Check against delivery.
Thank you, Lisa, and good afternoon everyone.
I’d like to begin today with an update on this week’s reporting and our media briefings, as well as a reminder about an upcoming change to the Restrictions Exemption Program.
As the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to go down across the province, we are reducing the frequency of these media briefings.
Starting today, COVID-19 media updates will be held once a week on Tuesdays.
Numbers will continue to be posted online Monday through Friday, and shared on my Twitter account as usual, and we will provide additional updates if any emerging issues arise.
As such, this will be my only COVID-19 media briefing this week as we mark Remembrance Day on Thursday.
Remembrance Day is, of course, an important time where Canadians come together to honour the service and sacrifice of those who served, and continue to serve, our country.
To help organizers host safe Remembrance Day ceremonies this year, we have posted guidance online at alberta.ca.
I’d also like to remind Albertans attending any ceremonies in-person to be mindful of the physical distancing, masking and capacity requirements in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And as always, if you have even minor symptoms, please stay home.
Please also make sure to check ahead to see if the venue is participating in the Restrictions Exemption Program, and if so, make sure to have your proof of vaccination, privately paid for negative test, or medical exemption handy.
Speaking of the REP program, as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, I’d like to remind Albertans that beginning Monday, November 15th, Albertans’ vaccine record must include the QR code in order to enter any business or venue taking part in the program.
This means Alberta vaccination records without a QR code, including paper immunization records received at your vaccination appointment, will no longer be accepted. The exception to this is First Nations and military vaccination records, which will continue to be accepted.
If you got your vaccine at an AHS clinic, a pharmacy or a physician’s office in Alberta, getting your new QR code is quick and easy. You can visit alberta.ca/CovidRecords to get your QR code and either save it to your phone or download it and print it off.
If you need assistance accessing or printing your record, you can visit a participating registry office where they will print it off for you for free or you can call 811 to have your QR code mailed to you.
If you were recently vaccinated, it may take up to 2 weeks for your online records to be updated with the latest dose. If it’s been longer than that and there is a dose missing or there are other issues with your record, please visit alberta.ca/CovidRecordsHelp for assistance.
Turning to today’s numbers, I am pleased to report that we continue to see a decline in our overall case numbers.
Over the last 24 hours, we identified 422 new cases of COVID-19, and completed about 8,300 tests.
That puts our positivity rate at about 5.1%.
This is a significant decline from the peak of our rolling 7-day average positivity on September 27 when it was 11.3%.
This decline in community cases is mirrored in the number of cases in schools.
Currently, there are active alerts or outbreaks in 211 schools.
Of these, only 10 schools had 10 or more COVID cases who attended within the last 14 days while infectious.
The number of people in hospital for COVID-19 also continues to decrease. Currently, there are 608 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospital, 128 of whom are in the ICU.
While we are headed in the right direction, I want to be clear that this is still a significant number of people in hospital, taxing our health-care system.
We must all continue to support efforts to bring these numbers down even further.
And sadly, despite our declining case numbers, Albertans continue to die from this virus. In the last 24 hours, 8 new deaths were reported to Alberta Health.
Following a review, as per our usual process, 4 previously reported deaths have been reclassified as non-COVID. As a result, the total deaths will increase today by 4.
My condolences go to the family and friends of individuals who are mourning a loss, whether it is from COVID or any other cause. Every life matters.
As we have seen from our daily numbers, the single best defense we have against COVID-19 is vaccination.
Not only does it help to prevent asymptomatic and symptomatic infection, it also greatly reduces the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and even death.
In Alberta, the odds of being hospitalized with COVID-19 are approximately 8 times higher if you’re only partially vaccinated and 10 times higher if you’re unvaccinated.
I continue to urge every eligible Albertan to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, no matter your age or health status.
In addition to vaccines, we now have an additional tool to help prevent severe outcomes for those at the highest risk.
Alberta Health Services has begun administering a new monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that was recently approved by Health Canada.
Sotrovimab is a new drug that was developed specifically for treating patients with COVID-19 who have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.
It is the first treatment to be offered to outpatients in Alberta. For maximum effectiveness, it must be administered within 5 days from when the symptoms begin.
But let me stress that sotrovimab is not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccines.
Albertans are still strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against the virus as vaccines are the most effective method to prevent the serious outcomes from the disease.
Today, AHS’ EMS Mobile Integrated Health teams began administering sotrovimab to patients in their homes who are aged 65 and older, are positive for COVID-19, unvaccinated and who wish to have this treatment offered.
Patients in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas will receive treatment in an AHS clinic.
Some patients who have received a solid organ or stem cell transplant will also be eligible to receive this treatment, regardless of their vaccination status.
The treatment is being rolled out across the province in a phased approach, starting with those at the highest risk of severe outcomes like hospitalization.
For more information on this program, please visit ahs.ca/covidopt.
While this medication is helpful, it does not change the fact that vaccines continue to be our most important tool to protect both ourselves and others.
Vaccines are safe and effective for everyone, including those who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or those who have recently given birth.
I know I have spoken of this topic often, but misinformation continues to circulate –particularly a rumour that COVID vaccines may be causing miscarriages.
I want to assure Albertans that we continue to look at safety, including this particular question in detail. There is no evidence that miscarriages or stillbirths have increased after COVID vaccines have been made available.
In fact, evidence shows there has been a slight but steady reduction in the number of miscarriages in Alberta starting in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic, and this has continued over the following 2 years.
It is important to note that getting fully vaccinated can help protect pregnant Albertans from severe outcomes from the virus.
COVID-19 infection in pregnancy is a risk to both parent and child.
It’s critical that pregnant Albertans be vaccinated, not just for themselves, but also for their babies.
We take vaccine safety extremely seriously and continually monitor information on adverse reactions – not just in Alberta but around the world – to be able to ensure that our vaccine programs are safe and effective.
For anyone hesitant about getting vaccinated, I urge you to seek out trusted, expert sources to help you make an informed decision.
Booking an appointment is easier than ever with many pharmacies across the province accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccines. Or you can book an appointment time that works best for you through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System online.
If you are part of a group that is eligible for a booster dose, I encourage you to sign up for that additional dose once the appropriate amount of time has passed from your second vaccine.
For more information on eligibility, please visit alberta.ca/vaccine.
The encouraging trend of falling case numbers and declining hospitalizations is the direct result of more Albertans getting vaccinated and following the public health measures that are currently in place.
But as we’ve seen here, and in other jurisdictions across Canada and around the world, these trends can change quickly if we’re not careful.
That’s why we must remain vigilant about following the rules and making choices that help prevent viral spread.
Please continue to do your part. Follow the measures in place, wear a mask, and stay home if you’re feeling unwell.
Together, all of our individual efforts will help us get through this 4th wave and help thousands of Albertans get the surgeries and procedures they have been waiting for.
Thank you and I’m happy to take questions.