Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin today, I’d like to address the situation that has evolved with Grace Life Church.
For months, Alberta Health Services has attempted to proactively work with this church through education and conversations to make sure that church leadership understood the health measures in place and the rationale behind them.
These attempts to reach out and provide support and education were not successful in bringing the church into alignment with COVID-19 prevention requirements,
And enforcement activities then escalated to fines and subsequent orders from AHS that the church follow COVID-19 protocols to protect their community.
Ultimately, I understand that the RCMP decided to take the Pastor into custody as a result of repeated violations of public health orders.
The pastor was scheduled to be released, but I am told he did not confirm that he would comply with conditions of his release set by the court.
The judicial process, including conditions for release, are determined by the courts. They are not determined by Alberta Health or Alberta Health Services.
While this situation is unfortunate, I want to stress that this is a rare incident.
And I want to thank the vast majority of faith leaders and faith communities who have worked hard to protect each other and their broader communities by following the measures that are in place.
I know that the actions of one individual are not representative of all Albertans or all people of faith, who in particular have demonstrated the compassion and perseverance required to get through this difficult time.
I also want to remind Albertans that, throughout the pandemic, we have had some of the least restrictive measures in the country for faith-based gatherings.
Currently, capacity for faith gatherings is restricted to 15% of the fire code occupancy.
I am convening a town hall with faith leaders later this week to discuss these matters and to thank them for their leadership.
This pandemic has gone on a long time, and I know that we are all frustrated and tired.
It is essential, though, that we all keep following the legal rules that are in place.
They are protecting our communities, our health system, and each other.
Turning to today’s update, we have now administered approximately 155,500 doses of vaccine in the province.
More than 58,000 Albertans are now fully immunized with two doses.
Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 415 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 10,300 tests.
Our positivity rate currently stands at about 4.2%.
There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 250 schools, or about 10% of the schools in the province.
Currently these schools have a combined total of 854 cases since January 11th.
There are currently 362 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 55 in the ICU.
Sadly, seven new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.
This leaves seven more families grieving the loss of their loved ones, and my heart goes out to them.
My sympathies go out as well to those families who have loved ones in the hospital or ICU, and those individuals who are struggling with their illness.
To prevent future such cases, I also want to recognize the hard work and dedication of our contact tracing teams.
This is complex and challenging work, and I want to thank them for their actions every day.
I am also reiterating my message from yesterday, asking all Albertans to work with contact tracers if you test positive or if you’ve come in contact with someone who was infectious.
I know it can be difficult sometimes to fully appreciate just how impactful and far-reaching each of one of our individual actions can be.
With every contracting tracing call, we see the connections extend out like branches from a tree, from one person to their friends, their family, their co-workers, and so on.
If you test positive for the virus and find yourself contemplating whether or not to work with contact tracers, please think for a moment about the repercussions of that decision.
Put yourself in the shoes of your friend, co-worker or neighbour.
Maybe it’s a neighbour who has a chronic health condition you’re not aware of that puts him into a high-risk category.
Perhaps it’s your friend who works at a grocery store, shelter or health care facility.
Maybe it’s a colleague who regularly cares for their elderly mother and may continue to do so because she doesn’t know she is at risk.
Whatever the situation, every close contact deserves to know if they have been exposed to the virus so they can protect those they love from any potential exposure.
Thank you to all Albertans who are contributing to preventing the spread in so many different ways.
Thank you and we’re happy to take questions.