Alberta hasn’t provided COVID-19 models since April; NDP wants new data released

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw calls COVID-19 numbers in Edmonton over the weekend ‘concerning’' Hinshaw calls COVID-19 numbers in Edmonton over the weekend ‘concerning’
WATCH (Oct. 5): Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw discusses a “concerning” increase in COVID-19 cases in Edmonton and a trend of people heading to work while waiting for test results. – Oct 5, 2020

The provincial government has released COVID-19 modelling twice during this pandemic but, so far, has not released modelling projected for the fall.

As cases continue to rise in the province, the Alberta NDP called Thursday for that modelling to be made public.

“In order to curb the spread, we need to know what we’re facing and we need to be prepared.

“The UCP needs to be honest and transparent with Albertans, which means they must release updated modeling,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.

Modelling information previously released by the province showed various scenarios of infection, estimated how many Albertans would require hospitalization or critical care and predicted how many deaths the province could see.

READ MORE: ‘Probable’ Alberta COVID-19 model predicts 400-3,100 deaths: Kenney

“I will not sugar coat it. You need to know what we are up against,” Premier Jason Kenney said on April 7, when the province’s first modelling data was released.

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However, little information about projections for the province has been given since the second modelling was shared on April. 28.

READ MORE: Alberta updates COVID-19 modelling, adds low ‘likely’ scenario

Global News asked Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Sept. 24 why updated modelling had not been shared with Albertans.

At that time, Hinshaw said that models do not predict the future.

“While we are looking at different modelling to help us answer very specific questions, that overall question of what might we see in the fall, I don’t think we need a model to tell us that,” she said.

“We already know if we don’t follow public health measures, we could see that so-called second wave. If we do, we’ll see relatively stable and constant cases over time. It’s all in our hands.”

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READ MORE: Marginal increase in COVID-19 cases among B.C. children since start of school, province reports

In the days following, both Ontario and B.C. have released updated modelling.

Global News asked Hinshaw again on Monday why Albertans were not able to see the latest projections for the province.

“What we experienced in the spring is that modelling as a future forecast isn’t particularly helpful when it’s anchored to particular dates. What modelling can help us do more effectively is to help us look at different scenarios,” she said on Oct. 5.

“The modelling we are undertaking is more about those kinds of planning scenarios and it’s not yet complete.

“So, those discussions to complete the models, to make sure that we have the time to have the discussions with our decision makers, haven’t yet happened.”

READ MORE: Latest COVID-19 modelling suggests Ontario could see around 1,000 cases a day in October

On Friday, the premier said Alberta does not have new COVID-19 modelling.

“The department of health, Alberta Health Services, the chief medical officer health and her team are obviously completely focused, every hour of every day, on the challenge of the pandemic, on the trend lines and on our goal of preventing and overwhelming the health-care system,” Kenney said Oct. 9.

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He pointed out the projections released in the spring, thankfully, ended up being way off from the rates Alberta actually recorded.

“We have never achieved a fraction of the number of active cases, of hospitalizations, ICU admissions or COVID-related fatalities that were projected in that modelling,” Kenney said.

Read more: Minimizing surge in COVID-19 cases ‘a real mistake,’ experts say

The premier said he’s confident that the province is receiving the best possible information and advice from its public health experts.

“At this point, we don’t believe that creating hypothetical numbers is going to improve our COVID response.

“What the models did for us in the spring was to indicate what we thought would be the potential worst-case scenario, high point of utilization of the health-care system… That was the policy utility of the model. It told us, to be blunt, how many acute care hospital beds, how many ICU beds, how many ventilators, and how much PPE-related medical supplies we might need in a worst-case scenario.”

Kenney said Alberta responded, adding thousands of dedicated COVID-19 acute care beds and dedicated ICU beds and gathered ventilators and PPE.

Click to play video: 'Alberta releases second round of serology testing results' Alberta releases second round of serology testing results
Alberta releases second round of serology testing results – Oct 5, 2020

“One number that attracted a lot of attention in Alberta’s modelling was our estimate of the total number of people who, in the worst case, in different scenarios, might be infected.”

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In April, Alberta’s probable scenario predicted COVID-19 could claim between 400 to 3,100 Albertans’ lives by the end of summer and that there could be as many as 800,000 total infections in that time frame.

“We now have the benefit of seven months of data and experience, including serologic testing that we have done.

“I believe so far, out of 12,000 samples that we’ve analyzed, we’ve seen the confirmed positive rate of COVID-19 at about 0.75 per cent,” Kenney said, “which would mean… something like 35,000 Albertans who likely have been infected by COVID. Compare that to the 800,000 that we had projected.

“So, that is to say, we know what the worst case looks like and it’s a long, long way from where we are.”

with files from Phil Heidenreich and Emily Mertz, Global News

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