Check against delivery.
Thank you, Jessica, and good afternoon everyone.
Today, I want to provide an update on COVID-19 in our province over the holidays.
First, I want to thank the many Albertans who respected the measures in place and celebrated safely this Christmas. Your selfless actions not only kept you and your family safe, they also helped slowed the spread of COVID in your community and across our province. This is a wonderful gift to give others this holiday season.
I was grateful to be able to have several zoom calls with extended family; sharing memories, seeing the children’s new toys, and even an impromptu piano recital and magic show by the kids.
I hope that all Albertans found a way to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way over this holiday season.
Today, while I am pleased to report that we have continued to see a decline in our active case numbers over the last five days, it is important to note that part of this decline has been due to less people presenting for testing, which is not surprising over the holidays.
On December 23, 1,007 new cases of COVID-19 were identified and 15,585 tests were completed. 30 deaths were reported.
On December 24, 1,191 new cases of COVID-19 were identified and 17,845 tests were completed. 18 deaths were reported.
On December 25, 914 new cases were identified and 14,193 tests were completed. 17 deaths were reported.
On December 26, we identified 459 new cases and 6,866 tests were completed. 27 deaths were reported.
And yesterday, 917 new cases were identified and the provincial lab completed 9,633 tests. 20 deaths were reported.
Our positivity rate over the past few days has ranged from 6.4% to 9.6%.
Unfortunately, the trend in those needing hospital and ICU care for COVID-19 has not yet come down. There are 878 people in hospital, including 148 who have been admitted to the ICU.
My sympathies go out to those in hospital and to those who are supporting them – both their family and friends, as well as the health care workers who have been spending their holidays caring for them.
In addition, my deepest condolences go out to the loved ones mourning the loss of those individuals who have passed away over the past five days, whether from COVID-19 or any other cause.
The 112 total recorded deaths over the last five days brings Alberta’s total for the COVID-19 pandemic to 1,002.
Losing someone is never easy but it is made even more difficult with the public health restrictions in place. I encourage anyone who is dealing with loss or grief to reach out for support from family, friends or one of the many resources available at www.ahs.ca/helpintoughtimes. There are safe ways to help you mourn – and you are not alone.
We are not alone in this reality in Alberta either. Around the world, and across our country, people are mourning the loss of their loved ones.
The death rate in Quebec is 95 per 100,000, Ontario’s is 30 per 100,000, Manitoba’s 47, B.C. 16, and Alberta’s is 20 per 100,000.
Each of these numbers represents people whose loss leaves a hole behind in their families, communities, and groups of friends.
Our actions to prevent spread prevent more losses like these. One such action is case notification and contact tracing.
As I mentioned before the break, our contact tracers are continuing to work through the holidays and are reaching out to as many individuals as possible.
I want to thank them, and the Albertans who help them do their work by answering their questions and following their instructions.
I also want to give particular thanks to Alberta Health Services for continuing to provide health care workers with their first shot of vaccine over the holidays – they have been administering shots every day except Christmas Day and will only pause again on New Years Day.
Their efforts have resulted in 6,016 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being administered in our province over the last two weeks – and the work will continue as more vaccine arrives and more vaccine gets distributed around the province.
I want to take a moment to talk about what many have read about in the past few days – the variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that prompted the federal government to stop flights from the UK a little over a week ago.
In recent days, British Columbia and Ontario were first to report cases linked to recent travel to the UK that have this variant virus.
In Alberta, we have now also identified a single case of COVID-19 caused by this variant in someone who had recently arrived from the UK.
The good news is that this individual did everything they were supposed to do, following quarantine and other public health measures, and at this point there is no evidence that there has been any further spread.
It is important to remember that the public health measures in place are protective against this variant, and the best thing we can do to protect each other is to follow them.
Following public health measures is, in part, also contributing to our decline in cases.
These encouraging early trends reflect our collective actions one to two weeks ago. We must remain attentive to the orders in place and continue to follow them closely to make sure that we don’t see a spike in mid-January that ignites a dangerous spread in 2021.
We must continue this work together so we can bring down the numbers of people needing hospital or ICU care for COVID-19.
Seeing lower numbers is a good sign, but we cannot become complacent. Our healthcare system is still under significant pressure.
Let’s finish the year strong by following both the details and the spirit of the public health orders that are in place.
Let’s resist the urge to gather with anyone outside our household or two close contacts for those who live alone.
Let’s plan virtual New Year’s Eve celebrations to ring in 2021.
The New Year holds a lot of promise, especially with the expanded roll-out of vaccines in the coming weeks and months. Let’s start it on the right path with lower case numbers and reduced spread.
Finally, a reminder that my next in-person update will be on Tuesday, January 5th. We will provide online case reporting tomorrow and Wednesday, followed by a break from December 31st to January 3rd.
Thank you and I’m happy to take any questions.