Advertisement

Coronavirus: Alberta’s R value dips below 1, but ‘a plateau is not enough’

Click to play video: 'Alberta records 1,887 new cases of COVID-19, 15 additional deaths on Monday' Alberta records 1,887 new cases of COVID-19, 15 additional deaths on Monday
WATCH: Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announces the province identified 1,887 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths on Monday. Hinshaw also gives an update on the R value in the province. – Dec 14, 2020

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday that Alberta’s COVID-19 reproductive value dipped below one to 0.98.

“As of yesterday, the reproduction rate — or R value for the province — over the last seven days was 0.98,” Hinshaw said.

In the Edmonton zone it was 1.0, in the Calgary zone it was 0.92 and in the rest of Alberta it was 1.01.

Read more: Alberta to administer 1st COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, 25,000 additional doses on the way

“So what does that mean?  This metric of R describes whether the rate of transmission over the past week increased or decreased or stayed the same,” Hinshaw said.

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 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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s R value dipping below 1 is encouraging ‘but not enough’: Hinshaw' Alberta’s R value dipping below 1 is encouraging ‘but not enough’: Hinshaw
Alberta’s R value dipping below 1 is encouraging ‘but not enough’: Hinshaw – Dec 14, 2020

“What last week’s values seem to indicate is that cases plateaued over the week,” she said.

“This is certainly better than an increase, but as the minister mentioned, a plateau is not enough, and a single week’s R value does not tell us about a trend.”

Alberta’s top doctor said the R value was encouraging but not enough. She stressed Albertans must not let their guard down and continue to practice good hygiene, stay home when sick and follow all public health measures.

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

Story continues below advertisement

“R is also not useful when looked at alone. We also need to look at our new daily case numbers, which remain high. What we need to achieve together is several weeks of an R value well below one, with a corresponding decrease in new case numbers.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“At present, even with this single week plateau, we are continuing to see growing hospitalizations and ICU admissions, which are straining our health system,” Hinshaw explained.

Read more: Alberta sets sombre new record Sunday with 22 COVID-19 deaths announced

As of Monday, there were 716 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19; 136 of whom were in intensive care. Fifteen additional deaths from the coronavirus were reported Monday.

More than 20,000 tests were done, Hinshaw said, and Alberta identified 1,887 new cases. That means Alberta’s positivity rate is more than eight per cent.

Read more: Coronavirus R value in Alberta remains low after parts of economy reopened

At the end of April, Alberta’s R value was 1.4. By the end of May, it had decreased to 1.0, where it remained on June 19.

As of Nov. 22, the R value in Alberta was 1.12.

Story continues below advertisement

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

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 rose to 1.13.

Researchers with theCentre for Health Informatics, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary have also been studying and sharing R value data for Alberta.

Alberta has since enacted even stronger restrictions, including banning all social gatherings and closing restaurants and bars for dine-in service, gyms, libraries and salons.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Alberta expects addition 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week' Coronavirus: Alberta expects addition 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week
Coronavirus: Alberta expects addition 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week – Dec 14, 2020

“We have been focused on getting the R value below one, which would mean that we would be seeing a decrease in the number of new daily cases every day,” Hinshaw said Monday.

Story continues below advertisement

“Having an R value provincially of 0.98 is encouraging — because it means that over the last week we plateaued, it means that, on average across the province, we did not have a growth of cases, but rather an even steady state.

“What we need to see is an R value well below one. An R value of 0.98 is not sufficient to bring our case counts down.”

She referenced the R value Jason Kenney previously spoke of — below 0.8 — but said it will need to be reached alongside fewer new daily cases.

“We are working on a proposal to bring forward to the COVID Cabinet Committee for the combination of both the R value and the number of new daily cases, because it has to be a combination of those metrics; it can’t be one or the other alone.

“That will tell us that we’ve been able to reduce the growth enough to protect our health care system,” Hinshaw said. “We continue to see significant pressure on our hospitals.

Read more: Experts levy criticism at province over failure to disclose Alberta’s R value

In terms of R value, “We didn’t grow last week, but what we need to do is actually shrink our cases. And that’s the challenge ahead of us,” Hinshaw added.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline part of commitment to safety and effectiveness' Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline part of commitment to safety and effectiveness
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine timeline part of commitment to safety and effectiveness – Dec 14, 2020

While the news of 29,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arriving in Alberta before the end of December presents cause for optimism, Hinshaw said it will be “some time” before the general public can be vaccinated.

“For the time being, we remain each other’s vaccine and best defense,” she said.

“We all must do our part to limit in-person interactions whenever possible.

“Together we must bend the curve and protect each other.”

With files from Julia Wong, Global News

Advertisement

Sponsored content