COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
Check against delivery.
Thank you, Premier, and good afternoon, everyone.
Before I get to the latest numbers, I want to clarify what the isolation requirements currently are in Alberta and when they begin as I’ve heard some questions on this topic.
If you have COVID, the greatest transmission risk is in the few days before and after symptoms start, but it is still possible for some people to transmit the virus and infect others for up to 10 days.
That is why if you are not fully immunized, you must isolate at home, and away from others, for the full 10 days.
If you share a home with others, you should isolate away from the rest of the household and at minimum should wear a well-fitting medical or three-layer cloth mask if you were in the same room as others at any time.
If you were fully immunized with two or three doses, you must isolate away from others for at least five days from the day you were first symptomatic or tested positive. That is considered ‘day zero’.
On day six after the onset of symptoms, counting from that day zero, or the sixth day after a positive test result, if your symptoms have resolved, you are able to leave your home but must complete the rest of the 10 days of isolation by wearing, at minimum, a well-fitting medical or three layer cloth mask at all times.
This means that in this time period you are not able to remove your mask to eat or drink with or near others. This is important to mitigate the transmission risk in this second part of the 10-day period.
After that full 10 days have passed, you no longer have any specific isolation or masking requirements over and above the public health measures in place.
I also want to provide some clarity for Albertans who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 on when they may need to contact their family physician.
This will help save time for those with COVID and reduce unnecessary calls to busy clinics.
If you have a positive test result, you do not need to contact your family doctor with the results unless you are at high risk or experiencing moderate illness or symptoms.
If you’re not sure what level of risk you’re at, the Alberta Medical Association has a reference document on their website that can help you assess this.
If your risk is moderate to high, you should contact your doctor’s office and advise them of your situation so they can help determine the best treatment path for you, if you are in this group and want to share your rapid test results with your physician, you can complete the form available on alberta.ca and submit that along with a photo of your rapid test to the clinic.
This reporting is optional but may be important or helpful to some individuals.
I have also heard that some Albertans think they may need a doctor's note when they have COVID to be eligible for certain benefits or for sick time at work.
However, in most cases, you do not need one.
If you are applying for the Canada Recovery Sick Benefit or the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, a note is not required as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.
If you contracted COVID-19 in your workplace as a result of your regular job duties, you may be eligible for coverage and support through the WCB.
They accept a positive PCR or rapid test result or a doctor’s diagnosis as part of their claim process, so a doctor’s note is not required if you have a positive test result.
Due to the rampant spread of Omicron, we ask employers not to require individuals with mild symptoms to get a COVID-19 test or doctor’s note to be eligible for sick time off work.
Instead, please support sick employees at this time of high transmission to stay home with no testing or doctor’s note requirements.
Some patients have requested a doctor’s letter to help facilitate some aspect of domestic or international travel.
But doctor’s notes are generally not required or warranted for travel purposes. It’s most important that anyone planning to travel is fully vaccinated and has proof of their vaccines.
I hope this information is helpful for those who might be wondering when to call their doctor about COVID.
Turning to today’s numbers, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 3,218 new cases of COVID-19 and completed about 9,350 tests.
Our positivity rate for lab-confirmed tests is about 34.7%.
As you know, due to the rapid rise of the Omicron variant, we adjusted PCR testing eligibility a few weeks ago to ensure those who have clinical risk factors for severe outcomes and those who live or work in high-risk settings can get tested and receive their results in a timely manner.
We continue to monitor this approach closely and evaluate the capacity of our labs.
At this point, we are able to meet the demand for all these high-risk individuals in a timely way, and we have the opportunity today to introduce a small change to PCR testing eligibility.
Effective immediately, children under the age of two are again able to get tested for COVID-19 through AHS assessment centres.
This is a pragmatic approach since rapid tests are currently not licenced for use in children under the age of two.
The ability to be tested affects the length of their required isolation due to COVID, as these children are also not eligible for vaccination.
If a child is symptomatic and tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for 10 days.
If they are symptomatic but test negative, they can leave isolation once their symptoms resolve.
Given this requirement and the link to test results, we want to ease the burden on parents by allowing them to access PCR testing again since rapid testing at home is not recommended for this age group.
Parents and guardians can book appointments online for children under two years with symptoms using the AHS assessment tool, or by calling 811.
For older children who have symptoms, rapid tests can be used, which is why the change today is only for those under age two.
Sadly, I must announce today that 14 new deaths have been reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours.
As always, I extend my sympathies to their families and to all those grieving the loss of anyone they loved, no matter the cause.
Between the post-holiday lull and the cold, dark days, January can be a difficult month.
That was true in a typical year before we had to contend with COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.
Combined with those factors though, this January may feel more challenging than ever.
As we near the two-year milestone of the pandemic, I know people are experiencing a lot of complex emotions and many Albertans are struggling.
Whether it’s from being infected with the virus, the stresses of upended routines, or struggling to see when we can return to a more normal way of life, many of us are having a difficult time.
For many, practicing self-care strategies such as maintaining exercise, eating well, using relaxation techniques, or relying on loved ones is enough.
However, if you or someone you know finds these struggles are overwhelming or interfering with your daily life, I urge you to seek mental health supports.
Free, non-judgemental help is available for anyone who needs it. A list of comprehensive resources is available at alberta.ca/mentalhealth.
No matter what you are struggling with, I want you to know you are not alone.
There are supports and resources out there for you. And many other people are going through similar challenges.
In the fall, findings from a national survey were released that indicated one in four Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in spring of 2021, this is up from one in five in the fall 2020.
These symptoms undermine an individual's well-being and quality of life. The good news is that there are mental health supports to help all of us through.
As I’ve said before, we must remember that the enemy we’re fighting is COVID-19, not each other.
Now more than ever, it is essential to intentionally employ compassion, both for ourselves and those around us.
We don’t know the situations or challenges our neighbours are facing, but we can safely assume that things aren't easy.
We need to make time to care for ourselves, and those around us. Kind gestures can go a long way in helping each other .I ask all of us to create safe spaces for our own and others’ emotions, given the burden of grief that so many are carrying.
Each one of us matters, and our actions make a difference.
Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.