Alberta could scale back relaunch in particular sectors should cases rise, top doctor says

The province of Alberta may need to scale back its relaunch within particular locations or sectors should case rates increase substantially or hospitalizations rise, said the province’s chief medical officer of health on Wednesday.

“We don’t have a specific cut-off in terms of numbers of cases,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in an interview with CBC Calgary News at 6. “But there may come a point when we would have to move backwards in relaunch, which is not something any of us want.”

Alberta reported 114 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and one new death. Hinshaw said the province has worked to manage an approach that minimizes the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing people to engage in more activities.

“So if there’s a particular trend in a location or a sector where we’re seeing more cases, then instead of having a general scaling back of relaunch, what we may need to do is adjust how we’re approaching these particular sectors,” Hinshaw said.

  • WATCH | Listen to Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s full interview with CBC Calgary’s Andrew Brown above.

Much of the province’s strategy, Hinshaw said, also relies on engagement with those demographics with whom spread has remained an issue.

“We’re trying to understand how best to engage with Albertans who are between the ages of 20 and 39, so that we can better understand what motivates them [and] how to better reach them,” Hinshaw said.

“Because we are seeing many of our cases in that age demographic, which again is largely driven by the fact that people are wanting to get back into their normal rhythms again.”

On schools

Students across Alberta headed back to class this week, despite concerns from some parents and teachers that due to class sizes students would not be able to properly physically distance.

COVID-19 cases have already complicated the reopening plans of two Alberta schools, Meadows Ridge School in Okotoks and Canyon Meadows School in Calgary — something Premier Jason Kenney said was inevitable.

Hinshaw said the province had done everything reasonable to have a safe reopening in a first step.

“Even if we had done additional things or different things, there’s no one perfect way to move forward into school relaunch. No matter what levels of protection we put in place, there will always be some cases,” Hinshaw said.

The advantages of Alberta’s plan for relaunch, according to Hinshaw, is the ability to open in a balanced way with the option to move into other scenarios if needed.

“We’ll continue to watch, because we all continue to learn through COVID. We will take the learnings and put them into our models and our guidance moving forward,” she said.

On health modelling

During an April televised address, Kenney walked through modelling projections that suggested Alberta could hit the peak of its coronavirus infections in mid-May.

Hinshaw said there wasn’t yet a timeline for updated modelling from the province, though Alberta was currently working on modelling from a few different perspectives.

“In April, really that modelling was intended to help us understand what a severe scenario could look like and what we would need to do to prepare our health system,” Hinshaw said. “So the modelling we’re doing now is a little bit different, because we know more about COVID.”

Hinshaw said future modelling would focus on what impact a scenario like fall COVID-19 transmission combined with influenza might have on the province’s health system.

“I don’t have a timeline of when that is going to be completed,” Hinshaw said. “I know there’s lots of interest in that.”

Alberta now has 1,403 active cases of COVID-19, and 242 people have died from the disease. Hinshaw will next update the COVID-19 situation in Alberta on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. 

Find out which neighbourhoods or communities have the most cases, how hard people of different ages have been hit, the ages of people in hospital, how Alberta compares to other provinces and more in: Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean

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