Check against delivery.

Thank you Zoe. And good afternoon everyone.

Earlier today, I was speaking with a group of municipal administrators about COVID-19. I was feeling frustrated by something that had happened just before that call, and was speaking more sharply than I intended to that group.

I want to express my thanks to the person in that group who gently reminded me that we were all on the same side, working together towards the same goal.

I needed that reminder, and I wonder if others need that too. We are all so tired right now, and the stakes are so very high.

The real human costs of unemployment, bankrupt businesses and isolation are costs of social restrictions that we would all like to avoid.

The real human costs of increased deaths, strain on the health system, exhausted health care workers and delayed access to care for things other than COVID are also costs that none of us want to pay.

We are in a terrible situation, and it is COVID-19 that is the problem, not each other. Please be kind to each other, and also remember that the only way forward is to work together, across differences, listening to each other, and minimizing both sides of those human costs to the best of our ability.

We are all on team Alberta. We need to remember that.

Over the past 24 hours we have identified 730 new cases of COVID-19 and have completed approximately 13,000 tests.

This means our provincial positivity rate sits at about 5.5% and we currently have 10,057 active cases.

There are 287 people in hospital, of those, 57 are in ICU.

I continue to be concerned about these numbers as the human costs of COVID are rising rapidly.

As I have said before, as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise provincially, we are seeing a corresponding rise in COVID-related hospitalizations, ICU admissions and an increase in the number of frontline health care workers who are off work because of a potential COVID exposure and the need to self isolate.

AHS initiated surge capacity measures in Edmonton Zone in early November, and continues to implement these measures in Edmonton zone and other zones as needed.

AHS is able to increase the amount of hospital spaces available to patients with COVID if they reduce the number of other patients in hospital.

This means reducing the amount of scheduled, or elective surgeries and other procedures that might require overnight stays in hospital and reducing the number of ambulatory clinic visits. 

AHS also has contingency plans in place to ensure beds are available, if needed, to provide care for patients with COVID-19.

Hospital sites are increasing spaces that may be required for COVID-19 patients by opening units not currently in operation, and equipping and maximizing other spaces in a safe manner.

As part of its surge capacity planning, AHS is also increasing ICU capacity across the province.

AHS has the ability to create temporary ICU space in spaces that would otherwise be used to care for patients who have other conditions requiring specialized care, such as cardiac units, post-operative recovery areas, and other areas able to support ventilators and cardiac monitoring.

In short, AHS is preparing and working hard to meet demands.

But, there are consequences to these measures in delayed access to non-COVID care, and there is a ceiling to capacity expansion.

We need Albertans to do their part. By working together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community, we can reduce the need for hospitalization and demands on our hospitals and Emergency Departments.

Turning to schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 320 schools, about 13% of all schools in Alberta.

This number includes 64 schools that are currently on the watch list.

So far, in-school transmission has likely occurred in 157 schools. Of these, about 83 had only one new case as a result.

Sadly, I must also report 11 new deaths over the past 24 hours.

My condolences go out to the loved ones and friends who are mourning every one of these lost lives not just today, but since the pandemic began.

We have lost Albertans to other causes in this time as well, and they are also mourned and missed, but the difference is that we did not have the collective power to prevent all those other deaths.

With COVID-19, we do have that power.

Almost a quarter of all our COVID-19 deaths have happened since November 1.

If we do not change our trajectory, the implications are grim.

The daily COVID-19 death count is a tragic reminder that COVID-19 is not just a flu, it is life and death.

And often, it is the outcome of choices made by Albertans who may not even know the victims.

Almost one in three cases are getting sick from sources we can’t identify.

We know that, overall as of November 15, about 40% of cases are linked to a household or social gathering, or private event.

Ten per cent are linked to continuing care, 4% to childcare or K-12 schools,
and 3% to acute care outbreaks.

But for 30%, the source remains unknown.

Over the last few weeks, and as we have faced challenges in achieving timely contact tracing, that number is also rising.

Every day about 250 to 350 people are getting sick and we have been unable to identify the source of transmission.

This puts us all at greater risk.

This is why we put in place the measures we did last week.

The measures are focused on settings where there is the highest risk of one case spreading to many if there is a slip in public health measures.

I am disappointed at reports of organizations and businesses that are trying to find loopholes in the order and are continuing activities.

I have seen examples of fitness studios running group classes with a video rather than an instructor.

Some team sport practices have continued by moving to a neighbouring community’s rink and some teams continue to socialize together simply because they’re in a cohort as a team.

I recognize that many groups have done incredible work to go above and beyond the measures in place. I want to thank all groups and individuals who have made that effort.

Other teams or businesses may feel as if they are doing nothing wrong.

Let me be clear, the intent of these measures is to facilitate a two week hard stop of all activity that can provide opportunity for large scale COVID spread.

I have heard people say that while we have communicated this is just for two weeks, they believe it will last longer, so they don’t want to comply.

We cannot create a self- fulfilling prophecy.

Any individual, group or business that chooses to continue, is putting at risk the time limited nature of these restrictions.

These actions risk not just further restrictions on their own businesses and activities, but further restrictions for all those who are choosing to comply and going above and beyond as well.

This is deadly serious. I have asked for kindness, but I also ask for firmness. The need to control our spread and protect our health system is why I ask everyone, anywhere in the province, to abide by all public health measures.

As individuals, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay home and get tested if you have symptoms.

Albertans cannot write off symptoms as ‘just a cold’. What is a mild illness to many is deadly to some.

Albertans cannot avoid testing because it’s inconvenient, or because they don’t want to get their party host in trouble.

They cannot fear that a positive result will make them unpopular with their friends.

We need to view every gas pump, every walk through a mall, every pass through a store door, every stair railing or escalator as an opportunity to prevent COVID spread. 

With unknown transmission sources at current levels, there are cases that we still don’t know about.

Every one that spreads is a threat to the health of others.

Every one that spreads is a threat to the health-care system.

Every one that spreads means the potential for more intrusive measures in the future.  

My sincere thanks go to the many, many Albertans – most Albertans – who are washing hands, staying distant from those outside their household, wearing masks, keeping their cohorts small and respecting the measures in place in their communities.

My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go out to the health-care workers who are working heroically to ensure our health care system has the capacity to meet the demands of rising hospitalization and ICU numbers.

My thanks and encouragement go to all individuals working in COVID assessment centres and the lab who are helping us stay on top of the need and demand for rapid testing.

And special thanks go to the contact tracers who are working to address the backlog of contact tracing work that will help us increase our understanding about sources of transmission.

Alberta, we can still bend the curve.

If we work together, if we live by the same rules, if we take the same precautions, if we believe in a common goal, we can slow the spread.

In fact, coming together is the only way we can.

Thank you. I am happy to take your questions.