Check against delivery.
Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.
Before I share today’s numbers, I want to note that we immunized more than 8,500 people yesterday, bringing the provincial total to almost 67,000.
This is positive news. However, there are still available bookings for eligible healthcare workers this weekend. As of this morning, we had only 671 appointments on Saturday and 128 booked on Sunday.
If you are an eligible healthcare worker who has not yet been immunized, please check your email and book your appointment as soon as possible. This will help protect your patients, your colleagues and yourselves.
Today, I also want to update you on a change in reporting terminology for cases of COVID-19 in schools.
I know there are challenges with transitioning between online and in-person learning, and I want to recognize the efforts and flexibility of teachers and school staff, as well as students and families, for making this happen.
We’ve shown before that we have what it takes to keep students safe in school, and we can do that again.
Our communication needs to be clear on this point.
Over the fall, we received feedback from parents, education stakeholders and others that they had found the categories of alert, outbreak and watch confusing.
Clear communication is key – especially when it comes to matters of public health – so we have listened to this feedback and updated our school outbreak terminology to make it clearer and easier to understand.
Starting on Monday, the watch category will be removed from reporting of COVID cases in schools. Instead, we will use categories with specific number ranges for schools with cases.
An alert will apply to schools with one to four cases, and schools with two or more cases will still be included on our public reporting map as they have always been since September.
In addition, there will be two categories of outbreaks – one for schools with five to nine cases and one for 10 or more cases.
We have been asked to provide more detail on numbers of cases in outbreaks and this change responds to this request.
To be clear: this is a change to terminology only.
It does not change the support that AHS is providing schools or the contact tracing and other work that is conducted.
We hope this change makes it easier for staff, students, and parents to understand the situation in their schools.
We will continue to share timely information about cases in schools to help parents understand risk levels and keep the public informed, while still protecting patient confidentiality.
Turning to today’s numbers, over the last 24 hours we have identified 967 new cases of COVID-19 in the province and completed more than 16,000 new tests.
That puts our current positivity rate at about 5.8%.
There are currently 806 people in the hospital, including 136 admitted to the ICU.
Sadly, 21 new deaths were reported to us in the last 24 hours.
Every health zone in Alberta had at least one person included in these numbers.
My deepest sympathies go out to anyone across the province who is mourning the loss of a loved one.
In our schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 12 schools, or about 0.4% of schools in the province, with 15 cases in total.
And to be clear, ‘outbreaks’ is using the old terminology and, again, the change will happen on Monday to the new terminology.
Keeping our schools and communities safe is one of the reasons I want to again thank Albertans who continue to follow the health measures in place.
Your choices and your sacrifices – both big and small – are reflected in the declining active case numbers that we are seeing.
Although we have seen a small decline in case rates, and we are relaxing some measures, I want to stress that the situation remains serious.
Our numbers remain high and our health system is still under significant strain.
Over the coming weeks, we must remain diligent in our efforts to bring these numbers down even further.
By easing some measures, like outdoor gathering limits, we hope Albertans can have interactions that support mental health and limit isolation while still continuing to limit in-person interactions whenever possible in other ways.
You are making a difference. Please keep up the good work and keep making safe choices.
Thank you and we’ll be happy to take questions.