and taken home for washing.
When it comes time to clean them, empty the bags into the washing machine.
Consider using a bag that can also be washed at the same time.
Generally speaking, warm water is better but follow whatever directions are recommended for washing your mask’s material.
You can launder with other items and dry thoroughly.
There are three weeks left in August. Let’s all do our best to keep each other and ourselves safe.
The best advice for all of us is still to respect physical distancing, wear a mask if we can’t,
wash and sanitize our hands often, keep social interaction within our cohorts, isolate if we feel sick, and get tested.
We are going to be living with this virus for some time, so we must see this as our new normal.
Remember that when we take actions to protect ourselves, we are also protecting each other.
And as always, we are strongest together.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take any questions.