690 and climbing: Chief medical officer will update Alberta on COVID-19

The 65 cases of COVID-19 believed to have been transmitted within Alberta likely represent only a fraction of the community spread of coronavirus, says the province’s chief medical officer of health.

At a news conference Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said epidemiological modelling suggests that for each such case detected so far, there are likely two others that have not been captured by testing.

Hinshaw, who will provide her latest update Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. MT, said she hopes to make more modelling data available to the public by the end of this week.

On Monday, Hinshaw revealed that five more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to eight. The number of new cases rose by 29, for a total of 690.

That drop in the number of new cases from previous days was expected, Hinshaw said, and may have been due to several factors.

“We have stopped testing returning travellers, so we knew that our daily positive numbers would go down,” she said. “We have also had a decrease in the total daily tests in the lab over the past few days, given some challenges with lab testing supplies.”

Late last week, the province announced it was switching the focus of its coronavirus testing to concentrate on high-risk populations, such as frontline health-care workers and the elderly.

It will take several days under the new testing protocols, Hinshaw said, to get enough data to understand where trends are headed.

As the week unfolds, Hinshaw said, she and her team will be closely monitoring the spread of the virus to see if the new testing protocols are working.

“This week, I think, one of the critical things we’re watching is our numbers,” she said. “With the switch in our testing strategies, we’re really focused on understanding where in our communities are we seeing local transmission, and how we can put a stop to that.”

Public health officials will also watch to see whether new measures put in place at long-term-care facilities are effective in combating outbreaks.

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