Rare data on COVID-19 could lead Alberta to ‘fly blind’ in pandemic: experts – .

Rare data on COVID-19 could lead Alberta to ‘fly blind’ in pandemic: experts – .

Alberta will end mass coronavirus testing soon and there are concerns about the future of COVID-19 data in the province.

Doctors have opposed cutting mass testing, lifting mandatory isolation requirements after a positive test, and eliminating contact tracing for the general public, while the province has since defended itself. that the new protocols were announced at the end of July. .

READ MORE: ‘I Wasn’t Clear’: Hinshaw Not Happy With How Alberta’s Relaxed COVID-19 Response Was Shared

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, said these changes will impact COVID-19 data collection.

“This is going to have a significant negative effect on what kind of information we would need to continuously inform our behavior,” he said.

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“The decisions people are making moment to moment, day to day, what they will and will not do, given where COVID-19 cases are spreading, where epidemics are occurring. “

Muhajarine said the changes put Alberta in “a difficult and interesting situation” and he hopes other provinces will not follow suit.

“Alberta is the only province to come out. It’s really an exception in Canada in the way they respond to COVID in mid-August, ”he said.

READ MORE: NDP calls on Alberta government to release internal COVID-19 modeling

The only modeling released by the province was close to the start of the pandemic; no other modeling was shared with Albertans. While the modeling might not be a crystal ball, it can give a hint of what might be to come.

At the height of the third wave, the number of new daily cases fell just below 2,500. An analysis by University of Calgary-based development biologist Gosia Gasperowicz predicts that there will be 5,000 new cases. daily cases in Alberta by mid-September.

“It’s not taking into account the changes. With the changes it will probably be faster, ”Gasperowicz said.

However, she recognizes that it will be difficult to model in the future if the data is incomplete.

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“We won’t know what’s going on, and it’s super dangerous,” Gasperowicz said.

“If we don’t know and count only on when hospitals are full… cases will continue to grow and hospitalizations will continue to grow exponentially before it folds. “

Sally Otto, an expert in mathematical modeling of biological systems and evolutionary biology, is part of a team in British Columbia that is doing COVID-19 modeling in both that province and in Alberta.

The BC COVID-19 Modeling Group predicts that Alberta will see previously unseen numbers in the province during the pandemic, both in terms of new daily cases and hospitalizations.

“If Alberta bends the curve again, these projections will not come true,” said Otto.

“What is concerning is that Alberta does not seem interested in reducing this curve in the near future. “

Otto also noted that changes to data collection will affect how the province responds to COVID-19.

“Basically, the garbage in, the garbage out. If we now start to have no data, the model’s projections cannot guide us to what we are likely to see in the near future. And who wants to fly blind? she said.

“Flying blind without the data, with an increasing number of cases, is a public health nightmare. “

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A spokesperson for Alberta Health said the province is moving towards targeted and local action in high-risk areas and is focusing its attention on other health issues facing the province.

“(Chief Medical Officer of Health) Dr (Deena) Hinshaw and his team have made the COVID-19 adaptation changes that will go into effect mid-month based on the best possible science,” the spokesperson said. Lisa Glover.

“We want this data to be accessible to Albertans and we are working to make it happen in the weeks to come as COVID adaptation measures take effect.”

Glover also said the province will rely on wastewater monitoring, clinical testing, sentinel surveillance in primary care and epidemic testing to monitor trends and impacts.

Changes effective August 16

– Provincial mandatory masking orders will be lifted. Some masking in acute care or continuing care facilities may still be necessary.
– Isolation following a positive COVID-19 test result will no longer be mandatory, but strongly recommended.
– People with symptoms of respiratory infection should stay at home until symptoms resolve.
– Staying at home in case of illness remains an important way to take care of those around us by not transmitting any infection.
– Isolation hotels and quarantine support will no longer be available.
– Testing will be available for Albertans with symptoms when needed to help guide patient care decisions.
– These tests will be available at assessment centers until August 31 and, after that, in primary care facilities, including doctors’ offices. For people with serious illness requiring urgent or emergency care, testing will be available at acute care facilities and hospitals.
– COVID-19 tests will also be offered as needed in high-risk epidemics, such as in continuing care facilities.
– Public health will focus on investigating serious cases requiring hospitalization and any deaths from COVID-19.
– Outbreak management and preventive measures will continue to focus on outbreaks in high-risk settings, such as continuing and acute care facilities.
– Community epidemics will continue to be treated as needed.
– Day care centers and schools will be supported with measures that would be effective for any respiratory virus if epidemics are identified.

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Changes effective August 31

– COVID-19 tests will no longer be available at assessment centers. It will be available in primary care settings, including doctors’ offices, or in acute care and hospital settings.
– Universal masking will not be required in schools once students have returned. However, it is recommended as a temporary epidemic intervention in response to respiratory epidemics. A guidance document to support the return to school is being finalized and will be published in mid-August.

-Wwith files from Emily Mertz from Global News

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