New COVID-19 modelling for Alberta suggests the province has reached its pandemic peak for hospitalizations — as long as restrictions such as proof of vaccination stay in place and vaccination rates continue to increase.
The latest data is according to an independent group of researchers known as the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group, which outlined a decline in hospitalizations over the course of the past 10 days.
Canada 150 research chair and group member Carolyn Colijn says the hospitalization numbers began to dip after Premier Jason Kenney’s declaration of a public health emergency on Sept. 15
“Cases look like they have leveled off in Alberta, a little bit, and they are hopefully coming toward a downturn,” Colijn said.
She adds hospitalization occupancy in particular is much higher than predicted based on cases, but a new model developed by University of Victoria physics professor Dean Karlen suggests this is partly due to lower testing in some regions of the province.
“This means that there probably are more cases out there than we’re detecting, there have always been more, but maybe even more so,” Colijn said.
“That said, there looks like a slowing in other rises in hospital use so hopefully that will turn around.”
The news is promising, although researchers suggest at least another week or two of data is needed to determine how fast or slow the rate of hospitalizations is declining.
According to the province, Alberta had 18,421 active cases of COVID-19 on Sept. 15. This included, 877 patients in hospital.
The number of hospitalized people jumped all the way up to more than 1,100 on Sept. 28, when active cases hit 20,513.
As of Wednesday, active cases in Alberta are down back to 18,912, while hospitalizations still remain high at 1,083.
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET
Despite encouraging news of modelling data that shows hospitalizations are on the decline, some doctors still warn that the pandemic is far from over.
“We’re so hopeful that’s true and we would like that, but even in the B.C. report, they admitted they got some of the numbers wrong because there were huge changes to testing in Alberta,” said Dr. Paul Parks, head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association.
“It’s hard to tell for sure, but we hope we plateaued and that admissions will slow down. The other thing you have to understand is that even if we did hit a plateau, we’ll have all of the cases that we’ve had in the last couple of day who won’t need admission or get sick or need ICU for at least two weeks from here”
Parks adds that another major concern lies in the fact that the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend could result in an increase of cases and even further pressure on the healthcare system if Albertans don’t follow indoor gathering rules.
“You have to consider that with lots of people getting together and the mixing of families and mingling for Thanksgiving,” Parks said.
“The second thing is what’s going to happen when the winter starts to kick in, when it gets cold we know we spend much more time indoors and we end up spreading respiratory viruses a lot easier so we’re worried about that as well.”
Indoor gatherings in Alberta have been limited to no more than 10 people from no more than two different households. Everyone attending the gathering over the age of 12 must be vaccinated.
ALBERTA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR FURTHER RESTRICTIONS
Researchers with the B.C. COVID-19 Modeling Group say restrictions must stay in place in order for the trend of hospitalizations to decline.
Doctors with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) agree that the only way to keep infections and hospitalizations down is to implement further restrictions and call on Albertans to follow all public health measures.
That’s why the AMA are calling on the Kenney government to introduce mandatory vaccination for all public gatherings, schools and workplaces.
AMA President, Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, says the hospital system is simply too overwhelmed and care for non-COVID patients is being delayed as a result.
“It takes time for vaccinations to come under control, or to actually have the effect to get the case numbers under control,” Warren said.
“So, we just need to see more done more quickly so we can get on top of things and get control in a better way than we have in the past and physicians are willing to help, they are always there and always will be there for our patients.”
The AMA had previously asked for a ‘fire-breaker’ lockdown to aggressively control COVID-19 cases in an effort to protect the healthcare system, but that request was denied by the Kenney government.
Warren realizes the mental toll this could have on Albertans, but is urging patience and kindness amongst others.
“We are seeing families being hit when moms and dads are now in hospital or an ICU or die, and we’re seeing families torn apart between arguing, between the misinformation between the people that you know aren’t vaccinated and those that are vaccinated,” Warren said.
“That’s wrong, so stay together, trust one another, be compassionate to one another. Stay safe, don’t take the quad out and roll it, don’t take any unnecessary risks, mask up, socially distance and if you can be vaccinated, please be vaccinated and look out for one another.”
The association added that it was pleased with the continuation of public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools along with contact tracing and rapid testing for Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools experiencing outbreaks.
Read the report below: