Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.
Over the last 24 hours, we identified 678 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.
Our labs completed about 14,000 tests, and the positivity rate was about 4.8%.
There are currently active alerts in 178 schools and outbreaks in 4 schools.
There are 282 total cases linked to these schools.
In-school transmission has occurred in 23 schools, with 20 of these having only one new case occur as a result.
Interestingly, when we look at daily new cases in school-aged populations, this week we are seeing an average of 80 new cases a day. Significantly lower than the average of 140 new cases a day in this same population the week before school started.
Supporting students so that they can be in class provides a great benefit to our society and to our children, and it underscores the need to keep reducing community transmission to protect our schools.
We still have work to do on that front – our hospitalizations have declined this week but remain high, with 726 people in hospital, including 119 admitted to the ICU.
Unfortunately, 16 new deaths have also been reported to us in the last 24 hours.
I extend my sympathies to all who are experiencing loss at this time, whether from COVID-19 or any other cause.
Every death leaves a hole in the lives of those who loved them, and current restrictions make it harder to support each other the way we are used to.
I encourage all of us to reach out to anyone we know who is experiencing grief, to support them and let them know they are not alone.
As you can see from our numbers this week, our positivity rate, active cases, and hospitalizations are continuing to decline.
This is good news.
I know the current restrictions are very difficult for many Albertans, including business owners.
As I said yesterday, we are on a positive trend.
Our numbers indicate that the restrictions we put in place last month, while extremely challenging, are helping to prevent more people from being exposed and getting sick with this virus.
The overwhelming majority of Albertans are doing their part, not only by following the restrictions, but by embracing the spirit of them.
We are protecting one another by reducing in-person interactions, which in turn, is reducing the number of people who get sick, test positive and, ultimately, require hospital care.
And with more than 96,500 doses of vaccine administered, thousands of the most vulnerable seniors and health care workers now have an extra layer of protection.
In a year that has already been extremely difficult, I am proud of the sacrifices and community spirit that Albertans have shown to produce these encouraging numbers.
At the same time, we are not in the clear just yet.
That is why no additional measures are being eased at this time.
There are no changes being announced today.
Our cases are falling, but we still have the second highest active case rate per capita in Canada.
It is also particularly important to keep our current hospitalization numbers in context.
While our hospitalizations have decreased significantly from the peak, they remain high.
To put this in perspective, despite the progress we’ve made, there are just as many COVID patients in hospital today as there were on December 8th – the day that our current restrictions were first announced.
This means that our health system continues to experience significant strains, and we must ease this burden as quickly as possible.
We need to continue driving community transmission down.
That is why it is essential that we keep the current measures in place for a little while longer.
And why we all need to make good choices and to rigorously follow all the orders in place.
We must keeping limiting our in-person interactions as much as possible, in every facet of our lives.
As we go into the weekend, when more people tend to be out, I encourage everyone to be intentional and thoughtful with their outings and outdoor gatherings, especially as temperatures drop and it may be difficult to stay outdoors for long periods of time.
The choices we all make tomorrow, this weekend and over the coming weeks will help determine how the coming months look in our province.
Together we can keep protecting each other – and the health care system we all rely on.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.