Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister and good afternoon everyone.

Before I begin, I want to let you know why I’m providing this update from home today.

I had a sore throat yesterday, so was tested for COVID-19. Although that test came back negative, I am still feeling a little under the weather today, so I am staying home to be safe.

It’s an inconvenience, but this is an important part of how we all help stop the spread.

Moving on to today’s update, as the Premier mentioned, we have now administered more than 1.52 million doses of vaccine in the province.

Over the last 24 hours, we identified 2,048 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 20,500 tests.

This puts our positivity rate at about 10.1%.

Over the last 24 hours, we have identified more than 1,300 variants of concern. Variants now make up approximately 62% of all active cases.

There are currently outbreaks or alerts in 750 schools, which is 31% of the schools in the province.

Sadly, 3 additional deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

As always, I extend my sympathies to all those who have lost someone they cared about, whatever the nature of that loss.

I’d like to begin today by talking about the draft triage protocol for critical care that AHS developed and what this means.

As I’ve said before, this is not my document. However, I know that discussion of these protocols can create anxiety for many people.

Since the pandemic began, Alberta Health Services has been working on updates to this draft critical care protocol based on work from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

This protocol, if needed, would be used to help decide how to allocate intensive care resources, should the healthcare system be unable to meet the demand of the current COVID-19 pandemic, or any other disasters.  

These protocols are a last resort, and can seem scary, but it is important that this work be undertaken as a precaution, and that the necessary health care professionals have an understanding of what these protocols mean.

This is the work that my AHS colleagues have been undertaking over the past year.

We are not at the point now of needing to use this protocol, and I hope that we never reach it.

Just as field hospital planning was underway in December and January even though we didn’t end up needing those resources, this planning has been underway all year.

AHS has capacity for current needs, and can still increase it if demand increases.

With that in mind, AHS is now implementing additional temporary surge capacity measures at some healthcare facilities.

These surge measures are similar to those put in place during the first and second waves, and include postponing some non-urgent scheduled surgeries that require a hospital stay.

AHS will strive to avoid postponements whenever possible.

Surgeries that will go ahead will be limited to cases that require urgent treatment in less than seven days, as well as emergency and trauma cases, and cancer procedures.

Any patients whose surgery is being postponed will be contacted by AHS, and these will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

These measures will help free up space in our hospitals for patients who need a higher level of care, and give AHS the flexibility to redeploy frontline staff and resources to where they’re needed most.

The bottom line is that our health system has capacity, and can take steps to increase it, but the strain is growing.

That is why we must bend down the curve as quickly as possible.

And it is why I strongly support the measures being implemented today.

Additional restrictions are absolutely necessary as we face our highest active case counts ever and rampant spread of COVID-19 in many regions of the province.

We know these restrictions are disruptive to Albertans and businesses, but we must bend down the curve one last time to protect our health system and ensure it is there when anyone needs it.

I want to thank the vast majority of Albertans who continue to do the right thing and follow the public health orders in place. I know it isn’t easy and we are all very tired but we are nearing the end of this pandemic.

To those Albertans who may not be following the rules or could do more to limit transmission, I urge you to do so now.

We have seen these measures work before by all working together.

So I am asking all of us to follow these measures, to make the safest choices possible every day, and to get the vaccine as soon as you are able.

Thank you and we’re happy to take questions.