Checked against delivery.
Thank you, Minister, and good afternoon, everyone.
I would like to start by providing a short update on monkeypox in Alberta. Through our ongoing monitoring we have identified one additional case.
I can report all cases are in Edmonton and Calgary Zones.
This new adult case is a known close contact to a case outside of the province, which means the overall risk in the province remains low.
This virus does not spread easily between people, but close contact of any kind can transmit it.
Anyone with any new kind of rash, whatever the cause, should avoid direct contact with others to limit spread.
Turning to today’s COVID update...
Between Tuesday, June 14th and Monday, June 20th, our PCR test positivity rate ranged from 8.7 to 14.9 per cent with an average of 12.3 per cent for the week.
Currently, there are 661 people with COVID in hospital, including 17 in the ICU.
Sadly, between June 14th and 20th, 13 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health.
It is important to remind ourselves that each number is a person, and that COVID remains a threat in our communities.
My thoughts are with the family and friends of these Albertans, and anyone who has lost a loved one recently, no matter the cause.
I know Albertans have felt a variety of emotions since we entered Step 3 last week, ranging from relief to frustration to discomfort.
Some may experience all of these emotions, and many others mixed together, and every response needs to be heard.
As the Minister said, there is no single perfect solution or risk-free option in dealing with COVID.
Around the world, jurisdictions have made difficult decisions to protect the lives and well-being of their people and the health-care systems that take care of them.
Together, we have learned a great deal about this virus.
And by working together, we will be better positioned to succeed in this next stage at finding the right balance in our response.
We know our personal risk factors that we should consider, and what steps that we can take each day to limit transmission.
And most importantly, we have vaccines that are highly effective in protecting us from the most severe outcomes.
This is why we can continue to scale down our emergency crisis response to this pandemic and begin to manage by building on the foundation we have in place for dealing with other respiratory viruses.
As the Minister said, part of this scaling down will include rescinding CMOH orders in continuing care on June 30th.
We are working with operators to transition important preventive and outbreak management measures into the routine practice of managing infectious diseases in these settings.
This means that many COVID-19 protections will remain in place, such as:
- Managing symptomatic residents with testing, isolation, and PPE protections,
- Implementing outbreak protocols when needed to reduce transmission among residents, and
- Continuous masking for staff and visitors in long-term care, designated supportive living and hospices which will be maintained through Alberta Health Services’ organizational policy to protect these high risk environments, as transmission risk remains high.
Incorporating what we have learned from COVID into routine practices in these settings will be especially important during the colder months ahead when we expect a rise in COVID cases as well as seasonal influenza and other respiratory viruses.
I know that many have asked why we have shifted the isolation requirement to a recommendation if we expect cases to rise in the fall.
As the Minister has mentioned, we are not alone in moving from legal requirements to recommendations, as other jurisdictions have also lifted their orders.
While COVID will continue to pose a risk, we are no longer in a place where we need an emergency public health order to remind us that we should stay home when we are unwell.
We continue to recommend that Albertans monitor for core COVID-19 symptoms and use the free rapid tests available across the province.
Please stay home until you are feeling better even if you have a negative rapid test result. There are other viruses, like influenza, circulating in our communities that can cause serious illness.
I would also like to remind Albertans that living with COVID-19 does not mean that it is going away.
It means that we have the tools at our disposal to lift mandatory emergency public health measures and transition to other approaches to minimize risk.
And it means that vaccines will continue to be critical in protecting our health, our loved ones and the health-care system.
This is why I strongly recommend that every Albertan get every dose they are eligible for.
We continue to follow the National and Alberta Advisory Committees on Immunizations’ guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations.
If and when eligibility requirements for vaccine series and booster doses change, we will be sure to update Albertans and make the vaccines available to those who need them.
Fortunately, we have a robust provincial vaccination program that has proven capable of quickly and efficiently administering doses to Albertans of all ages.
I know that some Albertans will also have questions on how they can stay informed about developments on COVID-19 and be prepared for times of increased transmission.
As the Minister mentioned, we have been preparing for fall and will continue to monitor data here and abroad.
We will continue to screen for new variants and subvariants emerging in the province and keep up wastewater surveillance to have a sense of transmission levels in communities.
Information will continue to be posted online for Albertans to use to inform their daily decisions based on their own risk and context.
That being said, we will be making some adjustments to our reporting over the summer.
There will be no changes for the next several weeks as we monitor for any impacts from lifting this last stage of measures.
Later this summer, however, we will be implementing a more sustainable approach to monitoring that will result in several changes to the dashboard.
Even after these changes, updates will continue to be provided weekly to keep Albertans informed of the current levels of risk in their communities and trends across the province.
In the fall, we will update our reporting in line with our influenza dashboard so Albertans can see a consistent picture of what respiratory virus trends are like.
In line with this transition, I would like to let you know that this will be our last regularly scheduled COVID-19 update.
We remain committed to the transparent communication of important public health information and we will, of course, provide updates as necessary.
I would like to end today by thanking all Albertans who have worked together to keep our communities healthy and safe.
By following mandatory and recommended public health measures and accessing the protection of vaccines, you have each played an essential role in getting us to today.
And by taking simple actions each day, we can continue to protect one another in the weeks and months ahead.Thank you, and we’re happy to take questions.