Checked against delivery.

Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon, everyone.

Turning to today’s update…

Between Tuesday, May 10th and Monday, May 16th, our PCR test positivity rate ranged from 17.5 to 22.5 per cent with an average of 19.9 per cent for the week.

As the Minister mentioned, the average number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has decreased from last week.

Over the past week, there has been a daily average of around 1,190 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including around 39 in the ICU.

Sadly, between May 10th and May 15th, that is last Tuesday to this Sunday, 55 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health, which is an average of approximately 9 deaths per day.

Tomorrow we will be reporting deaths over the previous week in total.   

It is important to remember that each of these numbers represents the loss of a person who leaves behind grieving family and friends.

My sympathies are with the loved ones of these Albertans and with anyone who has recently lost someone they cared about, no matter the cause.

It is hard to see numbers such as these, due to a virus that has upended all our lives and is still prevalent, despite our collective efforts to put it in the past.

These are the most severe outcomes of infections, and the last impacts to fall as a wave recedes.

What we’ve seen in previous waves is that leading indicators – such as the number of new cases and lab positivity – are typically the first numbers to fall when the virus is on the wane.

Changes in these early indicators are then followed by lagging indicators such as hospitalization numbers.

Deaths are usually one of the last indicators to fall.

This is why these high numbers of deaths that we’ve seen in the past weeks -- as well as this week -- is not unexpected, although it is a tragic reminder of the severe impacts of this virus.

This is a late indicator showing the impact of the BA.2 surge.

As we’re seeing positivity and hospitalizations begin to decline consistently, we should expect to see the same thing in the number of deaths very soon.

Having said that, and as the Minister just referenced, we must remember that COVID will remain with us.

We should expect it to return, especially when we get to colder months in the Fall and the start of the season when we traditionally see a rise in respiratory viruses.

Viruses like COVID-19 and influenza do still pose a serious risk to many people, which is why it’s important to stay up to date on vaccinations and get all doses that you are eligible for.

It is important to have as many layers of protection as possible to guard against severe outcomes not only for ourselves but for those who are most vulnerable among us.

We must also be honest with ourselves and consider our own vulnerabilities –not just our physical health, but our mental health, as well.

These past few years have been very hard on everyone. Just like COVID-19, mental health issues do not discriminate based on age or circumstance.

Many Albertans worked tirelessly and valiantly to maintain a sense of normal during what was a very abnormal time. But the last two years have taken a heavy toll.

While many people have made it through the height of the pandemic physically, it is important to acknowledge the impact we have experienced to our mental health.

I encourage you to make time to prioritize your own mental health. If you need someone to talk to, please call 211.

Someone will always be on the other end of the line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 AHS also has a dedicated Mental Health Help Line you can call at 1-877-303-2642.

In addition to specialized supports, treatment, and resources we can all take steps to promote mental wellness.

The coming summer season – starting with the May long weekend just around the corner – will provide opportunities to us to for rest.

This could be camping, a long walk outside, a gathering with good friends or family, or even cheering on your favourite Alberta-based hockey team.

The important thing is to make a plan to do something that restores you.

Just as we have spent a lot of time making sure we are physically healthy, it’s time to safeguard and look after our mental health, as well.

Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.