Checked against delivery.
Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon, everyone.
As the Minister mentioned, the numbers we are sharing are from the reporting period Tuesday, April 5th to Monday, April 11th.
In those seven days, our PCR test positivity ranged from 24.3 per cent to 29.8 per cent.
Currently 1,053 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 48 in the ICU.
Sadly, between April 5th and April 11th, an average of about 5 deaths per day related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health.
My sympathies go out to those grieving the loss of these Albertans and to anyone else who has lost anyone, from any cause.
As the Minister mentioned, these increases are not unexpected as measures are eased and regular activities started up again.
We continue to track Omicron and its subvariant BA.2 in our province as well as evidence of the effectiveness of different interventions relative to different variants.
That is why we are making a small change for anti-viral COVID-19 treatment in Alberta…
Beginning today, we will be pausing use of Sotrovimab as a treatment for COVID-19.
This follows uncertainty over whether the Sotrovimab treatment is effective against the BA.2 subvariant.
Currently, BA.2 is the dominant COVID-19 variant in Alberta, making up more than 80 per cent of all new cases, and so we have had to shift our approach in treating it.
If you have taken Sotrovimab, please be assured that it is still a safe medication and may provide some benefit to those who have received it, so there is no concern for those individuals.
Going forward, while we continue to monitor the emerging evidence on Sotrovimab, we will be using both Paxlovid and Remdesivir as options for those who can benefit from early outpatient treatment of COVID-19.
Paxlovid is a medication taken by mouth, and Remdesivir is administered through IV infusions, given on a daily basis for three days.
Both medications will be accessed in the same way – offered to those with a positive test who are eligible after consultation with a health care professional.
These medications are most effective if taken as soon as possible after symptoms start, and must be started within five days of showing symptoms.
I encourage Albertans to go online to look at the eligibility criteria for early treatment, as anyone who is eligible should seek testing early when feeling mild symptoms like a sore throat or fever to be able to get the best benefit from these medications.
If you are in the eligible group, and you’re feeling ill, please go for testing and call Health Link for more information.
Currently, Paxlovid and other anti-virals are for those who are most at-risk because of their medical conditions, vaccination status and age.
We will continue to monitor the evidence, and make recommendations to support expanding eligibility as appropriate.
This is a good example of the monitoring of COVID-19 research that we continue to do, and the adjustments we will make as evidence emerges.
I want to reinforce that while these medications are important, anti-virals are not meant to replace vaccination.
The National Advisory Committee has just released updated recommendations on first booster doses, highlighting that anyone 18 of age or over who has not yet received their first booster, which for most would be their third dose, is strongly recommended to access the additional protection this dose offers.
In addition, as the Minister mentioned, those with the most significant risk factors for severe outcomes are now able to book second booster doses to enhance their protection as transmission rises in the community.
For all of us, it is important to remember that as we are making decisions every day about how we’re living with COVID, our actions impact other people.
It is important that we all carefully consider our risk level, our level of comfort, and the risk and comfort levels of those around us.
I ask that all of us consider masking in public places as a prudent step we can take to protect ourselves and those around us.
You can also look to see COVID-19 trends in your area from our online data. We are updating this data weekly, and it is useful in helping inform your risk level, depending on where you live.
And I ask that we get all the doses of COVID-19 vaccine that you are eligible for.
The vaccines will help prevent serious outcomes.
If you’ve been infected with COVID-19 and still need a first or second booster, we do recommend waiting three months to get it.
But once that time has passed, the additional dose is important, especially for those with risk factors for severe outcomes.
COVID will not go away, and as we adjust to living with it, I appreciate everyone’s contributions to the balance of safety and wellness in our communities that will benefit all of us.
Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.