Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin today, I have two points I want to clarify.
First, we have received questions from some Albertans who received their COVID-19 vaccine outside of the province, and are wondering how they can update their online health records to reflect their recent immunization.
No matter where you receive your vaccine, you should receive an immunization record that confirms which vaccine you were given and when.
If you received a first dose elsewhere, bring that immunization record with you to your second dose appointment and that first dose information will be entered into your health records.
More information will be available soon about when second dose appointments can be booked for all Albertans, whether they received their first dose in or outside of the province.
Second, I have heard a lot of questions about the new requirements for the medical exemption letter for those who have a clinical condition that makes them unable to wear a mask.
Some of those questions have been about those who are unable to put on their mask or take it off by themselves.
This remains a valid exemption in the order that does not need a medical letter.
For other medical conditions, it is important to know that people who have a condition on the list in the order, do not automatically qualify for a masking exemption.
Not all individuals with, for example, developmental disorders or anxiety, experience difficulties when wearing a mask.
Some do, which is why the conversation with that person’s healthcare provider is so important.
Wearing a mask consistently is an important way to protect ourselves and others as we still have high case rates.
Weighing the risks of not wearing a mask with any difficulties people might have when wearing one is an important part of the process, and part of the reason for the new requirement. I hope this clarifies this question.
Turning to today’s numbers, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 812 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 9,000 tests.
Our positivity rate was about 9.3%.
There are now 665 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including 177 in the ICU.
Sadly, four new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.
I extend my sympathies to all who are experiencing loss at this time, whether from COVID-19 or any other cause.
To make these losses less and less likely, vaccines are our best defense.
The response from Albertans to get their COVID-19 vaccine has been incredibly encouraging.
We have now administered more than 2.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
With almost 51% of Albertans 12 and older now protected with at least one dose, we are making real progress.
We know that vaccines save lives, and they significantly reduce the likelihood of infection.
We also know there is good, short-term protection in those who have received just one dose of a two-dose series.
I know that many people are looking for a plan outlining when we will ease restrictions as vaccine coverage increases in the population.
Work is underway on this, and I expect more details will be released in the next week or so.
However, recognizing the growing proportion of Albertans who are immunized, we are making a change to the quarantine period in Alberta that aligns with changes some other provinces have made, such as Ontario and Manitoba.
While vaccines don’t erase all possibility of infection, the data shows the vaccine reduces the amount of virus in the person’s body even if someone does get infected, which further reduces the risk of transmission. This is good news.
Effective today, we are making two changes to our quarantine requirements – one for close contacts who are fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine, and one for close contacts who have only one dose.
Currently, Albertans are legally required to quarantine for 14 days when they are a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
Beginning today, fully vaccinated individuals who have had their second dose of vaccine at least two weeks prior, will no longer have to quarantine at all if they are exposed to a confirmed positive case. This is only as long as they have no symptoms at any point.
To be clear, if a fully vaccinated individual is experiencing any symptoms, even minor ones, they will still be required to isolate and go for testing.
If they then test negative, they would not be required to quarantine further. If they test positive, they must follow the protocol and isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started.
This is for any close contacts who have received both doses of a vaccine.
For those who have received only one dose of a vaccine, these individuals will now have a shortened quarantine period if they are a close contact of a confirmed case.
The quarantine period for these people with one dose of vaccine is being shortened from 14 days to 10 for close contacts who have no symptoms.
In addition, if these individuals have a COVID-19 PCR test on day seven or later of their quarantine period, they can be released from quarantine even earlier, as soon as they get a negative result.
However, if they test positive, they will, of course, need to isolate as usual.
If a partially vaccinated close contact is experiencing symptoms, then they would still be required to isolate, as usual.
More details are posted online to clarify these changes.
I would like to note that this change does not apply to Albertans who are returning from international travel.
International travelers must continue to comply with the 14-day quarantine period required by the federal Quarantine Act.
This new quarantine approach within the province will mean less disruption for families, workplaces, and schools, while still preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Most importantly, it only applies to those who have received the vaccine. For those who have not gotten any doses, there is no change to the 14-day quarantine period.
Regardless of whether someone has had one, two or no doses, all of the other restrictions in place still apply.
I want to end today with a request to every Albertan.
We are heading into the first long weekend of spring, and I know many people are excited to get out and enjoy it, especially after a cold and rainy week.
However, our active case numbers and hospitalizations remain very high.
We are gaining momentum, but it is fragile and we cannot afford to take this weekend off from following the rules.
That’s why I am asking every Albertan to have fun and stay safe this weekend.
Please follow the rules, avoid in-person interactions with people outside your household, especially indoors, and avoid non-essential travel wherever possible.
The weather is warming up, the sun is shining and summer is just around the corner.
If we all stay vigilant and do our part just one more time, this might be the last long weekend when such sacrifices are necessary.
So, make this the safest May long weekend ever. Get vaccinated, stay safe and please keep following the rules.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.