Editor’s Note: This story initially reported that Alberta Health would be releasing the provincial COVID-19 R value rates starting Nov. 30. They later said the information they had released was incorrect.
While Alberta officials told Global News on Nov. 27 that the provincial COVID-19 R value would begin being posted publicly on Nov. 30, they backtracked on Dec. 2 and said that is not the case and that information was released before a final decision had been made.
“This was entirely due to human error,” Tom McMillan, a spokesperson for Alberta Health, said Wednesday “I sincerely apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”
The R value is the metric Premier Jason Kenney said will be used to assess new measures announced on Nov. 24.
Kenney said the metric to re-evaluate new restrictions announced will be the rate of the virus’s transmission, also known as the reproduction number or R value.
The R value explains how many people a positive case will infect. For example, if the R value is one, then one person will infect one other person, who infects one other person.
An R number of two means one person infects two others who go on to infect two others each. An R number of 0.5 means fewer people will become infected than the previous generation of cases.
Kenney said Tuesday that the province’s R value must be below one by Dec. 15 for measures to be lifted; he said ideally the R value would be 0.8.
As of Nov. 22, the R value in Alberta stood at 1.12.
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Developmental biologist Gosia Gasperowicz said the R value is a good metric for making decisions, but it should also be coupled with daily case numbers.
“It’s an average number and, in the case of COVID, R is not very democratically distributed.
“So 20 per cent of people are responsible for 80 per cent of transmission,” she said.
Paul Veugelers, an epidemiology professor at the University of Alberta, said the pandemic can come to an end if the R value is below one.
However, he said the timeline to bring the R value down will depend on the behaviour of people and whether they comply with public health measures.
Veugelers said that an R value of simply one will not be enough to ease the stress on the healthcare system.
“If we have an R value of one then basically we are more or less at status quo.
“The number of infections will not come down quickly. Also hospitalizations will not come down. ICU will not come down,” he said.
“We want this pandemic to come to an end or to be less severe. To get there, we need an R value of below one.”
–With files from Allison Bench, Global News