Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.

I want to begin by recognizing all the health-care workers who are doing everything they can to manage the rapid and accelerating impact of COVID-19 on the health-care system.

We are in a crisis and we must urgently work together to again to deal with COVID.

We posted our regular update online at 3:30 p.m. as usual, so I won’t review all of today’s numbers.

However, I do want to pass on my condolences to the loved ones of the 24 people whose deaths were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

Let me pause there. That is one person’s life lost for every hour of the day. Every death is a reminder of the seriousness of this virus and why these actions that are being taken today are so critical.

It has been a long pandemic, and I know that many people continue to grieve the loved ones that they’ve lost.

Preventing more deaths is another reason why vaccines are so critically important. 

Vaccines are safe, and they save lives. I cannot stress enough the importance of being fully vaccinated – not only for our own health but for the health of our fellow Albertans, our friends, our families and our neighbours.

We need every person who is eligible for vaccine in this province to step up. This is especially true for those who are between the ages of 30 and 59, but it applies to everyone who is eligible.

Vaccines are the key to preventing not only more sickness and deaths, but also protecting our health-care system.

The impact of this wave on our health system is already worse than any of the three waves that came before.

This crisis impacts all of us. The integrity of the health-care system is essential to delivering urgent and non-urgent care to those who need it most.

AHS has taken steps to increase capacity to care for those who need it, but that is just one piece of the puzzle.

It is equally vital that we reduce the rate at which COVID is spreading across the province.

I know this is difficult. Albertans are not alone in having had to bear unbearable burdens during this time of COVID.

In every country around the world, COVID has waxed and waned in different ways, taking lives and livelihoods as all of us have struggled to find a balance between COVID’s direct and indirect impacts.

However, the challenge we face right now is uniquely severe in the context of Alberta’s last 19 months, and our response must meet the challenge.

To ask Albertans yet again to step up to protect each other through activity restrictions after all we have been through is agonizing. And yet, it is absolutely necessary.

Our hospitals cannot sustain care for all Albertans with the dramatic and rapid increase of COVID patients that we are seeing.

Although vaccines are highly protective, the Delta variant is extremely infectious.

I want to be crystal clear – the majority of COVID patients in hospital across the province are not vaccinated.

However, we are also seeing some double-vaccinated individuals who are vulnerable or immune-compromised who are still getting COVID after two vaccines and, sadly, some are still dying.

We are offering a third booster to many of these populations, but protecting those who may not have a full vaccine response is yet another reason for otherwise healthy people to choose to be fully immunized to protect their community.

As I told colleagues earlier in a session this week with primary care physicians, I made recommendations earlier this summer based on the best information I had, and I regret that we began a move to an endemic transition too soon.

We shifted our approach as soon as evidence showed hospitalizations were not decoupling from cases as we had expected, and I have continued to update my recommendations as our situation has changed.

This is why I recommended a package of new restrictions for our province.

And as Chief Medical Officer of Health, I want to take a few moments to explain some key features of the new restrictions being put in place.

First, all of the new restrictions will apply provincewide.

I know some may wonder why I did not recommend a regional approach, and the answer is simple: while case numbers are highest in urban centres, they are high everywhere right now. This is a provincial concern.

In fact, right now, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 in rural areas are almost triple that of Edmonton or Calgary, highlighting that this is a provincewide challenge that requires provincewide solutions.

This is why we are implementing provincial measures, and why it is critical that we all embrace them, regardless of where we live.

The new restrictions are also very broad. There will be sectors including restaurants, fitness operators and places of worship, who may wonder why they are included.

These areas, along with many others, have faced, and embraced, restrictions many times over the past 18 months,

And I know this has been difficult, with severe consequences for many people in these sectors.

I want to stress that no one sector or area of our society is driving this spread alone. Instead, it is the result of close contact that occurs wherever people gather together, especially indoors.

This means no one sector is to blame.

And it also means that we have no choice but to include many different areas where people can, and do, interact in ways that increase transmission.

Each of these new measures acts as a layer to help stop transmission.

They are meant to work together to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and to bend down the curve again.

After more than a year-and-a-half of this pandemic, there is significant evidence and literature about how the virus spreads and the risks of transmission.

We saw in past waves that a layered approach across multiple sectors can bend down the curve.

I know that restaurants, gyms, faith communities, and others have worked incredibly hard to protect those they serve. I wish these steps were not necessary, but they are.

I cannot speak strongly enough about how important it is that we all follow these measures,

And for each of us to consider how we can reduce in-person contacts with people outside our household as much as possible.

I ask all of us to go above and beyond the minimum requirements and to do everything we can to stop spread.

Our choices have never mattered more. The choice to be fully immunized saves lives.

The choice to reduce close contacts saves lives.

Following the mandatory isolation order that continues to be in place whenever we have any COVID-19 symptoms, and if anyone tests positive, saves lives.

We have seen similar measures work throughout different stages of the pandemic.

These new steps can, and will work, if we all support them.

I ask all of us to also be mindful of the mental health impacts of our current state. We need to be compassionate with ourselves and others to the best of our ability.

Kindness has also never mattered more – please be gentle with yourself and with others.

We will get through this too. The more we can do that together, the better we will all be.

Together, we can do this. We have bested COVID-19 before, and we will do it again.

Thank you, and my colleague Dr. Verna Yiu will now provide an update from Alberta Health Services.