Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon.

Before I begin, I’d like to let you know that AHS is performing an upgrade to the AHS online immunization booking tool.

This upgrade will temporarily prevent access to the booking tool from 2 am to 4 am tomorrow morning.

Access to Health Link 811 will not be affected and remains readily available.

This upgrade will improve the capacity of online booking systems, helping ensure Albertans are able to book their immunization appointments as seamlessly and efficiently as possible.

The timeframe for the upgrade was chosen to cause the least disruption to the online booking process for Albertans.

Turning to today’s update, more than 245,000 doses of vaccine have now been administered across the province.

More than 156,000 Albertans have received at least one dose, including more than 88,000 who are now fully immunized with 2 doses.

Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 257 new cases of COVID-19.

We completed about 5,864 tests and our positivity rate is about 4.5%.

Looking to schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 228 schools, or about 9% of all schools in the province.

These schools have had a combined total of 876 cases since January 11th.

We have identified 35 additional cases of the variant, bringing our total to 492.

There are currently 261 people in hospital, including 54 admitted to the ICU.

Sadly, I must announce that 2 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

My condolences go to the family and friends of these individuals, and to anyone who is mourning a loss.

I’d like to provide a bit more context to what Minister Shandro said about how we’ve determined the protocols and requirements for fitness facilities in step 2.

As chief medical officer of health, I recognize the important role physical activity and fitness play in our overall physical and mental health.

That’s why we’ve worked hard to find ways to safely open up fitness facilities for lower risk activities in collaboration with the operators of these facilities.

We heard from fitness industry representatives in the multiple meetings our team has had with them how important it is for us to underline the critical role that physical activity has in both physical and mental health.

We heard that allowing appointment-based solo activity was important, and we heard that fitness owners are committed to creating safe environments to prevent COVID-19 spread.

We also heard from some stakeholders that the BC model that uses a differentiation between high- and low-intensity exercise had been successful in that province.

We know that COVID-19 spreads in droplets and when we are engaged in high-intensity activities, defined, as you heard the Minister say, as activities where our breathing rate gets faster, we know that we produce more droplets and increase the risk of virus spread.

We know that BC has had a similar approach to this model in place for many months and that their COVID-19 numbers have been relatively stable.

With this in mind, we looked for ways to open up facilities for Albertans that would allow for low-intensity activities in gyms, and we chose to implement an approach similar to BC.

This empowers operators to tailor their programs for clients to calibrate their services to the activities that will improve fitness while minimizing COVID-19 risk.

We’ve heard questions about why there aren’t capacity limits for fitness facilities like there are for other public settings like retail stores.

Rather than a defined number, we have limited capacity by putting in place physical distancing protocols that require a minimum of three metres between all individuals.

This approach still limits the capacity of facilities for safety, but is more flexible and responsive to the spacing and configuration of individual work-out areas rather than a specific number.

This is important to ensure people are adequately spaced to reduce the chances of transmission between people from different households.

I know that finding ways to stay active when gyms are closed can be more difficult in the cold winter months.

Fortunately, the days are getting warmer and longer so that provides more opportunities for everyone to get outside for exercise and fresh air. 

Our current health measures still allow for outdoor physical activity in groups of up to 10 individuals distanced by two metres no matter the intensity.

This remains a great alternative for those who don’t want to work out indoors or who may not be able to book an appointment at a time that works for them at their nearest gym.

We will continue to work with operators to address concerns and clarify the current measures in place.

As operators and users adjust to the new framework, Alberta Health Services will work closely with them to provide education and support, as is always our public health approach.

Penalties would only be used when there are intentional and repeated violations of safety rules.

I’d like to end today by repeating what I said yesterday – the future is up to all of us.

There is no guarantee that cases will decline in the near future.

It will only happen by all of us working hard together to follow the spirit of these measures every day.

We all need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down.

Thank you and we’re happy to take questions.