Check against delivery.
Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin, I want to let you know that I will be taking next week off to spend time with my family.
While I am away, my deputy, Dr. Andre Corriveau, and our health team will continue to work every day to protect Albertans. We will continue to post data every day and I will provide another live update after I return.
If there is time-sensitive information to share, my team will continue to use my Twitter account to do so, in conversation with Dr. Corriveau.
While I have been privileged to be the public face of our health response, I am but one member of a remarkable team, and they will continue to keep you updated and informed while I am away.
Turning to today’s update, the Premier has provided several of today’s numbers and I will share a few others. As always, more information is available on alberta.ca.
Over the last 24 hours, we have identified 178 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 5,500 tests.
Our positivity rate was about 3.3%.
While screening all positive samples for variants, we have identified 138 additional cases of variants of concern over the last 24 hours.
Right now, 238 schools – or about 10% – are on outbreak or alert.
As the Premier noted, hospitalizations continue to decline, with 306 people being treated for COVID-19, including 81 in the ICU.
This encouraging trend is important to maintain, which is why as we move into Stage 2 today, it remains critical for all of us to follow all of the public health measures that are currently in place.
We can ease restrictions now only thanks to the combination of vaccine protection and the hard work and sacrifices of Albertans over the past many months.
Let’s not waste these sacrifices by abandoning too soon the practices that have brought us this far.
It remains important to keep distanced and masked, to stay home when sick, and to keep protecting each other as we start enjoying some of the activities that are now possible.
It’s also important to remember that each of us will have our own risk assessment to do.
COVID-19 is still with us, and we need to support each other in making the choices that are right for the context and risk factors that each of us have.
Each of us needs to move at our own pace, and this is ok.
We need to be compassionate and supportive of each other, in fact now more than ever, as we move through this time of transition.
Sadly, 6 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours, a reminder that we continue to see the impacts of the third wave.
My thoughts are with the family, friends and communities of these individuals as they mourn their loved ones.
As I mentioned last week, and as the Premier mentioned earlier, the data from Alberta is clear: 88% of the COVID-19 deaths so far this year were either completely unimmunized or within two weeks of getting their first shot before they had protection.
Getting vaccinated can literally save your life, and the lives of those around you, and while one dose is a good first step, two doses are even better.
That’s why I am pleased today that we are able to start offering second doses for many more Albertans.
As we continue to face COVID-19 and its emerging variants, the sooner we can get everyone fully immunized, the better.
I have stressed for months that one dose of the vaccine provides good protection – and it does.
The evidence that we are seeing in Alberta, however, shows a significant jump in effectiveness after receiving the second dose.
In fact, it’s an 18 per cent jump against infection with the B.1.1.7 variant, which is the dominant strain in the province right now.
Given the choice between having about 73% protection or having about 91 per cent protection….
It is clear that completing that second dose substantially lowers the risk of getting COVID-19 and of spreading it to those around you.
I also want to stress that our vaccine program includes Albertans who received their first dose outside of the province.
We expect that there are thousands of Snowbird Albertans who received a vaccination while they were away.
We ask that they register their vaccination with AHS, both so that they can ensure they get their second dose if they have not already received it, but also so we know how many people have actually been vaccinated.
When you go to your appointment for your second shot, please remember to bring a copy of the immunization record that you got from your first dose.
And if you’ve already received both doses outside of Alberta, please bring your immunization record to one of the 141 Alberta Health Services public health clinics around the province to have your immunization record entered into our health system.
Finally, I want to end today with a plea: if you haven’t gotten a first dose yet, please do it now.
It doesn’t matter what age you are or where you live. If you are 12 or over, we need you to get a first dose and then a second.
Thousands of pharmacies, clinics and physicians are booking appointments.
Alberta Health Services has also opened up walk-in clinics for first doses in many places across the province.
No appointment is needed in these locations, so check for hours and locations of walk-in opportunities online.
Every dose matters.
Throughout this pandemic, it has been the small things that have kept us safe. The regular washing of hands and staying distanced. The ordering online and meeting virtually or outdoors with our friends.
If you haven’t gotten a first dose yet, booking that appointment might seem like a small thing, especially when so many others are already getting the vaccine. The same goes for getting a second dose.
But getting vaccinated is an example of a small action that has big consequences – for your health and the health of everyone around you.
Please, get immunized. It’s the best choice for you, your loved ones, and our collective community.
Thank you and we’re happy to take questions.