Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin today, I want to clarify a question that I’ve heard recently about getting tested before travelling.
We know that some countries require proof of a negative COVID-19 test to allow people to enter, and Albertans can access testing for this purpose.
Documentation of a negative test result can be obtained from MyHealth Records, or for a small fee, from Alberta Health Services.
As we continue to see strong demand for testing, anyone making travel plans and requiring this negative test should get tested at least seven to ten days before leaving to give enough time for results to be available.
Turning to today’s numbers, we identified 98 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, and the provincial lab completed 10,500 tests.
Sadly, I must report 1 new death in Alberta.
Of course, this is not the only death that has occurred in the last 24 hours, and my sympathies go out to all those who have lost loved ones recently.
COVID losses do, however, remind us of why we are living with public health measures.
Another reminder of how serious COVID can be is that 45 people are now in hospital, including 7 in intensive care.
The other numbers being discussed publicly right now are cases in school-aged populations. I know that many Albertans still have concerns about schools.
This anxiety is natural.
Jurisdictions across Canada and around the world are facing the same challenges and uncertainties with schools as we are now.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is no perfect path through this pandemic. Every option comes with its own risks.
We must make choices based on the best information available at the time, monitor the information and the situation closely, and then adapt as needed to protect the health of our students, teachers and staff.
I know that many of you have questions. That is why we are holding these availabilities every day this week.
I want to strive to answer any questions that you may have, to the best of my ability.
We are still learning about this virus, so I do not have all the answers, but I will always provide the information that I have and what we are doing to learn more.
To date, AHS has confirmed 16 cases that were present at 16 different schools while infectious.
I know that some have asked why we are focusing on that number, when other sites are reporting higher numbers.
The answer is that we are striving to help parents best understand the risk of exposure that their children face.
I think it is important that I explain why I feel this is the correct approach.
As a parent, learning that a teacher or other student who were never in the school while infectious and contracted COVID-19 at a party or while on vacation, does not help me understand if my child is at risk.
In a school context, there is risk for students and staff only when an infectious person has been present that they may have come in contact with.
The best way to assess the safety of schools is to track and monitor the number of cases and schools where an infectious case was present, as well as schools where transmission has happened on that site.
Other numbers are not relevant to school transmission risk, and simply cause confusion and anxiety.
To take an example from a different setting, if we reported every COVID case in any staff member who worked in a continuing care site, whether or not they attended work while infectious there would be no benefit to the site or the public, it would lead families of residents to be concerned that their loved ones were at risk when they were not in any danger.
While we put precautions in place with single cases, we publicly report only when 2 or more cases are confirmed with transmission in the facility to provide this information when it is relevant.
We have always committed to complete transparency to all those connected to a school when a case is identified.
That is why mandatory notification is in place for all school cases.
All parents, students and staff who are part of a school community where an infectious case is identified have been receiving, and will continue to receive, an alert directly from the school whenever one of these situations is identified.
There are times when a school sends out an alert before the public health investigation is complete and so some of these alerts may in fact go out before we understand that there was no infectious case in the school. This can cause a discrepancy in our numbers.
In addition to this commitment to transparency for those related to a school, we outlined several weeks ago a commitment to provide public reporting in a way that is similar to all other outbreaks, with a cut-off of five or more cases in a school.
What we have heard over the past few days is that the public would be reassured by knowing that we are formally reporting even more than that.
I have heard the desire for us to begin reporting outbreaks of even two cases, as well as alerts where schools have had a case present while infectious.
We have committed to being responsive and adapting our return to school plan to meet students’, parents’, and teachers’ needs.
That is why, today we are launching a new online map to help parents track where there may be a risk in their children’s school.
The map will list every school where there have been two or more cases in a school setting within a 14-day period, where disease could have been acquired or transmitted in the school.
So far, none of the 16 schools that AHS has reported to us have met this threshold.
If needed in the future, the map will also list schools that have shifted into Scenario 2 or 3 to protect the health of students.
I know there is interest in adding all school alerts with single cases to this public reporting as well.
We are exploring ways to report all the schools where a single case has been identified who spent time in a school while infectious.
We are working to understand the perspectives of school stakeholders on this, as it is important that we balance transparency and confidentiality, as we always do.
I will update Albertans on this work in the coming days and we are committed to continue improving the online map.
This is a difficult time, and I know there are a diversity of perspectives that come from the same place: our shared concerns about the health of our children and colleagues.
I would urge Albertans to remember that it is okay to disagree, but also remember that even well-meaning words and actions can impact the health and well-being of others.
Focusing on the official numbers and situations where a risk of exposure has been identified is the best way to understand what is really happening in schools.
I also want to highlight that, as of today, Alberta has 1,585 active cases throughout the province.
So far, the school cases identified have all come from community transmission, not through transmission within the schools themselves.
As mentioned yesterday, the more cases we see in the community, the more likely we are to see COVID-19 in schools.
I want to be clear: The continued rise in active cases in Alberta is something that we all need to be concerned about, and something that is within our power to stop.
We all have the ability to take small actions every day that will benefit our schools and our communities.
The small actions and the simple choices that each of us make are crucial to limiting the spread in schools and across communities in the days and weeks ahead.
Thank you, and I am happy to take any questions.