Check against delivery.

Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.  

Before I get to today’s update, I would like to talk about COVID-19 guidance for singing, musical instruments and dancing.

We have heard questions from many groups, businesses and especially music teachers and schools asking if we have been looking at new evidence to update our guidance.

These are activities that many Albertans have sorely missed.

The arts play an important role in schools and in our emotional well-being, and the restrictions have been hard for many.

We had originally severely limited indoor singing and use of wind instruments, as there was some evidence indicating that they may pose unique risks of transmitting COVID-19.

After reviewing the spread of the virus and measures in place in other jurisdictions, we have seen emerging evidence that these activities can be done safely, if rigorous and proper precautions are in place.

We have therefore updated our approach to allow Albertans to enjoy these experiences – safely – while keeping measures in place to limit transmission. 

Updated guidelines are now posted online that allow limited band practices, singing and wind instrument concerts to occur, provided distancing, enhanced cleaning and other precautions are implemented.

Choirs may begin again, with maximum size limits and masking while singing;

However, audience singing is still not allowed, and congregational singing in faith settings is still discouraged.

This is because it is easier to ensure that all guidance is rigorously and regularly applied with smaller groups, while singing in a larger group without those same ongoing rigorous measures could lead to large transmission events.

I want to stress that gathering limits have not changed and dance floors are still not allowed, as we cannot safely mitigate the risk of exposure with these activities.

As we continue to learn more about transmission, we will update guidelines based on what the evidence tells us and how we see the virus spreading in Alberta.

Turning to today’s update, we identified 111 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and the provincial lab completed 11,979 tests.

Sadly, there has been 1 death during this time period.

The total number of COVID-19 deaths remains unchanged at 253, as one previously announced death has been removed from the total after it was determined to not be a death resulting from COVID-19.

Losing a loved one to COVID-19 or for any other reason is heartbreaking and I extend my sympathies to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.

Today, Alberta has 1,444 active cases. 41 people are in the hospital, including 6 in intensive care.

As of today, the total number of Albertans who have recovered from the virus is 13,718.

There have been 29 schools were an individual attended while infectious. So far, a total of 32 cases are linked to these schools.

There are still 3 school outbreaks, and Alberta Health Services is working closely with these schools to investigate any close contacts.

I want to reinforce that these schools are not a risk to their communities and those still attending are not at greater risk of exposure. Anyone potentially exposed has been contacted and is self-isolating.

We have also updated our outbreak list for all other settings. This now includes an outbreak on one unit at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital, in Grande Prairie with two cases.  

Testing and contact tracing are underway, and the facility remains safe for patients and staff.

Before I take questions today, I would like to take a moment to explain in plain language how COVID-19 infects the body.

I have heard many questions from both kids and parents about why certain measures are in place, especially why someone who has been exposed to the virus needs to be away from others for 14 days…..

…. and I think it is important that we all understand how this virus works.

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. This means it can be spread when people breathe, cough or sneeze, and tiny droplets of liquid go into the air.

If a person has the virus, it can be inside those droplets and make other people sick if it ends up in their nose, mouth or eyes.

But you don’t get sick right away. Once the virus is inside your body, it can latch onto a cell inside your lungs.

If enough virus latches onto cells, and gets inside them, they take over those cells and make copies of themselves, and then another copy, and another one, and so on.

This takes time.

Our immune system will be trying to fight the virus, and a lot of copies need to be made before reaching a tipping point where someone has enough virus to be able to infect others.

In most people, it will take about 5-8 days before enough virus copies are made for symptoms to show.

Sometimes it happens sooner, or it can take up to 14 days, which is why we say that COVID-19’s incubation period is two weeks.

A person is not infectious to others for the full 14 days. However, we can not predict for sure if they will get sick and if they do when that will happen.

This is also why, if someone is a close contact of a confirmed case, we require them to stay home for up to 14 days, even if a test in this time frame is negative.

It is entirely possible that they have the virus and it simply hasn’t made enough copies of itself to be captured by that PCR test that shows up negative.

It is also why if you are sick but not a close contact and you test negative, you only have to stay home until your symptoms resolve.

If you are already showing symptoms, the virus causing those symptoms should show up in the tests.

By testing negative, it is most likely that you don’t have COVID-19 and you just need to stay home until you are well enough to not get others sick with whatever is causing the illness.

Also, staying home until you are feeling better is extra safety as sometimes a single negative COVID test may be a false negative.

I’ve also been asked about why we have such a long list of symptoms, and why even kids with mild symptoms need to stay home from school.

The answer is that COVID-19 doesn’t affect us all in the same way, leading to a wide range of symptoms and a wide range of outcomes for the virus.

For example, in some people, COVID-19 can cause a fever.

This is caused by the immune system trying to fight the virus. It heats up the body, which raises the body temperature, leading to a fever.

In others, the immune system causes inflammation as it is trying to defeat the virus.

This is the reason that some people feel tired and achy, which is another symptom of COVID-19.

In other people, COVID-19 may lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath or even pneumonia as small air sacs in the lungs get inflamedand possibly fill with fluid.

This stops oxygen from reaching your blood and is also a reason why people who get very sick with COVID-19 sometimes must be put on oxygen therapy or ventilators.

Those are just a few symptoms.

There are many other ways that COVID-19 can impact your body, such as causing a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea, or many others.

All of these may be signs of COVID-19, and that is why we are asking students, and parents, to use the daily checklist and stay home if they are feeling ill with any of the identified symptoms.

It’s important to stay home even when sick with mild symptoms because the virus doesn’t impact everyone the same way.

In one person, the virus may make a large number of copies but only cause a runny nose or some other minor symptom.

Yet, when that same virus is passed to a grandparent, it could cause them to have a more severe illness like pneumonia.

COVID-19 doesn’t play favourites and none of us are immune. We can all spread it to each other, which is why we are all in this together.

I hope this explanation has helped, and I would be happy to take any questions.