COVID-19 Updates: State of public health emergency declared.
Check against delivery.
Thank you, Chris, and good afternoon everyone.
I would like to start today by explaining our process for identifying and reporting deaths due to COVID-19.
Before I get to that, however, I first want to apologize to the family of the 14-year-old whose death I spoke about on Tuesday.
The pain of losing a child is terrible enough without having that loss compounded by a public debate about the circumstances. I am sorry if the way that I spoke about that death made your grief worse.
Since the start of this pandemic, I have heard from many Albertans, including those who have lost a loved one. I reflect often on the impact that our reporting, measures, and every other element of the pandemic response has on them.
When I speak about cases and our reporting process, it is not to diminish the losses, whether caused by COVID or anything else.
At the same time, we are in a global pandemic. We have an obligation to monitor and report deaths from COVID-19 infection, and to be as timely and transparent as possible.
In our reporting, we always include all deaths that have COVID as either a primary or secondary cause of death, according to the health care teams that were involved in the cases.
For example, a primary cause would be someone in whom COVID infection progresses to pneumonia and this is the direct cause of death.
A secondary cause could be a case where someone with a severe underlying illness such as heart failure gets COVID, and the infection makes their pre-existing condition worse, leading to death.
We report in this way to accurately capture the impact that COVID is having.
That is also why our reporting process includes both deaths that come to us where a person has COVID as a primary or secondary cause of death, as well as cases with a recent diagnosis of COVID where the cause of death is still under investigation.
To make sure we are accurate as possible, after a death is reported, if there is uncertainty, it is reviewed to validate our information.
If that review identifies that COVID was not a primary or secondary cause of death, it is removed from our totals.
Every surveillance system has to balance this tug of war between precision and timeliness. The more precise reporting is, the slower it is.
We have chosen to focus on being as timely as possible in the interests of transparency.
Sometimes, though, as in the case reported on Tuesday, the initial information provided to us changes after a review.
While the initial report of the death of the 14-year-old included COVID as a secondary cause, we have now received additional information that indicates COVID was not a cause of death.
As we routinely do with all similar reviews, when this happens, we remove the death from our reporting.
This incident has caused suffering for many, and again I apologize for this. We are making changes to prevent similar situations in the future.
Going forward, we will not publicly report any COVID deaths in anyone under 18 until the review process has been completed.
We will prioritize accuracy over timeliness in these cases.
I want to assure everyone that these reviews are always done in cases of any uncertainty, so the overall COVID numbers we’ve been reporting are as accurate as possible.
However, it is clear that we need a different process for young people, and we have put that in place now.
Again, I offer my sympathies to everyone who has suffered loss from any cause. As I have said many times, every life matters and every death matters.
Turning to today’s numbers, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 916 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 12,700 tests.
Our positivity rate was about 7.5%.
There are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 342 schools. Of these, 8 schools are on outbreak.
There are currently 1,016 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, including 231 in the ICU.
Sadly, 30 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours. While these deaths occurred over multiple days from October 7 to October 13, this is another tragically high total. As we have seen before, most of these deaths involve those who are not fully vaccinated.
I want to assure Albertans that the vaccines remain highly effective. They offer great protection against the Delta variant, and are the best way to help protect our most vulnerable.
The high number of fatalities that we have seen recently are the result of rapid spread that occurred in this fourth wave. This is another reason why we all need to keep limiting in-person contact and driving cases downward.
All of these people’s lives mattered and they will all be missed.
My thoughts are with anyone who has lost a loved one either to COVID-19 or any other cause during this pandemic.
I would like end today by talking about the coming influenza season, and the importance of getting an annual shot.
Every year the arrival of cooler temperatures and shorter days signal the start of cold and flu season, and the same holds true this year.
Our annual influenza campaign officially starts on Monday and we’ll be releasing more information tomorrow on how to book your appointment.
While influenza and COVID-19 are very different illnesses, several of the symptoms are the same.
Fortunately, similar prevention strategies including good hygiene such as washing hands, physical distancing, staying home when sick and wearing masks are effective in preventing the spread of both illnesses.
We don’t need to look further than the last influenza season for proof of that. Despite conducting about 2 and a half times the number of influenza tests as we did the previous year, we had zero lab-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza, and no influenza deaths.
This season, we have already had 3 lab-confirmed seasonal influenza cases.
Influenza remains a serious and deadly virus, and it is important that we protect as many people as possible.
Last year, we saw record-breaking uptake for the flu shot with more than 1.65 million doses administered. That was the highest uptake we’ve seen in over 10 years, but let’s push for even better this year.
Every Albertan over the age of six months can get an influenza vaccination free of charge.
This year, many community pharmacies will be offering the flu vaccine, as well as some doctors’ offices.
For children under the age of five and their families, immunizations will be offered at public health clinics.
To ease the system strain caused by increased demand for COVID-19 and influenza testing, I urge every eligible Albertan to get the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines as soon as you are able to.
This will greatly reduce the number of people who get infected and the number of symptomatic people who need to be tested.
We have heard questions about whether you can get your COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as your influenza vaccine, and the answer is yes.
Scientific and medical reviews have determined it is safe to get both vaccines at the same time.
So if you’re eligible to get a COVID-19 dose, you can book your COVID-19 and influenza immunization appointments to take place at the same time.
However, if you’re not yet eligible for another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – either a second shot or a booster shot – you can get your influenza vaccine as soon as possible and then book your COVID-19 immunization when you are eligible.
By getting the annual influenza vaccine, you’re helping to keep your family, friends and neighbours healthy.
You’re protecting people at risk of severe illness, including seniors, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions.
And we’re allowing hospitals to focus on treating the sickest people among us, including those with COVID-19.
Thank you, and I will now ask Dr. Yiu to provide an update on the health-care system.