Alberta has highest number of COVID cases per capita as some provinces see spike in infections after reopening

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TORONTO – The number of people currently living with COVID-19 in Alberta is now about double that of Ontario per capita, after a surge in new cases after the province began to reopen its economy in June. The recent increase in infections in some provinces has highlighted concerns about the consequences of reopening too soon, but the notable increase in Alberta also raises concerns that the Western province may become the new hot spot for Canada.

Alberta reported 120 new cases on Thursday, its first three-digit increase in two and a half months. It comes as the province continues to ease restrictions and much of Ontario prepares to ease its own lockdown measures on Friday.

What is most worrisome to Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and other health experts is that the source of the new cases is unclear.

“What worries me most is what Dr. Hinshaw just said – that they don’t know where a lot of these cases come from and it’s a big red flag,” Dr. Matthew Oughton, specialist of infectious diseases at McGill University Health Center, told the CTV News Channel.

“Because what it tells you is that … there is no obvious target, there is no obvious explanation, which increases the risk that we are missing something and that there is actually has more transmission. ”

According to Statistics Canada’s demographic estimates for the second quarter of 2020 and the total number of active cases in each province as of June 16, there are 18.2 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population in Alberta. This compares to the 9.3 cases per 100,000 still active in Ontario.

Alberta’s figure is also comparable to Quebec’s after the latter province released a drastically revised record of its recoveries on Friday, which nearly doubled the previous day’s total. Prior to implementing a new collection recording system, the province’s reporting on the measure lagged significantly behind the rest of the country.

Saskatchewan, which is also further along in its reopening process, has a slightly higher per capita rate than Ontario, with just over 9.5 active cases per 100,000 population. Prince Edward Island, which has just under 159,000 people, has about 5.7 active cases per 100,000 people, or more than 3.7 active cases in British Columbia.

The remaining provinces and territories have zero or less than 1 active case count per 100,000 population.

REOPENING CAUSING CASE SPIKE?

With Ontario announcing that almost all businesses – including indoor restaurants, gymnasiums, cinemas and casinos – could reopen in most of the province’s 34 public health unit regions, there is concern that reopening too soon does not reverse the progress made by the province. so far against the pandemic.

Ontario, which recorded the second-highest number of cases in Canada with more than 37,000, has managed to steadily decrease the number of new cases reported every day. He had fewer than 150 new infections a day for almost two weeks – a significant drop from the 640 cases reported in a single day at the end of April. But since most of the new figures still come from the Toronto, Niagara and Windsor regions, these regions are excluded from the step 3.

The province said it will closely monitor trends in infections to determine whether restrictions need to be tightened or can be relaxed further.

“It’s kind of like putting out a small fire in the forest before it really ignites and starts burning a bigger chunk of forest,” Oughton said. He said the most important thing was to maintain fast and accurate testing, rapid contact tracing and ensuring that people are quarantined as quickly as possible to prevent a small problem from getting worse.

Quebec, which had more than 57,000 cases in total, began to reopen slowly in May, when it allowed businesses outside of Montreal to reopen. Gyms, cinemas and other venues could reopen from June 22. The province, which managed to bring the number of new infections below 50 at that time, has seen an increase in the number of new cases since. However, the overall trend is relatively stable, with the province managing to keep the number of new daily infections below 150 since mid-June.

In Alberta, there is concern that overcrowded parks and other public spaces, combined with a lack of social distancing, have contributed to the outbreak of new cases and what could become a “second wave”.

The province began allowing gyms, cinemas, restaurants and many other businesses to reopen from June 12. Current assembly guidelines allow up to 50 people in the gates and 100 outside, but no cap for those attending church services as long as physical distance is maintained.

After reaching single-digit lows in early June, Alberta still managed to keep new cases under 50 for much of the month, but about two weeks after it reopened in mid-June, the numbers have started to increase overall.

Saskatchewan has also seen recent peaks, recording its highest number of new cases since the pandemic began on July 16, with 42 new cases. The province began allowing stores, restaurants, lounges and gyms to reopen with some restrictions in early June. It entered part of phase 4 of the province on June 22, allowing day camps for youth and children and gatherings for up to 30 people. The second half of the phase was enacted on July 6, which allowed spaces like museums, galleries, cinemas and casinos to resume operations.

However, Oughton warned that a peak does not necessarily mean that a region has reopened too quickly.

British Columbia, for example, has not recorded more than 50 cases in two and a half months and has maintained less than 30 new cases per day for almost a month. It began to reopen in mid-May, allowing retail stores, restaurants and museums to open and currently allow gatherings of less than 50 people. Meanwhile, other provinces that have started to reopen have managed to keep the infection count in single digits.

“It’s an easy guess to jump to,” Oughton said, of the correlation between reopening and increasing cases, adding that restrictions also have their own costs and finding the right balance is a difficult task for them. public health workers.

Infographic by Mahima Singh

With files from Brooklyn Neustaeter

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