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Albertans deserve credit for keeping COVID-19 numbers well below projections, top doctor says

Alberta’s case numbers and hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are well below modelling projections released earlier this month because the public has followed public health orders about physical distancing, says the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Those models projected that it was probable Alberta would have about 400 people in hospital on April 27, with the peak number of hospitalizations at about 800 by late May.

As of Monday, 87 people were in hospital with the illness, with 20 of them in intensive care beds.

“I need to be crystal clear that Albertans have done a fantastic job of that flattening-the-curve goal,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a news conference Monday.

“When you talk about the modelling and the numbers that we could have seen, certainly when we look at some of the numbers that provinces like Ontario or Quebec have seen, if we had seen the same kind of spread in Alberta, we would absolutely have been at our probable curve.”

On Monday, Quebec had 24,982 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,541 people in hospital, including 210 in intensive care.

Ontario had 14,856 cases, with 945 patients hospitalized and 241 patients in intensive care beds.

“So I think Albertans can take pride in how we have collectively managed to keep the virus under control,” Hinshaw said.

‘An amazing job’

“I just want to be really clear that Albertans have done an amazing job, and everyone should feel proud of what we’ve done together.

“And when we are looking forward, we need to look at how we’re going to be able to ease restrictions — we absolutely must ease some of those restrictions — but do it in a way that we don’t rebound and see that modelling come true, just at a later point in time.”

Alberta reported two more deaths from COVID-19 on Monday and 216 new cases of the illness, bringing the total number of deaths to 75 and the total number of cases to 4,696.

“I do not want this number of deaths to become just one more statistic,” Hinshaw said. “These are the reasons we cannot give up on our work to prevent spread. This virus can only be defeated by our collective efforts to protect each other.”

Alberta Health Services has launched investigations of small outbreaks at two hospitals in the Edmonton zone. 

Outbreaks in hospitals

The Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton have each seen a small number of linked cases, which are limited to a single unit in each hospital, Hinshaw said 

“A small number of cases seem to be linked within each facility,” she said. “There are no links between the two facilities.”

Another case identified at the Edmonton General Continuing Care has been linked to the Sturgeon hospital outbreak as a result of patient transfer, Hinshaw said.

“Quick response to these cases means that spread of the virus is being prevented and patients and staff are being protected,” she said. “It is important to be transparent about these situations so Albertans know we are sharing information as soon as we have it.

“This means that numbers may change over the coming days as more is understood about these situations.”

COVID-19 in homeless population

Over the weekend, four cases were identified in Calgary’s homeless population. Alberta had already prioritized testing in vulnerable populations, including the homeless population, Hinshaw said.

More than 1,000 symptomatic members of the homeless population have been tested to date, she said. All results had been negative up until Sunday morning, when the first positive result was reported to Alberta Health.

“Alberta Health Services is investigating to determine if there were any further exposures, and is following up to ensure steps are taken to limit the spread,” Hinshaw said. “This is a concern, as homeless Albertans don’t have access to the same kinds of supports and resources that many of us have available and take for granted.

“As a part of outbreak management, we have implemented testing of all contacts, both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, at the centres that are affected. This testing began yesterday,” she said.

In both Edmonton and Calgary, a process is being put in place to offer testing to a sample of asymptomatic people who are homeless. Alberta Health is discussing the testing process with shelters and physicians for people who consent to be tested.

“This step is a precaution to help us identify cases as quickly as possible and reduce the chance of outbreaks occurring in shelter and similar settings,” Hinshaw said.

More details about that testing will be shared in the coming days, she said.

Bearspaw First Nation

An outbreak in the Eden Valley community of Bearspaw First Nation south of Calgary saw 14 people test positive for COVID-19.

Hinshaw said the community has a good emergency management team in place.  

“I am confident the system is working and the community is able to manage the outbreak,” she said.

The regional breakdown of cases on Monday was:

  • Calgary zone: 3,257
  • South zone: 643
  • Edmonton zone: 484
  • North zone: 196
  • Central zone: 84
  • Unknown: 32 

Continuing care centres across the province have seen a total of 458 cases.

As on Monday, 128,860 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Alberta.

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