Alberta Health Services' modelling of COVID-19 predicts the province could see as many as 1 million infections by the end of summer.
Premier Jason Kenney held a televised address Tuesday evening to discuss the scenarios projected by AHS.
"We must do everything within our power to defeat the invisible enemy of the novel Coronavirus," Kenney stated. "The more we do to stop the pandemic now, the faster we can restart our economy, and pave a path to recovery."
Before getting to the predictions, which Kenney warned he would not sugar coat, the Premier said he was glad to report that Alberta's curve is much lower than other parts of the world.
"So far, our curve more closely resembles countries that have successfully fought the virus, like South Korea, than the sharp upward rise seen in countries like Italy, Spain, and the United States," however Kenney stated that the modelling shows we are not out of the woods yet. "Things could get much worse if we do not continue to follow the public health orders around social distancing and personal hygiene."
AHS has put together two models: a probable scenario, and an elevated one.
"Under the “probable scenario,” they now project that Alberta will hit the peak of infections in mid-May," said Kenney. "From the beginning of the outbreak to the end of summer we could see as many as 800,000 infections, and between 400 and 3,100 deaths.
"Under the more serious but less likely “elevated scenario” we would see infections peak at the beginning of May, with as many as 1 million infections, and between 500 and 6,600 deaths."
The numbers however are not inevitable, stated Kenney.
"How this actually plays out – how many people are infected, how many die, whether we overwhelm our health care system – all of that depends on US and OUR choices."
The Premier reminded Albertans to rigorously follow simple, basic rules:
- Wash your hands frequently for at least twenty seconds with warm, soapy water – and always after you have been outside or before you touch your face
- Sneeze or cough into your elbow or arm
- When you can, stay home
- Try to stay at least six feet away from other people outside your home
- Stay at home for two weeks if you are sick, or have returned from outside the country
- Wear a covering over your nose and mouth if you are going into a crowded area
Kenney said the modelling is suggesting that the province won't be able to start relaxing social distancing measures until at least the end of May. If Alberta had no social distancing or public health orders in place, Kenney said we could experience as many as 1.6 million infections, and 32,000 deaths in Alberta – as many as 640 deaths per day.
Kenney said the health system would collapse under the chaos of that scenario but that at this time, he's confident that our health system will be able to cope, and that we have the supplies on hand to get the job done.
"We have given AHS an extra $500 million for the fight against COVID-19," said Kenney. "We will spare no expense to prevent the spread, while providing the best possible care to those who need it."
Kenney said he hopes the tough measures put in place to help stop the spread of the virus will allow things to gradually start returning to normal in Alberta as soon as possible.
"Once we are past the peak and can begin relaxing these rules, we will implement our Relaunch Strategy, our plan gradually to open up our economy while preventing a second wave of the virus."
The key elements of the province's Relaunch Strategy being currently developed include:
- An aggressive system of mass testing, using new tests that are being developed and approved, to identify positive cases and those with immunity more quickly, so we can get people back to work. "Our plan is for Alberta to turn around as many as 20,000 tests a day," Kenney said. "We are determined to continue leading the world in testing, the foundation of our Relaunch Strategy."
- More precise tracing of close contacts of those who are infected. "We have done this better than other Canadian provinces to date, and we will expand those efforts."
- Strong border screening. "I believe it was a mistake for Canada to wait so long to close our borders, especially from countries with high levels of infection," Kenney said. "While Alberta does not control who can fly here, we will deploy a much more rigorous approach than the federal government has in screening and quarantining international arrivals."
- Strictly enforce quarantine orders to ensure compliance, including using technology like smart phone apps when appropriate.
- Encourage and facilitate the use of masks in crowded public spaces, like mass transit.
The Premier warned that the end of the pandemic will not mean the end of the economic downturn. "Together with a collapse in revenues, this will have an enormous impact on our province’s finances. Alberta’s budget deficit this year may triple from $7 billion to almost $20 billion."
"I know that many Albertans are fearful of what lies ahead," said Kenney. "We will get through this storm, together."