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New model shows Alberta 'well below' previous COVID-19 projections

Jason Kenney April 28
Premier Jason Kenney provides an update from Edmonton on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, on the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Alberta’s efforts to “flatten the curve” seem to be working, updated provincial modelling released on Tuesday show.

Premier Jason Kenney walked reporters through the new modelling, saying the number of Albertans hospitalized and admitted to intensive care units is “well below” what original models predicted. He said the model uses the most up-to-date data.

Now, models are projecting a peak of people with COVID-19 in mid-May, at which time a probable scenario projects 596 people will require hospitalization. Previous estimates were at 818 people in hospital at the virus’ peak.

As of Tuesday, there were 82 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, with 21 in intensive care beds.

Under elevated projections, 745 people will require hospitalization when the virus peaks, down from previous projections of 1,570 people. Approximately 250 people would be admitted to intensive care.

The new model also includes a “low scenario,” which Kenney said he asked researchers to include based on Alberta's data, as opposed to relying on data from other jurisdictions. Under the low scenario, 298 people would require hospitalization at peak and 95 people would be in intensive care.

“If trends continue as they are, this new low scenario could become the most likely scenario for Alberta, and let’s hope that’s the case,” he said.

Updated models did not include the projected total number of cases in Alberta, or projected number of Albertan lives taken by COVID-19. The last model, released April 8, suggested a total of 800,000 infections and between 400 to 3,100 deaths.

Despite the good news, Dr. Deena Hinshaw cautioned Albertans from thinking the fight has been won.

“I want to stress that this fight is far from over. Modelling is just a projection of a potential future,” she said. “It is not a guarantee, and cases could easily spike in Alberta if we are not careful.”

Kenney said the province can learn from the series of outbreaks across Alberta in the past few weeks, which demonstrate just how fast an outbreak can start, noting that continued “vigilance” is needed.

“I hope that more and more, that vigilance can be done by people through their own voluntary choices and less and less by stringent government restrictions,” he said.

Later this week, officials will begin announcing measures to “gradually, prudently” move toward more “economic and social activity,” Kenney said.

When asked by reporters for more detail on that plan, Kenney said he hopes some aspects of social and economic life will begin to be reopened in May.

No final decisions have been made yet, and Kenney said much of the timing for re-openings will depend on how recent outbreaks are contained.

According to Hinshaw, there have been 154 new cases of people with COVID-19 since Monday, bringing the total number of people confirmed to have contracted the virus in the province to 4,850.

There have been 35 cases, 12 active, of COVID-19 reported in Rocky View County and 17 cases, five active, reported in the Cochrane-Springbank region.

Since Monday, there have been an additional five people who died, two of which were residents in continuing care facilities.