4,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in Alberta by mid-December if more measures not taken, says U of C biologist

·3 min read
4,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in Alberta by mid-December if more measures not taken, says U of C biologist
4,000 daily new COVID-19 cases in Alberta by mid-December if more measures not taken, says U of C biologist

A researcher is sounding the alarm about Alberta's significant increase in the number of new and active cases of COVID-19, warning that things could rapidly get worse in the province should additional measures not be taken.

Malgorzata Gasperowicz, a developmental biologist and general associate in the faculty of nursing at the University of Calgary, says that given the province's current doubling time, the province could be reporting more than 1,000 new cases per day by Nov. 11.

But Gasperowicz also told CBC Calgary News at 6 that without "strong, decisive measures" given the province's current doubling time, Alberta could see around 2,400 daily new cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 5, and 4,800 on Dec. 23.

WATCH | Malgorzata Gasperowicz discusses the COVID-19 numbers Alberta could be seeing in the coming months:

But even should the province shut everything down today, it's not as though the numbers will instantly drop.

"They usually take like, what we [saw] in the first wave in [introducing restrictions], it took at least three or four weeks to see the cases drop down," Gasperowicz said. "So we will still be doubling for three weeks at least."

That would mean the province would still be seeing around 1,600 or 2,000 daily new cases before dropping down, Gasperowicz said.

Given a situation where the province shut down on Nov. 15, Gasperowicz said, the province would see 3,000 daily new cases before bending the curve.

Gasperowicz said her projections are based on her own independent modelling, and aren't associated with university-based projects.

Alberta at 'a tipping point'

On Monday, Alberta introduced new social gathering restrictions, bringing in mandatory limits of 15 people in Edmonton and Calgary.

"You have heard me say many times that we need to achieve a balance between minimizing the risk of COVID-19 and minimizing the risk of harms of restrictions," Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference.

"This requires us to keep the spread of COVID-19 manageable. We have now crossed a tipping point and are losing the balance we have been seeking."

WATCH | Dr. Hinshaw says Alberta is at a tipping point for COVID-19

When asked whether the province would consider implementing another shutdown, Tom McMillan, a spokesperson with Alberta Health, pointed to the measures introduced Monday.

"We announced new measures on Monday. We are watching the data in Alberta closely and will consider if adjustments to the public health approach are needed in the days to come," McMillan said in an email.

Speaking Thursday, Hinshaw reiterated that the province's focus at this time was to strike "a difficult, but necessary balance when responding to COVID-19."

"We must follow the evidence, and take the steps needed to prevent cases from rising exponentially and overwhelming our health system," Hinshaw said.

"At the same time, every element of Albertans' health is important. We must also limit the harms that our measures can have, as much as possible."

Implementing 'strong measures'

Gasperowicz pointed to a "cocktail of measures" that have worked to decrease numbers in other western jurisdictions.

"I'm convinced that if strong measures would be implemented, we would have the decrease," she said. "But if we won't implement strong measures and just have little tweaks, I don't think it will slow the virus down.

"Strong measures worked in Australia, and they have zero cases now, and they're celebrating."

Speaking Thursday, Hinshaw said the choice is not between implementing another lockdown or letting COVID-19 run unimpeded.

"Instead, we must make it as easy and safe as possible for Albertans to live with this virus for the foreseeable future," she said.

One day before Halloween, Alberta reported 622 new cases of the virus, a new daily record. It pushed the number of active cases in the province to a record 5,172.