by Morinville News Staff
Alberta’s probable COVID-19 scenario sees the province hitting the peak of infections in mid-May and that by the end of summer, there could be as many as 800,000 infections [from the start] with somewhere between 400 and 3,100 deaths. Albertans can also expect no relaxation of social distancing measures until the end of May.
That info from Premier Jason Kenney, who addressed Albertans Tuesday night about two Alberta Health Services modelling scenarios.
The second less likely but more significant scenario would see infections peak at the start of May with as many as 1 million infections and between 500 and 6,600 deaths.
CURRENT NUMBERS AND TESTING
As of Tuesday, there are 1373 Albertans with COVID-19, an increase of 25 cases from Monday. Forty-two Albertans are currently in hospital, and another two Albertans have died bringing the provincial total to 26. As of Tuesday, 447 Albertans have recovered from COVID-19.
Premier Kenney said Alberta’s per capita numbers are the second highest in the country, Quebec having the highest per capita numbers.
“[That] is in part because our brilliant scientists and lab technicians are conducting one the highest levels of Covid-19 testing in the world, so naturally we identify more positive cases,” the Premier said. “That’s a good thing, because it has helped us track the close contacts of those who are infected, which limits the spread.”
Kenney went on to say what matters most is how many people with Covid-19 end up in hospitals, particularly intensive care, and that Alberta’s rate of hospitalization is considerably lower than other larger provinces, including B.C., Ontario, and Quebec.
Because those provinces saw their first cases before Alberta, Kenney said provincial numbers may catch other provinces.
“You’ve probably heard about the “curve” of infections. That’s the rate at which infections grow in a country or region. I’m glad to report that the curve in Alberta is much lower than many other parts of the world,” Kenney said, noting that Alberta’s curve more closely resembles South Korea who have successfully fought the virus rather than the sharp upward rise of Italy, Spain, and the United States.
ALBERTA NOT OUT OF WOODS YET
Alberta Health modelling shows the province is not out of the woods yet, the Premier told Albertans.
“I know that these numbers can be overwhelming,” Kenney said of the two modelling scenarios, adding the models were not a done deal. “I want Albertans to see them instead as a challenge. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation.”
Kenney said the numbers are not inevitable and that how the scenarios actually play out with respect to the numbers infected, the number of deaths and whether or not Alberta’s hospital systems are overwhelmed depends on Albertans and their choices.
The premier advocated for Albertans to follow the basic rules of frequent hand washing for at least twenty seconds with warm, soapy water, sneezing and coughing into your elbow or arm, six-feet distancing, and staying home when you can. Premier Kenney also said Albertans should wear a covering over their nose and mouth if they are going into a crowded area.
“I know a lot of folks wonder if we’re over reacting. Some say: “just let the virus run its course. Let’s just get back to normal now.” Well here’s my response. Countermeasures work,” Kenney said. “Our experts project that if we had no social distancing and public health orders in place, we could experience as many as 1.6 million infections, and 32,000 deaths in Alberta – as many as 640 deaths per day. Our health system would collapse under the chaos of that scenario.”
The premier said he believes that is something Albertans won’t let happen, adding the key strategy in the provincial plan is to push down that peak of infections while pulling up the capacity of the health care system to cope.
Alberta won’t be able to start relaxing social distancing measures until the end of May, Kenney said, adding once the peak has been reached, the government will look to countries like Taiwan and South Korea as models to roll out its relaunch strategy. That strategy would gradually open up Alberta’s economy while preventing a second wave of the virus.
POST COVID-19 PEAK RELAUNCH OF ECONOMY
The government’s relaunch strategy includes what the government is calling an aggressive system of mass testing of 20,000 tests per day to identify positive cases and those with immunity more quickly to get people back to work.
They are also planning more precise tracing of close contacts of the infected, something Kenney said Alberta has done better than anyone.
Strong border screening is also part of the plan. Kenney said it was a mistake for the feds to take so long to close the border, particularly from countries with high levels of infection.
Additionally, quarantine orders will be strictly enforced to ensure compliance, including using technology like smartphone apps when appropriate.
The use of masks in crowded public spaces, including mass transit will be encouraged.
“Ultimately this virus will pose a great threat to human health until a vaccine or effective drug treatments are widely available,” Kenney said. “AHS is already participating in trials, and we will do everything we can to accelerate development of effective tests, drugs and vaccines.”
Kenney said the end of the COVID-19 pandemic will not be the end of the economic downturn, the likes of which Alberta has not seen since the 1930s.
“We expect a global economic recovery from COVID-19 later this year,” Kenney said. “But the crash in energy prices means that Alberta’s downturn will be deeper, and our recovery slower. Our largest industry has been battered for five years. And now Western Canadian oil has fallen as low as $3 a barrel. There is a very real possibility that, as global inventories overflow, our energy will hit negative prices. I cannot overstate how grave the implications of this will be for jobs, the economy, and the financial security of Albertans.”
Kenney said Alberta has begun discussions with US leaders about a coordinated defence of North American energy independence to protect both from the reckless actions of those regimes.
The Premier closed by acknowledging that many Albertans are fearful of what lies ahead.
“We have strong institutions, and a culture of resilience. Most importantly, we have each other,” Kenney said. “The character of Albertans is coming through in countless acts of kindness. Charities, faith groups, businesses and individuals are all fighting the pandemic Delivering groceries to elderly neighbours. Babysitting so that essential service workers can go to work. Contributing to food banks and homeless shelters. Donating medical supplies like masks and sanitizer. We are showing what we are made of.”
The Premier said the province has given AHS another $500 million in funding to fight COVID-19.
Up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19 in Alberta is available at https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx?.