Check against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon everyone.

Before turning to today’s numbers, I’d like to clarify a comment I made during last Thursday’s update that has been taken out of context in recent reports.  

When asked a question about managing outbreaks in schools, I mentioned that those staying home who are ill are counted as part of a respiratory outbreak, even if they have not yet been tested.

This referred to school outbreak management only.

To manage outbreaks effectively in school settings, all respiratory viruses are treated similarly by the current protocols in place, which helps reduce the chance of onward spread of any virus.

However, that does not mean that we automatically count anyone staying home as a COVID case. Our high overall case counts reflect only cases that have been confirmed through testing or a very small number of probable cases which are usually when results are pending.

I want to clarify that point because the challenge we face is serious, and it is important that we do not dismiss or try to explain away the high case numbers that Alberta currently has.

If you go back and watch my full response, it’s clear that I was only referring to school outbreaks, but these comments were then taken out of context. I would remind all Albertans to please consider the source of information when looking for updates on COVID-19, vaccines or any other health measures.

As I mentioned last week, we are working hard with Education on an outbreak reporting framework for schools, and I hope to be able to update you on this very soon.

Today, I would also like to announce a change we are making for child care facilities.

Given the current high levels of transmission in the community, and to align our approach with schools where all staff and teachers are now required to wear face masks, we are implementing a requirement for staff in child care facilities to wear face masks while at work.

This is part of our layers of protection to protect those who are too young to be able to access vaccine.

Similarly, I want to talk about another important protection for our communities, which is screening that happens at health-care facilities.

We’ve also become aware of some incidents recently where designated support persons and visitors to those in hospital have not been honest about COVID-19 symptoms, or recent exposures. They have attempted to enter our health-care facilities, and this lack of transparency puts people at risk and creates further pressure on already overburdened hospitals.

If you are the designated support person for a patient in a hospital, and if you are a close contact of a positive case, please do not enter a health-care setting unless you are personally coming to receive care. And if you are, please disclose this recent exposure.

It is critical to be honest when entering health facilities, and to not put others at risk by not disclosing symptoms or known recent exposure.

There are other options for people to support loved ones in hospital if a visitor feels unwell.

We must all work together to keep patients and health services safe for all Albertans.

Turning to today’s numbers, in the last 24 hours, we have identified 1,246 new cases and completed about 11,100 tests. 

Our positivity rate was about 11.5%.

There are currently 1,100 people in hospital with COVID-19 in hospital, including 263 in the ICU.

I am sad to report that 18 more deaths have been reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours. My condolences go out to the loved ones of these individuals, and to anyone who has lost a family member or friend in this difficult time.

Of all those who have died from COVID-19 in the last 120 days, about three in four of them were not fully vaccinated against COVID. Almost four out of five of all those in hospital for COVID-19, and 91% of those in ICU in the last 120 days were also not fully vaccinated. These numbers speak for themselves. Vaccines are critically important.

I have heard some concerns from health-care workers and others who have received vaccine mandates from their employers.

I would like to encourage every Albertan, regardless of where they work, to step up and receive the protection that vaccine offers. This protects not only themselves, but also those they come into contact with in their workplaces, in their homes and when they socialize.

We can see from the millions of Albertans who have safely received their doses that the risk from vaccines is low and the benefit is high.

Delaying or refusing vaccination poses serious risks to our health – this is clear from the number of unvaccinated COVID patients in hospital and the ICU.

Previous infection also does not guarantee lasting immunity. To get the best protection, please get vaccinated even if you have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

We need as many people as possible to choose vaccine protection for themselves and others, and right now we also need to minimize our in-person contacts with those outside our households.

We have never needed each other more. Every person matters and every choice matters.

Thank you, and we are happy to take questions.