Kenney presents grim COVID-19 scenarios for Alberta

Probable scenario projects total infections of as many as 800,000 and deaths of up to 3,100 from the start of the outbreak to the end of summer

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney addressed the province tonight from the Cabinet room in the Legislature and urged the public to follow public-health orders around social distancing and personal hygiene while presenting grim scenarios of how the COVID-19 could potentially unfold in the coming weeks and months.

“The modelling done by Alberta Health shows that we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Alberta Health’s modelling paints two scenarios: a probable scenario and an elevated scenario, which Kenney described as “more serious but less likely” to occur.

Under the probable scenario, Alberta is projected to hit the peak of infections in mid-May. Total infections, from the beginning of the outbreak to the end of summer, could reach as many as 800,000 and deaths could be between 400 and 3,100.

Under the “more serious and less likely” elevated scenario, infections could peak at the beginning of May, with as many as 1 million total infections, and between 500 and 6,600 deaths.

Below is an excerpt of Kenney’s speech:

Folks, this is a time for complete candour.

Tonight I will share with you Alberta Health’s current projections about the Covid-19 threat to our public health, and the depth of the economic adversity ahead.

I won’t sugar coat it. 

You need to know what we are up against.

I will also share with you Alberta’s plan to minimize lives lost, and to relaunch our economy.

As of tonight, 1373 Albertans have tested positive for Covid-19.

42 are hospitalized, and 26 have died.

Our hearts go out to the loved ones of all of those lost.

May their memory be a blessing.

Our per capita number of recorded infections is the second highest in Canada – after Quebec –  but that is in part because our brilliant scientists and lab tecks are conducting one the highest levels of Covid-19 testing in the world, so naturally we identify more positive cases.

That’s a good thing, because it has helped us track close contacts of those who are infected, which limits the spread.

What matters most is how many people with Covid-19 end up in hospitals, especially intensive care.

On that front, here is some encouraging news.

The rate of Albertans hospitalized with Covid-19 – and those in an ICU – is much lower than the other large provinces.

However, those provinces saw their first cases before we did, so we might still catch up to their numbers.

You’ve probably heard about the “curve” of infections. That’s the rate at which infections grow in a country or region.

That the curve in Alberta is much lower than many other parts of the world.

So far, our curve more closely resembles countries that have successfully fought the virus, like South Korea, than the sharp upward rise seen in countries like Italy, Spain, and the U.S.

But the modelling done by Alberta Health shows that we’re not out of the woods yet. Things could get much worse if we fail to follow the public health orders around social distancing and personal hygiene.

We have two models: a probable scenario, and an elevated one.

Under the “probable scenario,” we now project that Alberta will hit the peak of infections in mid-May. From the beginning of the outbreak to the end of summer we could see as many as 800,000 total infections, and between 400 and 3,100 deaths.

Under the more serious but less likely “elevated scenario” we would see infections peak at the beginning of May, with as many as 1 million total infections, and between 500 and 6,600 deaths.

These numbers can be overwhelming.

But these models are not a done deal.

I want Albertans to see them as a challenge.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation.

Those numbers are not inevitable. How this actually plays out – how many people are infected, how many die, whether we overwhelm our health care system – all of that depends on US and OUR choices.

That means rigorously following simple, basic rules like these:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least twenty seconds with warm, soapy water
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow or arm
  • When you can, stay home.
  • Try to stay at least six feet away from other people outside your home
  • Stay at home for two weeks if you are sick, or have returned from outside the country
  • Wear a covering over your nose and mouth if you are going into a crowded area.

I know a lot of folks wonder if we’re over reacting.

Some say: “just let the virus run its course. Let’s just get back to normal now.”

Well here’s my response.

Our experts project that if we had no social distancing and public health orders in place, we could experience as many as 1.6 million infections, and 32,000 deaths in Alberta – as many as 640 deaths per day. Our health system would collapse under the chaos of that scenario. 

Albertans will not let that happen.

Period.

Our strategy to defeat the Coronavirus is this: to push down that peak of infections as much as we can, while pulling up the capacity of our health care system to cope.

Thanks to the efforts of Albertans to follow our public health rules, we are pushing that curve down.

And thanks to our front line health care workers – our nurses, doctors and those who support them – we are expanding the capacity of our hospitals, opening up more acute care beds, ICU spaces, and ventilators.

Tomorrow I will provide more details. But for now, let me say: we are confident that our health system will be able to cope, and that we have the supplies on hand to get the job done.

We have given AHS an extra $500 million for the fight against COVID-19.

We will spare no expense to prevent the spread, while providing the best possible care to those who need it.

Click here to read the full speech.