Check against delivery.
Thank you, Tom and good afternoon everyone.
I would like to begin today by reiterating how important it is that we all support anyone with COVID-19 and avoiding stigmatizing others in our community.
The cases that we identify are because people recognize they have symptoms, seek testing and, if they test positive, help alert those around them who are close contacts.
I can’t stress enough much we appreciate these Albertans who are working closely with us, and helping limit the spread to others.
COVID-19 is not restricted to any region, race or religion.
It does not play favourites, and we all need to support anyone who gets sick.
You may recall that several weeks ago, I had to stay home with a runny nose and sore throat, and while my test for COVID was negative, I did catch some kind of virus.
Each one of us has the potential to be exposed to COVID.
And we all need to be compassionate for those who end up as cases or close contacts.
The rising number of cases and hospitalizations are challenging each one of us, and anyone who contracts the virus needs our support.
That is the only way we can reduce the spread of this virus.
Turning to today’s numbers, over the last 24 hours, we have identified 1,854 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta,
And completed more than 19,600 new tests.
Our provincial positivity rate sits currently at about 9.5%, and we now have 17,743 active cases.
There are 511 people currently in hospital, including 97 who have been admitted into the ICU.
These numbers are very concerning and I know that AHS is watching them closely.
Sadly, there have been 14 deaths related to COVID-19 reported to us in the past 24 hours.
Sharing the number of lives lost is a little more difficult each day because I know the pain and sadness their deaths cause for the family and friends who are left behind.
They are not just a statistic of COVID-19, they represent Albertans who were loved and who meant the world to those who loved them.
My deepest condolences to everyone mourning the loss of someone special – especially as we get closer to the holidays.
In schools, there are currently active alerts or outbreaks in 407 schools, or about 17% of all schools in Alberta.
Currently these schools have a combined total of 1,561 active cases.
This number includes 220 schools with outbreaks, including 100 currently on the watch list.
Since new measures were introduced last week, we’ve received many questions. One of the themes is about carpooling.
To clarify, the guidance for carpooling remains the same.
Whenever possible, individuals should limit group travel to members of the same household.
If that is not possible, we recommend that the number of people in a vehicle be limited to allow for two-metre distancing between each other.
Passengers should wear masks and wash or sanitize their hands before entering and after leaving the vehicle.
As well, we encourage having disinfecting wipes available for each passenger to wipe down their side of the vehicle.
You’ll find more detailed guidance on carpooling, along with taxis, limos and rideshares, is available at alberta.ca/covid19.
With the enhanced restrictions, I know there is a lot of information to take in.
I would like to thank the many Albertans who are following restrictions to the best of their ability, and for asking these types of questions when they are unsure.
This is a great example of Albertans doing everything in their power to protect one another. Knowledge and information from accurate sources is an important part about this.
I want to end today by talking specifically to Albertans who don’t live in Edmonton, Calgary and the surrounding areas.
We are seeing rising COVID-19 transmission across the province.
While infection rates in Edmonton and Calgary make up the majority of cases in the province, we are seeing increased spread in many rural communities.
COVID is not a Calgary problem, or an Edmonton problem.
This is a provincial problem within the context of a global problem.
When you look at the 15 local geographic areas with the highest active case rates in Alberta, a third of them are outside of Calgary and Edmonton.
We are also seeing growing outbreaks in the central, north and south zones.
I know that many rural areas did not see widespread transmission in the spring or summer.
And so it is natural that some people living in these areas may feel safe from COVID due to their smaller populations or distance from large urban centres.
They may wonder why they should wear a mask or not host a party in their home.
Unfortunately, our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is.
It only takes one case entering a community to cause significant spread.
That is why it is important that we all follow the key public health measures wherever we live.
If people in a community aren’t consistently observing physical distancing, wearing masks or staying home when they feel unwell, it doesn’t take long to infect a large percentage of the population.
Coping with this virus is a challenge for everyone – but being further away from health care, especially from advanced services like ICUs – can also make the experience even more daunting for those living in more remote areas.
That’s why it’s important that all Albertans – rural and urban – take COVID-19 seriously and do everything possible to limit the spread.
We are all Albertans.
And as a province, we are all in this together.
Thank you and I’m happy to answer any questions.