Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.
We have now administered approximately 152,000 doses of vaccine in the province. More than 56,500 Albertans are now fully immunized with two doses of vaccine.
Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 277 new cases of COVID-19, and have completed about 7,500 tests.
Our positivity rate currently stands at about 3.9%.
There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 260 schools, or about 11% of schools in the province.
Currently these schools have a combined total of 862 cases since January 11th.
There are 370 people in hospital, including 60 in the ICU.
Our hospitalizations have plateaued over the last few days, which is a reminder that we must continue to protect the health system.
Sadly, I must announce 7 new deaths that were reported to Alberta Health in the past 24 hours.
My condolences go to the family, friends and caregivers of these individuals.
To anyone grieving a loss, please reach out for any support you may need during this difficult time.
It is important to remember that we are not alone, even in this pandemic.
Working together to support each other is critical to effectively achieve success in getting through this pandemic.
This is as true for COVID prevention as it is for mental health promotion.
On this note, I want to briefly remind all of us today about why it’s important to work with contact tracers if we test positive, or if we’ve come in contact with someone else who is infectious.
Since COVID-19 arrived in our province, contact tracing has been a fundamental part of our strategy to contain spread.
AHS’s teams have been working incredibly hard on this since the pandemic began, doing contact tracing every day, 7 days a week.
Since the fall, AHS has worked to increase their capacity to do contract tracing.
I know that many Albertans have questions about how this work is going, and we will provide a detailed update in the coming days.
Contact tracing remains essential to our ability to keep Albertans healthy and to keep driving our cases downward.
To be successful in containing COVID spread, contact tracing relies on a partnership with Albertans who test positive or who have been exposed to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, recently, we have seen a small but significant increase in the number of people who aren’t participating with the contact tracing process.
Up to December, less than 1% of our confirmed cases didn’t answer the phone or return calls from contact tracers.
Since then, we’ve seen a concerning rise in those we can’t get a hold of – 1.9% of all cases in January and 1.34% so far in February.
In addition to this, there has also been an increase in those who were initially willing to speak to contact tracers but then later unwilling to provide the necessary information needed for us to follow up with contacts.
When this happens, public health follows up multiple times to try and obtain the details they need, and sends written notice of information requirements under the public health act for those who still do not provide the necessary information.
But this leaves gaps that COVID is happy to fill.
I know that we are tired of this pandemic, and we all want to ease restrictions as soon as possible and get back to the lives we led a year ago.
It may be tempting to think that not providing information will make COVID go away.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Trying to ignore COVID and not participating with contact tracing only pushes back the day we can ease restrictions further by giving the virus the opportunity to spread farther and faster without being stopped.
By working with contact tracers, you are helping prevent spread in the province.
You’re also helping ensure that you don’t spread the virus to others, and that those around you don’t pass it on to someone who might trigger an outbreak or end up in the hospital.
Contact tracing relies on cooperation. It is a partnership that benefits everyone.
Given how easily this virus can be passed on, even a handful of individuals not cooperating can lead to significant spread quickly which puts our ability to keep easing restrictions at risk.
To be clear: the vast majority of Albertans who are contacted still continue to do the right thing and participate fully with the contact tracing process – providing names and contact information for those who could have been exposed.
This partnership is an act of kindness that benefits all of us.
Right now, with lower new case numbers than we have had for several months, contact tracing is one of the best ways we have to reduce transmission and lower our new case numbers – which means it is one of the best ways for Albertans to support progress towards easing additional restrictions in the future.
If you test positive for the virus, or if you are exposed, please cooperate fully with the contact tracers.
If you know someone who has tested positive or who has been exposed, please support them and encourage them to do the right thing.
We all have a role to play in minimizing any shame or blame in contact tracing to make it as effective as possible.
By working with the contact tracing team, you are helping to protect those around you you know and love, as well as those you may not know or ever meet, from the devastating impacts this virus can have.
Finally, today is Random Acts of Kindness day, an annual tradition of celebrating kindness and recognizing that we could all use more of it in our lives.
This is especially true this year, as winter and the pandemic continue on, we need to intentionally let the signs of joy and hope around us to help carry us through.
Fortunately, we don’t have to look far for countless examples of Albertans doing just that.
Just last week, the Red Deer Hospice received a care package from elementary students at First Steps and Beyond school that included cards for residents and staff, and stained-glass window hearts to brighten up the facility.
Volunteers with the Elder Dog charitable group have helped Edmonton and Calgary seniors with health and mobility challenges continue to look after their dogs and keep up with daily dog care activities like walks – something that was especially challenging during the extended cold snap.
And recently, high school students from the Strathcona Christian Academy in Sherwood Park prepared signs of encouragement and individual care packages for residents at Capital Care Strathcona.
They even personally dropped them off with smiles and waves through the windows.
I want to recognize these groups – and the countless others doing incredible work in communities across our province – for reminding us of the power we have to make a positive impact on someone else’s experience or outlook.
Today, I encourage every Albertan to show care, compassion and kindness for someone else.
Whether it’s buying coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru, shoveling your neighbour’s walk, participating with contact tracers or sharing appreciation for healthcare workers at thanksforcaring.ca, each kind act will make a difference and provide a much-needed boost for both you and the person who receives that kind act.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.