COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.
Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 1,265 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, and about 15,600 tests were completed yesterday.
This means that our provincial positivity rate currently sits at about 8.1% and we have 13,719 active cases.
There are 355 people in hospital, of those, 71 are in the ICU.
Sadly, we have now reached 500 deaths from COVID-19 in this province.
This is a tragic milestone. My sympathies go out to the loved ones and friends of these individuals who are mourning these lives lost during what is a very difficult time to grieve.
Though we have put new restrictions in place, I hope that everyone still seeks support, comfort and help in ways that are also safe from COVID transmission risk.
The daily rise in COVID-19 cases, as well as the growing number and extent of outbreaks in acute care facilities across the province, continues to be concerning.
Healthcare teams are working tirelessly to ensure patients and staff remain safe.
But we must do all we can to protect the patients in all of our care.
Which is why Alberta Health Services has been taking and continues to take steps to increase capacity in the system.
In the coming weeks, they plan to make available more than 2,000 acute care beds, and up to 400 ICU beds to be allocated for patients with COVID-19 across the province, if they are needed.
In some cases, these will be new beds.
In other cases, these beds are existing hospital spaces that will be made available as patients are moved into continuing care beds in the community.
To make this space available, AHS will be taking a variety of steps. This includes:
- transferring patients out of acute care, to continuing care wherever possible and safe
- moving patients to available beds that are open in other parts of the province,
- repurposing other clinical areas to provide ICU care,
- and, if needed, reducing additional non-urgent surgeries.
These steps are being taken to make sure that there is sufficient capacity to meet the growing healthcare need.
In order to allocate these acute and ICU beds, AHS will also be working with Alberta Health, continuing care operators and other partners to open additional continuing care beds in the community.
AHS will provide more specific information on changes as they are implemented in the days ahead.
Effective today, AHS is also changing visitor access to acute care sites that are on outbreak or in communities that are under enhanced status.
For patients admitted to hospital and in ambulatory care, including emergency departments, only one designated family or support person is permitted under specific circumstances.
For maternity and postpartum units, one designated family or support person will be permitted.
A doula or a surrogate, may also be permitted.
For pediatrics and NICU, as well as critical care, up to two designated family or support persons are permitted. In end-of-life situations one designated family or support person is permitted and the presence of any visitors must be pre-arranged with the site or unit.
The extent of restrictions may vary site-to-site due to patient circumstances, operational considerations and the ability to maintain physical distancing.
To be clear, these changes are for sites that are on outbreak or in a community where COVID-19 transmission is high.
Details about visitor policies in individual sites can be found on the AHS website.
We recognize that these restrictions are very difficult for patients, families, loved ones, staff and physicians.
But these temporary measures are being implemented to help reduce exposure and prevent spread of the virus in AHS facilities.
My health colleagues will continue work with patients, families and healthcare teams to support visitation appropriate to the ongoing pandemic situation in our province.
Turning to schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 348 schools, about 15% of schools in Alberta.
Currently these schools have a combined total of 1,207 active cases.
This number includes 179 schools with outbreaks, including 71 currently on the watch list.
My thanks go out to all the many people who are working so hard to keep students, teachers, staff and families safe.
Thank you to parents and guardians who are teaching good pandemic hygiene at home and reinforcing the importance of compliance with measures at school.
I know that there has been a burden on parents this year to keep kids home with even mild illness, and to arrange for kids to stay home if an exposure has taken place in their class.
Thank you to students who have adapted to new routines and habits to prevent transmission and to keep their school and their community safe.
Thank you to teachers and school staff who are on the front line of preventing the spread among students - we appreciate everything that you do.
I would especially like to recognize those in the Grade 7 to 12 system, who will be showing flexibility and resiliency in the coming days, preparing to move to at home learning, as was announced yesterday.
Yesterday, as you know, the government announced a number of restrictions that will impact not only students, but the majority of Albertans in one way or another.
I know these are complex orders, with many perspectives. People have asked about my role in them.
Under the Public Health Act, as Chief Medical Officer of Health, I advise the government on its public health recommendations.
For many decisions, I present a range of policy options to government officials, outlining what I believe is the recommended approach, and the strengths and weaknesses of any alternatives.
The final decisions are made by Cabinet.
As I have said in the past, I have always felt respected and listened to and that my recommendations have been respectfully considered by policy makers while making their decisions.
I know that the new measures will be difficult for many, but our health care system is at a tipping point, and we cannot allow it to go over the edge.
We need Albertans to do their part. We need Albertans to follow every measure.
And I mean every measure.
Just as we all need to work together to be successful, the restrictions in place are only successful if they all work together.
Please do not ignore the measures that seem inconvenient for you.
Picking and choosing which measures we want to follow or find easiest will not help us slow the spread of COVID-19 cases.
I know that after months of public health measures, we continue to crave more social contact.
This makes gathering restrictions even more challenging for many.
I also understand many have concerns about being asked to not have other people in their home.
But now more than ever, only those who live with you should be in your home.
Overnight we have received many questions about what is or isn’t allowed.
I want to alleviate some concerns.
This restriction is in place to restrict gatherings of a social nature, where mixing and mingling occur.
This does not apply to service-based visits, such as visits from caregivers, health or child care providers, and child care providers can include family members, or babysitters.
It also does not apply to co-parenting arrangements or shared households.
Raising your family is not a social gathering.
If your children live part-time with one family member, and part-time with another, this can continue.
If you live part-time in one household, and part-time in another household, this can continue.
But as I said yesterday, I urge Albertans not to look for ways to get around the rules.
Do not take advantage of exceptions that are in place for those that need them in order to avoid measures you simply don’t want to follow.
This risks everyone’s health.
We cannot bend the curve if everyone does not do their part.
Outdoor gatherings of a maximum of 10 may also still occur.
But to be clear, if you host a gathering in your backyard, guests can not be coming in your house to use the washroom, get snacks, or to warm up.
If they are coming inside your home, for any reason, that is an indoor gathering.
We recognize many Albertans live alone, and we do not want these people to feel socially isolated at a challenging time.
That is why they are permitted to have two non-household close contacts to socialize with.
They must be the same two people for the duration of these restrictions.
I have already heard from Albertans seeking exemptions to these rules.
While a few exemptions may be considered in cases where there is aggressive testing and other extensive measures in place, and let me clear, I’m now speaking about the sports restrictions, where there are requests for exemptions to the sports restrictions, we are considering exemptions in cases where there is aggressive testing and other measures in place.
But the measures announced yesterday will only work if they are applied as broadly as possible.
As I said, I know that these measures will be difficult for many.
And I know that there is a lot of debate around whether they go too far or not far enough.
The best thing that any of us can do is to be as vigilant as possible in our own lives.
Regardless of where you live, please do everything possible to limit your contacts with those outside your household.
The challenge of COVID is that none of us can bear all of these burdens alone, and yet the usual ways we have used all our lives to support each other – like gatherings, giving hugs, or going out for coffee with a group of friends, are exactly the kinds of activities that can spread COVID quickly.
We all need support, and we can support each other in different ways for now.
Telephone calls, letters, texts, and outdoor visits are all great options.
We all need to bring back the family Zoom calls and the virtual dates that were a part of our lives in the spring.
The more we do that, and the more that each of us goes the extra mile, the more effective we will be in reducing the spread during the next few weeks.
We are in this together.
And we will get through this together.
Thank you and I will now be happy to answer any questions.