COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin, I want to address a question that I’ve heard is causing confusion for people.
The question is: if you’re a parent and your child becomes sick but hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19, do you need to self-isolate?
This is a good question.
If your child has not been identified as a close contact of a COVID case, and they have not tested positive, you do not have to self-isolate away from others, although ideally the child who is sick would be kept away from others in the home.
For young children, it may be best to have only one parent provide care in order to limit close contact.
You may choose to stay home, but you are not legally required to so.
You should continue to take all the normal precautions, including:
- monitoring yourself for symptoms,
- washing your hands,
- and staying physically distant from others.
The reason for this is that our COVID positivity rates for school-aged children right now are less than 1%, so while we recommend that children who are sick should stay home and get tested, their household contacts are not required to self-isolate unless the test comes back positive or that child is a close contact of a confirmed COVID case.
I know this is a challenging time, and I will continue to address any questions that I hear in the days ahead.
Turning to today’s numbers, currently 77 people are in hospital in Alberta, including 13 in intensive care.
We have identified 364 new cases of COVID-19, while our labs conducted more than 16,400 tests. 276 of those new cases are in Edmonton.
As of today, AHS has confirmed that students and staff at 55 schools that previously had alerts are now back in class and off the list.
There are active alerts or outbreaks in 170 schools, which is about 7% of all the schools in the province.
Currently these schools have 370 active cases in total.
This number includes 72 schools that are on outbreak, including 14 currently on the watch list.
Once again, I want to remind everyone that we are defining two cases as an outbreak, which is a very low threshold and reflective of a very cautious approach.
It also takes 28 days or 4 weeks with no new cases before a school comes off an outbreak, so many of these schools have not had new cases recently.
So far, in-school transmission has likely occurred in 27 schools. Of these, 21 have had only one new case occur as result.
Sadly, I must also report two new deaths in Alberta.
These deaths were both in patients at the Foothills Medical Centre. They were announced yesterday by AHS.
I want to express my heartfelt condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one to COVID or any other cause during these difficult months.
There are currently 83 cases, including 42 patients, linked to the Foothills Medical Centre outbreak.
More than 2,300 tests have been conducted, as Alberta Health Services is taking aggressive measures to identify any potential individuals who may have been exposed.
There is also an outbreak now connected to two units at the Misericordia Community Hospital.
In total, 10 cases are linked so far, and widespread testing is underway.
My colleagues have informed me that outbreak protocols are being implemented at the hospital to ensure the ongoing protection of patients, staff and visitors.
Visitation to the affected units is restricted, but the hospital outside of those units remains safe for patients.
Today, I would like to update you on COVID-19 in Edmonton Zone and announce new voluntary public health measures for the Capital region.
As I said on Monday, I am very concerned about the sharp rise in cases that we are seeing.
As of today, there are more than 1,250 active cases in the zone.
Over the past week, the positivity rate has increased to 4% in Edmonton.
And the R value for Edmonton, which measures how many new cases on average are infected by each person who already has the virus, has risen from 1 to 1.3 in the past week.
My team and AHS have been closely investigating the spread of the virus in the city.
All parts of the Edmonton zone are being impacted by the rising spread of the virus, either directly or indirectly.
While case ratios are highest in northeast portions of the City of Edmonton, they are also high in southern Edmonton and other areas as well.
As I mentioned on Friday, about 11% of active cases in Edmonton worked or attended social gatherings while symptomatic, which is concerning.
Currently, about 36% – almost two out of five – cases in Edmonton were exposed by a close contact. Another 26% are part of an outbreak.
Where transmission is known, household or community contacts appear to be a key driver in spreading the virus throughout the city.
Social gatherings and family gatherings continue to be a factor in virus-spreading events.
We have also seen several workplace outbreaks where spread between employees has occurred, showcasing an opportunity to improve prevention measures within workplaces.
The Edmonton zone now faces a crucial juncture.
While the system is able to support the current caseload in hospitals and ICUs, the acute care impact is a lagging indicator.
It typically takes one to two weeks before a rise in cases contributes to a rise in hospitalizations.
We have been in close contact with officials in the City of Edmonton and other partners across the zone regarding this situation.
We must take action to slow the virus’s spread in the zone and make sure the health system can continue supporting Albertans with COVID-19, influenza and many other needs.
That is why, effective today, I am announcing three new voluntary public health measures in the Edmonton zone.
These measures are voluntary because we still have sufficient hospital beds and capacity to meet the current needs in Edmonton.
But we are moving forward with them because it is important to use our current data as a call to action.
First, all family and private social gatherings should be limited to no more than 15 people. This is the maximum.
The fewer people we come into contact with, the lower the risk of exposure, or of us exposing others.
This does not impact schools or more formal gatherings such as theatres, worship services, or other gatherings where an organizer is ensuring that all COVID guidance is in place.
In these other settings, though, it is critical that all COVID guidance be followed carefully.
For wedding receptions and funeral receptions, we recognize that these events in the near term have had a great deal of planning that has gone into them. It may not be possible to reduce these immediately to 15.
However, if possible, we would encourage anyone planning these kinds of private social events or parties and family gatherings to reduce numbers as much as possible, aiming for no more than 15.
Second, I am recommending that masks should be worn in all indoor work settings, except when alone in workspaces such as cubicles or offices were you can be safely distanced from others or an appropriate barrier is in place.
Finally, I am asking everyone in the Edmonton zone to limit their cohorts to no more than three:
- their core household cohort
- their school cohort,
- and no more than one other social, sport or other group.
In some rare cases, individuals may belong to a work cohort as one of the three, but this is not something that everyone would be a part of.
Remember that a cohort is a group of people who don’t have to follow COVID restrictions at one time to enable an activity such as a team sport to take place. This is not the case in most workplaces
In almost all workplaces, measures should be in place to prevent close contact between co-workers, and therefore they would not be considered a cohort.
Young children who attend child care could be part of four cohorts, given that child care cohorts have not been seen to be a high risk context for spread,
and young children are at lower risk for spreading the virus.
These measures are not being taken lightly, but are necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from continuing to escalate.
Alberta Health Services will be continuing inspections of public-serving businesses to ensure that existing guidance is being followed.
In the coming days, the Alberta government will continue to support vulnerable Albertans and those most at-risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 to minimize the risk of exposure.
While these measures are voluntary, I live and work in Edmonton.
And I know that our community looks out for each other.
I believe people will do their part to protect themselves and their family, friends and neighbours.
We will continue working with AHS and local municipalities to closely analyze and monitor the spread in Edmonton and across the province.
We will continue to assess the impact of these recommendations, and consider any adjustments if needed.
While these voluntary measures are focused on the Edmonton zone, everyone in the province should take note.
We must all take precautions to limit the virus’s spread to our friends, family and loved ones.
I especially caution Albertans against planning large get-togethers this weekend.
Now is not the time to be gathering in large groups, travelling long distances for the holiday,
or sharing food or utensils with people outside your cohort.
Keep your Thanksgiving small, keep it safe and protect one another.
I know that the need for voluntary measures and the caution against gathering with extended family and friends is disappointing to many.
It has been a long, hard year and the fight against COVID-19 is far from over.
But we have learned much about this virus, and our collective action is incredibly powerful.
By working together, we can all protect each other, reduce the spread and lift these measures as soon as possible.
Now, more than ever, we need to take care of each other and help protect each other.
As we look forward to this Thanksgiving weekend we still have many things to be thankful for.
I have heard many stories in the past weeks of people stepping up and going above and beyond to protect their communities.
This is part of who we are as Albertans.
We remain in this together, and the future is in our hands.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take questions.