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Kenney says COVID-19 R value isn’t ‘state secret’ but data still not publicly accessible

Click to play video: 'Alberta records 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday' Alberta records 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday
WATCH: Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces the province identified 1,727 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as nine additional deaths were recorded – Dec 8, 2020

Premier Jason Kenney said the reproductive value, also known as R value, of COVID-19 in the province is not a “state secret,” but the metric is still not being made available to Albertans.

Alberta Health had previously been providing Global News with the R value when asked but that stopped after Nov. 24, when a set of new restrictions were announced.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

At that time, the premier said the cabinet COVID-19 committee would be meeting to discuss what metrics to release and when to release them.

The R value was last released on Nov. 22, when it was 1.12. On Tuesday, Kenney said the R value was below 1.2 province-wide but did not provide an exact value.

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“We are preparing a public presentation on health data, including health care capacity. I think we should be in a position, hopefully, to present all of that next week.

Read more: New research suggests Alberta COVID-19 R value currently too high to lift restrictions

“We’re happy to provide additional information at that time,” Kenney said in response to a question from Global News about why cabinet was playing a role in releasing health data, such as the R value.

“I’ve heard Dr. Hinshaw talk about estimated [R value] many times. I have as well. It’s not being guarded as some kind of state secret.”

However, that is not completely accurate.

Hinshaw was asked on Dec. 1 what the latest R value was and said she did not have the most recent numbers with her.

She was asked on Dec. 4 and again responded that she did not have the current R value for that day, adding that cases are rising, so clearly the R value is still above one.

Click to play video: 'Experts criticize Alberta over failure to disclosure R value for 2 weeks' Experts criticize Alberta over failure to disclosure R value for 2 weeks
Experts criticize Alberta over failure to disclosure R value for 2 weeks – Dec 7, 2020

The R value describes how the virus spreads within a population; a R value of one means one person would transmit the virus to one other person and so on, while a R value of two means one person transmits the virus to two people and so on and so forth.

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A R value of more than one means that spread is growing, while a R value of one means the status quo. A R value of below one, according to epidemiologists, is needed to get the virus under control.

READ MORE: Experts levy criticism at province over failure to disclose Alberta’s R value

Earlier this week, experts criticized the lack of disclosure, particularly since the premier indicated the R value would be a key metric to determine if restrictions could be eased.

“There’s really been an erosion of public trust in the government and the government’s response to the pandemic,” said Lorian Hardcastle, a professor in the Faculty of Law and Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

“We’ve seen leaked tapes. We’ve seen a reluctance to release modelling. We’ve seen some concern around maybe the government wasn’t transparent about planning for field hospitals.

“When you have all of these concerns around transparency, this really just adds to that. It’s another thing that I think the public wonders: ‘Why aren’t they sharing this information and is there some reasons for it?’”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Kenney wants Alberta’s R value to fall below 1' COVID-19: Kenney wants Alberta’s R value to fall below 1
COVID-19: Kenney wants Alberta’s R value to fall below 1 – Nov 28, 2020

Biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who works with Ottawa Public Health on that city’s R value, said his research shows that, as of Dec. 7, Alberta’s R value is at 1.13.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta officials no longer planning to post provincial R value publicly

“It’s a value people should know. The reproductive value is a value which is not just making decisions but it’s intrinsic to the disease as well,” he said, adding it is “problematic” to not have access to that data.

“It’s very, very easy to just see case counts go down one or two days and think things are OK. But if your case counts go down one or two days but your reproductive value is still higher than one, it means it’s only a temporary thing.”

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