Check against delivery.

Thank you, Premier, and good afternoon.

The Premier already provided today’s high-level numbers, so I will keep my remarks brief. 

We have seen a decrease in the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta since restrictions were implimented in early December.

This is a testament to the hard work and sacrifice of many.

However, the spread of the virus is still very high in our province.

While today’s cases dipped below 1,000, we are still averaging well over a thousand new cases daily. This is lower than the 1,877 detected on Dec. 7, but it is still too high.

Currently, there are more than 13,000 active cases in the province.

This is again a decrease from December 13th , when there were more than 21,000 confirmed cases in the province, but it is still a far cry from the one-to-two thousand active cases we had throughout the summer and early fall.

Alberta’s peak hospitalization for COVID-19 patients was on December 30th with 953 people admitted, 145 of whom were in the ICU.

We have come down slightly but our hospitalizations remain high.

Our health care system is still under extreme pressure, and this is impacting our ability to care for all the health needs of Albertans.

Prior to the significant spread following Thanksgiving, our peak hospitalization in late July was at 94 cases.  

Today, our numbers are almost ten times that.

We still have not seen the impact of the recent holidays, and we will be closely monitoring the spread over the coming weeks to determine whether it is safe to recommend beginning to relax our current approach.

As the Premier noted, schools will resume in-person learning on Monday.

This is based on the evidence we saw in the fall, that in-school transmission was not the main driver for cases in the school population.

In fact, analysis of all of our cases in school-aged children indicated that only about 6% of all of these cases were determined to have been acquired at school.

This is further supported by the observation in December that although elementary-aged children remained in school in person, their age-specific case rates, which had previously been rising, dropped in an identical way to older students after extracurricular activities and social gatherings were limited.

We are prioritizing school return next week while keeping these other restrictions in place as these other activities seem to have been a much more important driver of spread.

Supporting our students to be in school provides a great benefit to our society and underscores the need to continue reducing community transmission to protect our schools.

There are no risk-free options with COVID, but as I have outlined, our data indicates that the current school model in place is largely effective at limiting in-school transmission.

The key to keeping our schools, workplaces, continuing care facilities and rest of society healthy is limiting the transmission in our communities.

We cannot dictate where this virus does or does not spread. High levels of community transmission impact all of us.

That is why it is essential that we continue to keep the current measures in place.

I know this has been a challenging last four weeks, but we cannot relax our grip.

We must stay the course.

I continue to ask Albertans to limit in-person interactions as much as possible, in every facet of their lives.

The progress we make over the coming weeks will help determine how the coming months look in our province.

We are all still in this together. And we can reduce the spread in our province by working together, and protecting each other.

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