As we look ahead to the fall and the return to school I want to assure you that the health and safety of all Albertans is top of mind with the return to school plan. The Minister of Education has been working with and taking the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health and school administrations.
The COVID-19 situation in our province is ever-changing, and as such our school reopening plan could be subject to change. The return to school plan allows flexibility for school boards where appropriate and I understand that both the Calgary Public and Separate School Boards are making masks mandatory from k-12 in all classrooms.
I want to thank you for your continued hard work and for taking the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health to prevent the spread.
COVID testing ahead of the school year
- Asymptomatic testing is recommended for all teachers and staff in the Early Childhood Services to Grade 12 education system prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year.
- Teachers and staff who wish to access asymptomatic testing are encouraged to book a test as soon as possible through Alberta Health Services using the online self-assessment tool or by contacting a participating local community pharmacy.
- Parents can continue to access testing for their children through Alberta Health Services. Testing is only recommended for those children with symptoms or pre-existing medical conditions that have symptoms similar to COVID-19.
- To ensure availability for teachers and staff, Albertans who are asymptomatic and have no known exposure to COVID are asked to wait until after Sept. 1 to access asymptomatic testing.
- More than 50 Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw pharmacies in Superstore locations are already offering asymptomatic testing.
- By September 1, 2020, all 234 of the company’s pharmacies in Alberta (including pharmacies at Independent Foods, Extra Foods, City Market, and No Frills) will offer asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
- This is in addition to province-wide testing offered via AHS assessment centres and about 75 other community pharmacies that already offer tests.
- A list of participating pharmacies is available through Alberta Blue Cross. Contact a participating pharmacy for more information about how to arrange a test.
- Albertans with symptoms must still book a test using AHS’ self-assessment tool.
- Secure contact tracing is a cornerstone of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy. Alberta recognizes that Canada is moving to a national tracing app, which currently is being tested in Ontario.
- Until the federal app is available in Alberta, we encourage Albertans to use ABTraceTogether.
- More than 235,000 Albertans already use the app. We will ensure the best possible transition experience for users when the national app is rolled out in Alberta.
Continued support for mental health
Our government has invested nearly $200 million in mental health supports. This includes $140 million committed from our platform and $53 million to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Minister of Labour and Immigration, I was pleased to recently announce $4.5 million over the next three years to support mental health treatment for first responders, including leading-edge research, prevention and stigma reduction.
Alberta firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, corrections officers and emergency health-care workers put their lives on the line daily to keep Albertans safe. Alberta’s government is committed to providing additional mental health supports to better equip first responders to manage post-traumatic stress injuries.
Grants totaling $1.5 million per year will be awarded to non-profit organizations and researchers working to improve first responder mental health. Applications to the Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders grant will be open until Sept. 20.
Alberta job increases for third straight month
For the third straight month we have seen an increase in jobs with 187,000 Albertans returning to work over this period. This is encouraging, but we still see far too many families out of work. This is why Alberta’s government is pursuing our ambitious recovery plan, including:
- A record-setting $10 billion investment in infrastructure spending.
- Accelerating the Job Creation Tax Cut (the lowest corporate tax in Canada) to ensure Alberta remains the best place for employer investment in Canada.
- Introducing the Innovation Employment Grant, a refundable tax credit targeted at smaller companies to encourage technology and investment in Alberta.
- Investing almost $28 million to create jobs and spur investment in the agriculture and agri-food industries.
- Launching the Invest Alberta Corporation to boost investment attraction efforts in key markets, such as energy, agriculture, tourism, technology, aviation, aerospace and financial services, with major partners around the globe.
In our community
Nominations are open for the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards recognizing those who make a lasting impact in their community.
The Stars of Alberta awards highlight and pay tribute to volunteers who give their time, energy and skills to make a difference in the lives of Albertans. Two awards are given each year in the following categories:
- Youth (up to 24 years of age)
This year, the new Breaking Barriers category will recognize exceptional volunteers who are working to create communities that are diverse and inclusive. Three awards will be presented in this category to individuals or groups who are addressing racism, advocating for LGBTQ2S+ inclusion and fighting gender discrimination in their communities.
The awards are part of government’s commitment to recognize the contributions of Alberta’s volunteers and are handed out annually on or around International Volunteer Day. This year, recipients will be celebrated at an awards ceremony on Dec. 4. Since the inception of the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards in 2000, 127 volunteers from across the province have been honoured.
Albertans are encouraged to submit nominations online. The deadline for nominations is Sept. 15.
I want your feedback. Please take a moment to answer the following question.
Government has invested nearly $200 million in mental health supports since spring 2019, including $53 million to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given these investments, how would you rate the Alberta government’s overall funding to support mental health and addictions?
1. Very poor
To answer go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NH9XVFZ
Thank you to those who took the time to answer the last survey question:
Do you support the initiative to reduce surgical wait times as outlined in Bill 30?
Out of 20 responses, 60 percent of respondents do not support the initiative to reduce wait times. In the additional notes, many of you commented on the ongoing negotiations with the AMA. Please note that I will pass along these comments to my colleague, the Minister of Health.