Check against delivery.

Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.

We have now administered more than 397,500 doses of vaccine in our province.

I want to thank Albertans for their patience as we book appointments. We are dealing with a supply chain that sometimes changes quickly without warning, and we are working to get doses out as quickly as possible.

This means that sometimes there will be minor changes when unexpected events occur.

For example, a shipment of Moderna vaccine that was set to arrive in Alberta earlier this week was grounded outside the province due to mechanical issues on an airplane.

As a result, this has delayed the shipments to 43 pharmacies, which will get their vaccines a few days later than expected.

We understand that these sorts of delays are frustrating, and we are delivering the vaccine as quickly as possible once it arrives in the province.

We do still have appointments available, though, and tomorrow AHS will open bookings for the next three birth years in Phase 2A.

Albertans born in 1952, 1953, 1954 or earlier, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people born in 1967, 1968, 1969 or earlier will be able to book online or through 811.

Bookings for this new cohort will begin at 8 o’clock tomorrow when the tool comes back online.

Pharmacies continue to book appointments for everyone born in 1956 or earlier.

Please be patient, as all pharmacies and Alberta Health Services teams are doing the best they can to book as many Albertans who are eligible as quickly as possible.

Turning to today’s update, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 479 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 10,800 tests. 

This puts our positivity rate at about 4.7%.

We have identified 50 new cases of the variant of concern. About 11% of our active cases are currently variants of concern.

Looking to schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 283 schools, or about 12% of all the schools in the province.

Currently these schools have a combined total of 1,199 cases since January 11th.

There are 262 people in hospital for COVID-19 treatment, including 44 admitted to the ICU.

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

My condolences go to the family, friends and loved ones who are mourning these individuals.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a day for many that is typically spent in the company of friends at pubs and parties.

Instead of crowding into a local bar or someone’s house with friends or co-workers today, I ask you to respect and follow the restrictions in place, and celebrate in a safe, distanced way to help prevent spread of the virus.

We know that COVID loves a party, especially ones inside where people mix and mingle in close proximity to each other.

This is why indoor gatherings are currently not permitted with anyone outside your immediate household, or two designated close contacts for people who live alone.

Whether it’s for St. Patrick’s Day today, a loved one’s birthday on the weekend or catching up with friends on any day, it is important that we gather as safely as possible.

Outdoor gatherings are allowed, especially as the weather warms up and the days are getting longer.

Currently, we can gather with up to 10 people outdoors, but attendees should remain distanced at all times and follow public health measures.

We have seen cases recently where variant COVID-19 has been transmitted outdoors when people are not distanced or masked, so please continue to apply precautions, even outside.

If you go to a restaurant or pub, please respect the rules in place for these establishments.

Only go with members of your household and have no more than six people at a table.

This is not the year for gathering in restaurants and indoors with friends on St. Patrick’s Day.

In fact, it is against the rules.

If you live alone, only go with your two designated close contacts.

I would also like to be clear that these rules apply to outdoor patios at restaurants and bars as well.

Please remember that the staff in these businesses did not make the rules and they are enforcing them to keep all patrons and workers safe.

They deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

A year into the pandemic, I know we are all tired of COVID-19 and the many restrictions that are still necessary to prevent uncontrolled spread of the virus.

I know some wonder how gathering indoors can make a difference.

I would like to provide a recent example of just how quickly spread can happen in small, seemingly innocent gatherings where measures are not followed and Albertans are caught unaware.

In this example, Person A has a relative over for an indoor visit.

There was no masking or distancing and the visit lasted for hours.

During that visit, Person A becomes infected with a variant of concern but is not aware.

A few days later, that person attends an indoor event at another household of four people – we’ll call them Persons B, C, D and E.

There again is no masking and no distancing.

All four people get infected with the variant, but also are not aware.

Two days later, Person B visits a friend in another household, and the variant spreads to that person’s roommate.

Person C goes to work and transmits the virus to two colleagues, who in turn spread it to two children, and at least four more adults.

From one case to 14 cases in just 11 days – driven largely by indoor gatherings – this is how easily transmission can continue onward to more friends, family, colleagues and those we don’t even know.

All transmissions in this example happened before people had symptoms and they did not know they were infected.

In fact, in this real-life example, all transmission events took place before it was even known that Person A had COVID-19.

This example is not meant to shame or blame.

It is meant to show just how quickly cases can spread, and why it is so important that we follow both the detail and the spirit of the measures in place, for just a while longer.

We are so close to getting through this.

With a provincial vaccination program that will see every adult Albertan who wants to be vaccinated receive their first dose by the end of June and second doses by late summer, we are nearing a safe return to a more normal way of life. 

With widespread immunization by fall, the risk of gathering with our loved ones for a family dinner or holiday celebration will drop dramatically.

That means that Zoom birthdays and FaceTime Christmases can be replaced by gathering in person.

Before we know it, virtual gatherings and celebrations will just be a memory of how we adapted and found ways to connect with one another during the pandemic in order to keep our loved ones and communities safe.

Until then, let’s all keep making safe choices and protecting our communities by following the rules in place.

Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.