Alberta Premier Jason Kenney presented the data on Wednesday (April 8) with the caveat that the modelling is designed to show expected trends and scenarios that could occur. He cautioned information will continue to be refined based on the best available evidence.
“Alberta is doing very well in terms of the slope [of the virus] compared to other jurisdictions,” Kenney said. “We want to continue to see that relatively, that actually very low slope that so far we have experienced.”
Three potential models were presented to help Albertans understand how the virus could move through Alberta, including an extreme model that Kenney said is unlikely to happen.
Two of the models are based on what could happen in Alberta – a probable scenario and an elevated scenario.
Kenney said the probable scenario works of the assumption that for every identified case of COVID-19 in the province there are one or two more infected people that go undetected. This model shows a relative success in containing the spread of the virus.
The probable scenario predicts that the peak of the virus could occur in mid-May and would see a total of approximately 800,000 infections with between 400 and 3,100 deaths.
The elevated scenario assumes that for every case there are two more people infected. It was prudent to identify the increased risk of high rates of COVID-19, Kenney said, to help prepare for a potential worst-case scenario the health care system could face.
The elevated scenario would see about one million total infections and between 500 and 6,600 deaths. The peak of the elevated scenario would take place in early May.
Kenney noted that the COVID-19 hospitalization peak will take place about 10-days after the highest rate of infection in the general population.
The key numbers to take into account are the admittance rate of hospital and intensive care unit COVID-19 patients in the province, he said, because this will directly affect the health care systems' capacity to provide care.
As of now, it estimates that as many as 800 people could be hospitalized during the peak of the virus.
Alberta Health Services has been building the capacity to cope with the demand that will be put on hospitals in terms of space, front line workers and personal protective equipment, Kenney said.
More than 2,200 acute care beds are expected to be made available for COVID-19 patients by the end of April. At the same time, the province's intensive care unit capacity will be increase by almost 1,100 beds for COVID-19 patients and more than 700 ventilators will be made available.
Kenney said COVID-19 hospitalizations and the severity of the illness in the province have been lower due to a combination of factors including the late arrival of the virus in comparison to other provinces, aggressive testing, tracing and containment of COVID-19 cases, the young population of Alberta and rural populations in the province experiencing a lower viral load of the illness.
“People who might come into contact with the COVID-19 multiple times… chances are if they get infected it might be multiple times or it might be with a more powerful load of the virus then perhaps someone living in the country or some people who are living more remotely,” Kenney said.
He highlighted that the health measures that have been put in place were specifically designed to prevent the health care system from being overloaded.
Alberta has found “phenomenal” success in testing for the virus, he said and leads the country and world in testing per capita. The province is currently administrating about 1,500 tests per 100,000 people.
“This has been the really the foundational element of Alberta’s relative success in containing the virus,” Kenney said.
He added that the province has a goal of increasing the number of tests to 20,000 a day.
Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted that additional testing is now being offered in the province to ensure as much information as possible is being collected in the province.
Effective immediately anyone in the Calgary zone with COVID-19 symptoms that include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath will be able to receive testing, along with essential service workers across the province and those that live with someone over the age of 65-years-old with the same symptoms. Visit alberta.ca/COVID19 to use the online COVID-19 self-assessment tool.
Anyone who presents with COVID-19 symptoms must remain in self-isolation for 10-days after the start of symptoms or until the symptoms subside, whichever length is longer.
As of Wednesday, 50 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Alberta, bringing the provincial total to 1,423. A total of 29 people have died and 518 people have fully recovered.
The Municipal District of Bighorn region, formerly known as the Canmore region, which includes Canmore and some MD hamlets has 14 cases recorded – 9 active and 5 recovered. The ID No. 9 region, formerly known as the Banff region, which includes Banff and Lake Louise has three cases. All are active.
“The best way to contain this outbreak is by all of us staying home as much as possible and thereby limiting our chances of catching the virus,” Hinshaw said. “The coming days and weeks will be critical. The co-operation of Albertans is needed. Each and every one of us must continue to do everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus.”