Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister.

As this is my first update of 2021, I want to wish all Albertans a happy new year.

I think we all look forward to this year bringing us closer to our old normal, and there is hope. We just have work yet to do to get there.

I want to begin by addressing reports I have heard that some Albertans believe that doses of vaccine are being wasted or thrown away deliberately.

It is important to address this inaccurate information that may be circulating online.

We are working hard to immunize Albertans as quickly and safely as possible.

Once thawed and brought to room temperature, the vaccine must be used within a few hours.

We know this and have worked with AHS to put clear processes in place to prevent doses from being wasted.

Each dose is thawed and then prepared according to pre-scheduled appointments booked online.

AHS has been instructed to overbook appointment slots to ensure someone is always in line.

In the rare case that there is a dose left in a vial and no patient is available, AHS will immunize the on-site staff to ensure that no dose is going to waste.

In any immunization program, a small amount of vaccine will occassionally be lost when drawing doses, or if a vial is dropped or spilled.  

Some human errors are unavoidable, but these are being kept extremely limited thanks to the proven processes that we have in place.

So far, there has been no significant wastage of COVID-19 vaccines.

The small proportion of doses that have been lost is lower than what we see in an average influenza season and is a testament to the steps that AHS has put in place.

Every dose counts, and we want to immunize as many Albertans as possible.

We will keep looking for ways to reduce waste as more vaccines arrive.

I want to ask Albertans who see concerning facts online, to please check those facts before sharing reports broadly as rumours can spread and can be harmful.

Turning to today’s update, over the last 24 hours we have identified 843 new cases of COVID-19 in the province and completed more than 10,300 tests.

Overall, our current positivity rate is about 8.2%.

Our healthcare system remains under significant pressure with 919 people in hospital, including 140 who have been admitted to the ICU.

Sadly, 26 new deaths were reported to us in the last 24 hours.

We have had more than 1,100 deaths due to COVID-19 in this province.

My heartfelt condolences go to the family and friends of these individuals, and also to anyone who is mourning the loss of someone they loved.

Over this last year, this virus has tested each and every one of us. 

The way we were used to interacting with each other, and the world around us, changed dramatically.

This is a new year, but there is still a stretch of hard road before us.

COVID-19 is still here, and still threatens our health system and the well-being of our friends, family and neighbours.

We are seeing a stabilization in cases, with occasional days of low new cases due to lower testing volumes, but overall new case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU admissions for COVID-19 are still very high in our province.

Similarly, while vaccines are arriving, shipments are limited and it will be months before we will be able to offer immunization to the general population.

While we work to offer vaccine to those at highest risk, we must continue to act as the vaccine for each other right now.

Please keep following the public health measures in place and limit your in-person interactions whenever possible. 

That is the only way to protect our health system, protect each other and limit the spread in the weeks ahead.

Thank you and we’ll be happy to take questions.