Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.

Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 331 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 9,500 tests.  

That puts our positivity rate at about 3.6%.

There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 230 schools, or about 10% of the schools in the province.

Currently these schools have a combined total of 895 cases since January 11th.  

We have identified 33 new cases of the variant of concern, bringing our total to 541.

There are 245 people in hospital, including 47 in the ICU.

Sadly, I must announce that 9 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

My condolences go to the family, friends and loved ones of people who have passed away.

Today’s announcement about expanding our immunization campaign is great news for our province.

Within the next four months, all Albertans who want to be vaccinated will receive their first dose.

And by this fall, they will be protected with two doses. This will make a world of difference in our ongoing battle with COVID-19.

I know there are questions about the efficacy of different vaccines and people are trying to make sense of all the information out there, whether it’s coming from the news, social media or well-meaning family and friends.

Even when looking at leading medical sources, it can be daunting to make sense of some of the scientific research terminology and data.

As always, my goal as chief medical officer of health for Alberta is to provide Albertans with the facts, information and data from an evidence-based, medical perspective that they need to inform their decisions and actions. 

Part of the challenge with the vast amount of information out there about these vaccines, is that it can be limiting to compare vaccine statistics like efficacy because studies are often done at different times and look at different groups of people or groups of different sizes.

It’s also challenging because evidence on vaccines evolve over time as we continue to get real-world data from countries that are using these vaccines and monitoring their effectiveness.

I want to stress that all the vaccines currently approved for use in Canada will reduce the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.

All three have passed the rigorous, regulatory approval processes in place to ensure they are safe for all Canadians. And all three offer significant levels of protection from the virus.

No matter your current age or overall health, I strongly recommend all Albertans are vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible.

All three vaccines help protect against serious outcomes or long-term health impacts that COVID-19 can cause for many people.

They dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

And, if those reasons don’t resonate with you, please know widespread immunization will help us all return to a more normal way of life more quickly.

Choosing to be immunized is one of the most important actions we can take for ourselves and for our communities.

Finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the milestone we will reach tomorrow.

March 5 marks one year since we identified the first case of COVID-19 in the province.

Together, we’ve navigated the uncertainty of COVID-19 and living in a global pandemic.

We have had to find new ways to work, socialize and look after our health, all while researchers, scientists and health professionals from around the world have worked to learn as much as they could about this new virus and how best to treat and prevent it.

Despite the changes, challenges and losses we have encountered – we have proven just how resilient Albertans are.

Our fight isn’t over with COVID-19 because it is still very much in our communities, but we are so much closer to returning to a more normal way of life than we were a year ago or even a few weeks back.

We are in a very different place than we were in one year ago.

We know much more about how the virus spreads, we have much greater testing and contact tracing capacity, and most importantly, we have several good vaccine options that are bringing us closer to being able to successfully take away COVID-19’s ability to spread widely.

We are close, we just need to keep going until we have widespread immunization.

Until that happens, for just a few more months, we must continue to act as each other’s vaccine.

By doing so, we will help to contain the virus, and variants of concern.

 Preventing a third wave in the next few months as we ramp up our immunization program will keep our health system functioning well until we reach our goals. 

Thank you and we’re happy to take your questions.