Check against delivery.

Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.  

Before I begin today’s update, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the remarkable work of Health Care Aides in Alberta.

This Sunday is Health Care Aide Day in Canada. We all owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to these unsung heroes of health care.

Every day, they provide the direct patient care that helps so many Albertans remain independent and active in their homes and communities.

They help support daily living activities for people with medical conditions or functional limitations.

And they are vital to providing quality care in continuing care settings and in acute care facilities.

There are almost 30,000 approved Health Care Aides working in Alberta.

They have been on the front lines of COVID for many months, and I know this has not been easy.

I want to whole-heartedly thank Alberta’s health care aides for their dedication and commitment to those in their care.

Your work is critical. Thank you.

Turning to today’s update, 18,651 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19, which is almost 600 more since Tuesday.

Currently, 117 people are in hospital, including 11 in intensive care.  

We continue to monitor these numbers closely.

We identified 332 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and the provincial lab has completed more than 14,000 tests in the last 24 hours.

Our provincial positivity rate yesterday was 2.24% of all tests.

Currently Alberta has more than 2,800 active cases.

I am happy to report no new deaths.

Turning to schools, there are active alerts or outbreaks in 200 schools, with a total of 489 cases.

Of these, 91 schools currently have an outbreak, including 22 that are on watch with five or more cases.

I want to remind everyone that a school outbreak is called with just two cases in a school, and does not mean the school is unsafe.

As we see community transmission rise, cases in school-aged children are not unexpected.

To date, we have seen in-school transmission in only 61 schools, with two-thirds of these only seeing a single new case result.

I want to thank all parents, teachers, students and school staff for your dedication to school safety and preventing widespread transmission.

Today, we are updating our public outbreak list.

This includes an outbreak in the cardiology unit at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

The outbreak is currently limited to this unit only, and three patients have tested positive.

In addition, an outbreak has been declared on one unit of the Leduc Community Hospital after two patients tested positive for COVID-19.

In both locations, all patients are isolated and being treated.

Aggressive contact tracing is underway for patients and any staff who may have been exposed.

Outbreak protocols are in place, including enhanced cleaning and twice-daily symptom screening for both patients and staff.

AHS is investigating the outbreak and working hard to protect the health of all involved.  

The recent outbreaks we have seen in hospitals are one of the reasons for the high hospitalization numbers that we are now seeing.

As our community transmission goes up, so too does the risk of introducing the virus into our acute care and continuing care facilities where our most vulnerable community members are.

This is another reminder we all have a role to play in stopping the spread.

Today, the City of Calgary is shifting onto the watch list. There are currently 686 active cases which is 50.9 per 100,000.

We have recently seen several outbreaks in that city linked to social gatherings and this is yet another reminder that no region is immune from this virus and that one case can quickly lead to many if restrictions are not followed.

As this time, I am not recommending any additional measures for Calgary, but we are working with local partners to monitor the situation closely.

I continue to be concerned about the situation in Edmonton zone, which currently has 54% of the active cases in the province.

It takes about two weeks between actions and outcomes, so we would anticipate seeing in the next week or so if the voluntary measures we put in place for Edmonton last week are having an impact.

However, this weekend, I am asking everyone in the Edmonton zone to continue following these voluntary measures to the best of their ability.

Follow them every day in whatever you are doing.

First, please limit all family and private social gatherings to a maximum of 15 people.

The fewer people you have, the lower the risk of exposure or transmission.

When you are gathering, please be sure to follow all the other public health measures that we all know so well by now.

Second, please keep making sure that masks are worn in all indoor work settings except in personal workspaces such as cubicles or offices where the worker is safely distanced, or an appropriate barrier is in place.

I know this can be frustrating and inconvenient at times.

But we are seeing cases where the virus is being spread at workplaces, often by people with very mild symptoms who’ve not stayed home or those who have not yet had symptoms start.

Finally, I am asking each person to limit your close contacts with others, and limit contacts between networks.

The guideline for how to do this is through limiting cohorts to no more than three:

  • a core household and social cohort including up to 15 people outside your household,
  • a school cohort if applicable,
  • and only one other sport or group.

Young children who attend child care could be part of four cohorts, given that child care contexts have not been seen to be a high risk for spread.

To be clear: this is three cohorts per person, not per family.

While these measures are targeted at Edmonton, anyone can follow them, regardless of where you live.

We must all take precautions to limit the virus’s spread to our friends, family and loved ones.

With that in mind, I want to end today with a request for all Albertans: Please get your flu shot.

Influenza is not new like COVID-19, but it is very serious.

Last winter, almost 8,500 Albertans contracted the flu and ultimately 41 died.

Last year about one-in-three Albertans took the step to get immunized for influenza.

This was more than in 2018-19, but we can and must do better this year.

Starting on Monday, the flu shot will be readily available in participating pharmacies, doctor’s offices and health clinics across the province.

Getting immunized is an easy way to protect your health.

The flu shot won’t prevent COVID-19, but it will reduce your chances of getting sick with influenza and spreading it to others.

Seniors, young children, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions are the most at risk of suffering severe and sometimes fatal outcomes from the flu.

Also, by getting immunized you are helping support Alberta’s pandemic response.

We can't yet prevent COVID-19 with a vaccine but we can help stop the flu from taxing our health system.

This year, we must support those with influenza, COVID-19 and all the other health needs in our province.

The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits, and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs.

It is vital that we all protect ourselves from influenza.

Starting Monday, the influenza vaccine will be readily available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices for anyone over the age of five.

AHS is delivering vaccine this year by appointment only for younger children and their households, for people who don’t have a provincial health care number, and where there is no other immunization provider.

Please book your appointment as soon as possible.

Getting a flu shot is the right thing to do.

It’s good for you, for your community and for your health system.

In closing, I want to share a story that I think speaks to our current situation.

Last night, in preparation for the snow that was forecast to hit Edmonton today, I was outside in the dark planting wildflower seeds. This struck me as an apt metaphor.

We are going into a cold, dark time of year but it will come to an end. We have to hold onto the seeds of hope and know that if we do our part to protect each other in this difficult time, better testing technology, treatments and vaccines are in the works to join the fight against COVID-19.

Spring will come again and we will get through this together.

Thank you, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.