Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.
I want to begin by apologizing to health care workers who felt singled out last week as I encouraged those who were eligible to sign up for appointments this past weekend.
It was not my intention to add more stress to an already stressful time, and I am sorry that my words had this impact.
This is especially important to say since given the new information about Pfizer vaccine supply decreasing over the next several weeks and the fact that booking appointments may be more complex in the coming weeks, as options are adjusted with the new supply data.
We will need your ongoing patience as we make these adjustments.
I appreciate that health care workers have been under tremendous pressure as COVID-19 case counts in hospital have been high over the past several months, and I want to thank you for your work.
Turning to today’s numbers, due to a technical issue, our website will not be updated until later today. We will post our usual dashboard of information as soon as possible.
Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 474 new cases of COVID-19 and completed about 8,500 tests.
The positivity rate is about 5.4%.
There are currently 739 people in hospital, including 120 who have been admitted to the ICU.
Sadly, 11 new deaths were reported to us in the last 24 hours.
While it is encouraging to see these numbers are going down, it is important to keep in mind that, over the past 10 years, the average annual recorded death toll from influenza has been 58 deaths per year.
So having lost an additional 11 people to COVID-19, which amounts to almost 20% of an average full year of influenza data, should not be taken lightly.
The lives lost to COVID-19 are a painful reminder to us all of the seriousness of the virus and the need to protect ourselves, and each other, from it.
Earlier today, the Premier noted that first dose vaccinations have been provided to residents and staff at all 357 long-term care and designated supported living facilities.
I know that residents and families with loved ones at other facilities may be asking when they will be able to get immunized.
We started with staff and residents in long-term care and designated supportive living first, as they are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes.
To date, 66% of all the deaths in Alberta have been in these facilities.
Vaccines are being offered to residents in mixed sites where some residents are in designated supportive living and others not, but where all residents share space and co-mingle.
Whenever possible, the vaccine is being delivered at the same time to everyone in these facilities.
However, in some cases, tthe vaccine is being administered in separate times due to limited vaccine supply.
Alberta Health Services has been reaching out to these facilities, as well as any place where someone may not have been well enough to receive the first-dose immunization when they first visited.
I know that many other seniors would benefit tremendously from this vaccine.
We want to offer them immunization as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, we will be receiving fewer doses than we had hoped for over the next few weeks.
However, once supply increases, we will be able to expand access and start offering the vaccine to all seniors 75 years or older, no matter where they live.
We will also be able to begin offering vaccine to persons 65 years of age and over living in First Nations communities or Metis Settlements.
I know it is challenging to have to wait for this to start.
While we cannot control the amount of vaccine available, we are working hard to immunize Albertans as safely and effectively as possible.
I’d like to end today by noting that it’s been a week since in-class learning resumed for schools in our province.
As I announced last week, starting today we are using updated terminology to classify schools with cases of COVID-19.
You’ll see those changes reflected in the school map online.
To date, we have identified 181 cases in 133 schools since classes resumed.
This number reflects community transmission not in-school transmission, and it is important to distinguish between the two.
As I mentioned earlier this month, an analysis of all our cases in school-aged children in the September to December time period last year indicated that only about 6% of these cases were determined to have been acquired at school.
The current school model in place is largely effective at limiting in-school transmission.
However, as cases rise in the community, they also rise in school populations and everywhere else.
The protocols in our schools are important as they allow our students, staff and teachers to experience the benefit of in-person learning while limiting spread in school.
The impact of community transmission another reason that we must proceed slowly and cautiously as we consider easing the restrictions currently in place.
Over the last month, we’ve seen active cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and our transmission rate decline.
This is a testament to the hard work and sacrifices of so many.
At the same time, our numbers are still far higher than they were just three months ago.
Today is January 18th. Just three months ago, on October 18th, our active case count was just over 3000.
Today, it’s more than 12,000.
Critically, on October 18th, there were 120 people in hospital with COVID-19.
Today, we have more than six times that total.
All of this means we are making progress, but we are not out of the woods yet.
So as we ease the restrictions on three province-wide measures today, please continue to take every precaution you can and make good choices.
Choices that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Choices that will help save lives and our health care system.
And choices that will help lead us in a direction where we may be able to safey relax more measures in the weeks ahead.
Thank you and I am happy to take questions.