Alberta releases COVID-19 projections

The Alberta government projects cases of COVID-19 will range from 800,000 to one million in the province, with deaths ranging from 400 to 6,600.

The numbers come from the government’s modelling and analysis. The number of infections include confirmed and non-confirmed cases. It means mild, undiagnosed and detected cases were taken into account.

The numbers are only projections. The actual infection and case numbers will depend on a number of factors, including efforts made by Albertans to wash their hands thoroughly, to not touch their faces, to stay home if sick or if under mandatory self-isolation, and to physically distance themselves from others, said officials.

“I know these numbers can be overwhelming. But these models are not a done deal,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, in a news release. “I want Albertans to see them as a challenge. Perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation.”

Kenney said the modelling helps government anticipate and prepare for the demands on Alberta’s health-care system, ensuring the province is able to support patients during peak demand.

The scenarios estimate that after the virus reaches its peak sometime in May, the number of cases will decline over the summer.

Without provincial intervention, the government projected that about 13,000 Albertans could be hospitalized, with 3,900 requiring intensive care.

The government created three separate models: a probable one, an elevated one and an extreme one. The province believes Alberta will likely follow the probable model.

Under the probable model, the government estimates a mid-May peak, with 800,000 total infections and 400 to 3,100 total deaths.

Under the elevated model, it estimates a peak in early May, with 1.06 million total infections and 500 to 6,600 total deaths.

Under the extreme model, the scenario in which no measures were taken, there would be a mid-April peak, with 1.6 million total infections and 16,000 to 32,000 total deaths.

Alberta’s health department has been improving the system’s capacity to handle the increased pressure.

The province says under probable and elevated scenarios, it has the capacity to meet patient needs, including acute care, intensive care, and ventilator requirements.

It has opened more acute care beds, intensive unit spaces and ventilators. This will ensure the health-care system will be prepared to support patients at the peak of the pandemic, the government said.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president of Alberta Health Services, said it has increased capacity by also postponing non-urgent surgeries and diagnostic testing, reducing some non-emergency services and re-locating patients to continuing care spaces where possible.

As well, the health authority has been doing more care via videoconferencing and by telephone to connect with patients remotely.

“With these measures, and because of the hard work of our front-line health-care workers — our nurses, doctors and those who support them — we are well-positioned to manage the probable impacts of COVID-19 in the coming months,” Yiu said in the news release.

The government expects it will have enough supplies of personal protective equipment by the end of April. Personal protective equipment includes face shields, goggles, hospital gowns, gloves, procedural masks and N95 masks.

By the end of June, however, it projects it might be short of face shields and N95 masks under the probable scenario. In the elevated scenario, it projects increased shortages for N95 masks and face shields, as well as a shortage of goggles.

However, it says it is increasing stocks of this equipment to meet needs.

If it’s able, Kenney said Alberta can lend supplies to other provinces in need, but added that the needs of Albertans must take priority.

Going forward, Alberta has put forward a relaunch strategy.

The strategy includes mass testing, strong tracing and tracking of people who have been ordered to self-isolate, enhanced border screening, and the use of masks by the general public.

Kenney said the province’s economy will take a massive hit by the pandemic, especially with the price of oil plummeting. He expects the deficit to reach nearly $20 billion.

He said the government will increase investment in infrastructure projects to create jobs.

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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