Keep an eye on the numbers – COVID-19 in Alberta

Here are the latest COVID-19 statistics for Alberta — and what they mean.

Learning how the coronavirus affects the body offers clues to fight COVID-19. A better understanding of how COVID-19 manifests could inform efforts to reduce its transmission. Lee Jin-man, Associated Press

Robson Fletcher, CBC Calgary News June 1, 2020 – Updated July 1, 2020

 Keep an eye on the numbers
The data-driven pandemic: Information sharing with COVID-19 is ‘unprecedented’
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there are so many numbers flying around, it’s hard to keep track. Here, we’ll do our best to keep track for you. Below you’ll find a series of curated charts, which will be updated as new information becomes available.

This first chart shows us the number of new cases identified each day since mid-March, and a seven-day rolling average of daily new cases.

New cases in Alberta. These are the figures that tend to be front and centre in the daily updates about COVID-19. There are some issues with relying on new-case data, alone, as the number of cases you detect is related to the amount testing you do and who you’re testing (more on that in a moment). CBC. Click for a full screen view.

But the advantage of looking at new cases is that they tend to be a leading indicator of how the virus is spreading, where it’s spreading, and whether the spread is speeding up or slowing down. And, at this point in the pandemic, Alberta is offering COVID-19 tests to anyone who wants one, so there are fewer concerns about the data being affected by limited testing availability.

New cases reported by day and by health zone. At various times throughout the pandemic, different parts of the province have seen different degrees of spread. So it’s also useful to look at the where the new cases are happening, too. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

Each column in this chart is a “stack” of cases, colour-coded by zone. Each “stack” adds up to the total number of new cases identified that day. You can see how cases really started ramping up in mid-April in the Calgary Zone, in particular. This was largely related to the major outbreak at the Cargill slaughterhouse in High River, which is part of the Calgary Zone.

Later in April, you can see a large number of new cases in the South Zone. This was related to the outbreak at the JBS slaughterhouse and the wider outbreak in Brooks, at that time. And, in early June, you can see how new cases started growing in the Edmonton Zone again, after very few cases in and around the city for many weeks.

The beginning of this trend was initially linked to several family gatherings in the city. So that’s the big picture, but the chart above can be a little hard to read if you’re mainly interested in recent cases.

New cases reported by health zone, over the past 3 weeks. This next chart shows the same information, but is limited to just the past three weeks, making it easier to see where new cases have been popping up. Each column in this chart is a “stack” of cases, colour-coded by zone. Some of these new cases will require hospitalization, which leads us to the next metric. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals. While much of the reporting to date has focused on the number of cases, experts have suggested tracking the number of hospitalizations, as well.  CBC. Click for a full screen view.

Hospitalization data is more of a lagging indicator, as it typically takes longer for someone who gets sick with COVID-19 to end up in hospital than it does for them to test positive for the virus. There can also be delays in reporting from the hospitals, themselves, further adding to the lag in the aggregated data.

Still, tracking hospitalizations is useful because it not only helps gauge how much the disease has spread but also helps keep track of how much strain is being put on the health-care system. Hospital resources, of course, are finite and, in other parts of the world, COVID-19 cases have pushed those resources to — or beyond — their capacity.

COVID-19 cases in Alberta by status. This chart depicts the total number of cases, broken down by the status of the patients: recovered, not-yet-recovered (but not in hospital), hospitalized or deceased. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

Again, this chart is a “big picture” look at the impact of the disease, provincewide. But the number of active cases can vary quite a bit from place to place and from time to time.

But the number of active cases can vary quite a bit from place to place and from time to time.

So this next chart focuses on just the past three weeks, and breaks down the active caseload by health zone.

Active cases by health zone, over the past 3 weeks. This next chart focuses on just the past three weeks, and breaks down the active caseload by health zone. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

Beyond these five broad zones, Alberta Health breaks down the geography of the province even further.

Active cases in Alberta by local health area. Beyond these five broad zones, Alberta Health breaks down the geography of the province even further. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

It also subdivides those zones in 132 “local geographic areas” or LGAs. (You can find more information about these areas here).

The right-hand column in the table shows the latest active caseload for each of those local areas. The mini line charts in the adjacent column show the caseload history for each area. Note the scale of vertical axis is not the same for each line chart; it’s specific to each local area’s case history.

The table is sorted from highest to lowest, by default, but you can change the sorting by clicking on the column header of area names so they are sorted alphabetically, instead. This function may not work on mobile devices or small screens, where the info is presented as a list, instead of a table.

Total confirmed cases reported in Alberta. The red line in this next chart shows the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Alberta, along with dotted lines indicating hypothetical rates of growth, starting from the first day that 50 total cases were recorded. CBC. Click for a full screen view.

When looking at total cases, it’s important to bear in mind that the number of confirmed cases doesn’t represent the number of actual cases — a figure we simply don’t know.

Many cases may have gone undetected because people didn’t have symptoms or didn’t seek testing for other reasons. People who have wanted a test haven’t always been able to get them, especially early in the outbreak.

Alberta’s testing protocols have changed significantly over time, leading to changes in which cases of COVID-19 are being caught and included in the provincial data — and those which go uncounted.

In the earliest stages of the outbreak, testing focused on international travellers returning to Alberta and their close contacts.

Overall, Alberta has tested more people, per capita, than any other province.

On March 23, the province imposed stricter limits on who could get tested, giving a higher priority to those most at risk from COVID-19 and to health-care workers. Given that testing capacity was limited at that time, there were some important reasons for doing this, in order to get the maximum benefit out of the tests that were available. As testing capacity increased again, however, the criteria began to expand.

On April 7, the province started opening up tests to more symptomatic people, including a wider range of front-line workers such as firefighters, police and public-health inspectors, as well as anyone over the age of 65.

On April 8, the criteria were further expanded to include anyone with symptoms living in the Calgary health zone, which has seen the majority of cases so far in the province.

On April 14, the criteria were expanded again to include all Albertans showing symptoms.

On April 17, Alberta Health said it would further expand testing to include asymptomatic residents and staff in continuing care facilities experiencing outbreaks.

On May 11, asymptomatic testing was extended to people in the Calgary health zone, due to the high number of cases in the area. Similar asymptomatic testing was later offered in Brooks, as well, after the major outbreak in that city.

On May 29, asymptomatic testing was expanded to the entire province, meaning any Albertan wanting a test could seek one, even without symptoms of COVID-19.

All this has led to major fluctuations in the number of tests being performed and who was being tested. This next chart depicts how things have changed over time.

How testing has changed over time. Each dot depicts the number of people tested on a given day. The line shows a seven-day rolling average of daily tests. And the background shading and annotations show major changes in the testing protocol. CBC
Alberta pharmacists to begin offering tests for COVID-19

We’ve heard that COVID-19 tends to hit older people harder than younger people, and this is true to a large extent but it doesn’t mean young people are immune.

This next chart shows the age ranges of patients who have been hospitalized in Alberta with the disease.

Age of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alberta.The numbers in this chart are cumulative totals that include patients who are still in hospital, those who have been discharged and those who have died. The number of people to have died from the disease is much more heavily weighted toward older adults, with most of the deaths among people aged 80 or over. Many of these people have died in long-term care homes. CBC. Click for a full screen view.
Age breakdown for confirmed cases in Alberta hospitals shows not just seniors at risk
Albertans diagnosed with COVID-19 are younger and end up in hospital less often. This is likely why

Age of patients in Alberta, by age and status. This next chart shows the total cases in Alberta, broken down by both the age and status of the patients. CBC. Click for a full screen view.
Age breakdown for confirmed cases in Alberta hospitals shows not just seniors at risk
Albertans diagnosed with COVID-19 are younger and end up in hospital less often. This is likely why

Advanced stats and logarithmic scales. These types of charts are useful to visualize rates of growth when things grow exponentially, like COVID-19, where each day’s growth is a percentage of the previous day’s total cases. Robson Fletcher CBC. Click for a full screen view.

If you’ve been following the COVID-19 case data closely — in Canada and around the world — you’ll likely have seen some charts presented on a logarithmic scale. (Specifically, a logarithmic vertical axis).

These types of charts are useful to visualize rates of growth when things grow exponentially, like COVID-19, where each day’s growth is a percentage of the previous day’s total cases.

That type of growth leads to curves that start out fairly flat and then shoot up rapidly, making visual comparisons difficult, especially between jurisdictions that are farther along in their local epidemics.

But by using a logarithmic scale — where each step on the vertical axis is 10 times larger than the previous step (think “10, 100, 1,000” instead of “10, 20, 30”) — exponential rates of growth are easier to visualize.

In this chart, the coloured lines represent COVID-19 cases in different provinces, starting from the day each province first recorded at least 50 cases.

It’s important to note that testing protocols vary from province to province, which will affect their case numbers.

Note in particular that Quebec changed its reporting method around Day 6 in this chart, when it no longer waited for secondary lab confirmation to count a case as confirmed. This cleared a backlog, and led to the sharp and sudden rise in cases that day.

Like Alberta, multiple provinces have also adjusted testing protocols over time.

All told, that means the above chart is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison but — with all these caveats in mind — it still offers some sense of where we’re at in our COVID-19 spread, relative to other parts of the country.

 

Testing, testing: The key to controlling coronavirus spread. We’re only ever measuring the tip of the iceberg, and so there’s a bunch of cases out there that we don’t know about, and presumably those cases are transmitting,” Dr. Michael Gardam said. CBC News. Click for a full screen view.
You can now get tested for COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms if you work outside the home in Calgary. Alberta health authorities are expanding COVID-19 testing in the Calgary zone to include people who don’t have symptoms but work outside the home because the area has had more than twice the number of cases of the rest of the province combined.
How we test for the COVID-19 virus — and how can we do it faster?

Reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, by province. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada exceeded 25,000 on April 13. Politicians and health officials are increasingly focused on the situation in long-term care facilities. CBC. Click for a full screen view.
Robson Fletcher
Robson’s work for CBC Calgary focuses on data analysis and investigative journalism. The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly. If you have an idea on how to improve the presentation of these data, or data that you would like to see that’s not here, please email robson.fletcher@cbc.ca. You can also contact Robson on Twitter @CBCFletch and join the discussion there.
THE LATEST
What you need to know about COVID-19 in Alberta on Monday, June 1

Federal government to fast-track $2.2B to help municipalities.

Alberta reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, nearly double the number of new cases reported Sunday, bringing the total active cases to 400. The Canadian Press NIAID-RML via AP

Playgrounds reopening across Calgary but sports remain prohibited

  • Alberta reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, nearly double the number of new cases reported Sunday, bringing the total active cases to 400.
  • Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the increase is a reminder that the pandemic is not over and that precautionary measures will be with us for some time.
  • Two household gatherings in Edmonton are linked to at least 10 cases, which prompted a reminder from Hinshaw that people should not be sharing food or utensils and that it’s best to hold gatherings outdoors where distancing can be easily maintained.
  • More than 1,000 Calgarians took to the streets to protest anti-black racism and police violence. Hinshaw said it’s important that those exercising their democratic right to protest still maintain a two-metre distance from each other and wear masks.
  • Provincial campgrounds will reopen tomorrow, but COVID-19 restrictions will keep half the sites closed.
  • There are 53 people in hospital, six of whom are in intensive care. No additional deaths were reported Monday, leaving the total deaths at 143.
  • Monday marks the start of Seniors’ Week in Alberta, and Hinshaw said it’s more important than ever to support seniors who are especially vulnerable during the pandemic. Of Alberta’s 143 deaths, 138 have been people over 60.
  • Several hard-hit countries are beginning to ease restrictions put in place to tackle the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 6.1 million people worldwide
  • Meet the ‘forgotten Canadians’ stranded in remote corners of the world demanding help to get home.
  • Strange symptoms, flare-ups, weeks-long illnesses for some COVID-19 survivors.
  • The Alberta government has scaled back the provincial COVID-19 news conferences it had been offering every weekday and is now holding them on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Planning a Canadian vacation? Some provinces may be off limits

Armed soldiers informed street vendors Sunday that as of Monday, they could no longer be in the street after the mayor of Bogota ordered a strict quarantine in the Kennedy area of the city to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Fernando Vergara, The Associated Press

Why was Alberta’s chief medical officer not consulted in decision to end public health order?

 

What you need to know today in Alberta

Campgrounds in Alberta’s national parks will remain closed until at least June 21. Alberta Parks Flickr

Campgrounds in Alberta’s national parks will remain closed until at least June 21, but provincial campgrounds will open at half capacity starting tomorrow.

The Alberta government is distributing 20 million masks meant to help limit the spread of COVID-19. They will be available for pick up from the drive-thrus of A&W, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons.

There have been 143 deaths due to COVID-19 in the province. No new deaths were reported Monday.

More than 263,000 tests have been completed.

There are now no active cases in the province’s central health zone.

Most active COVID-19 cases are still found in the Calgary zone. Here’s a regional breakdown of cases:

  •  Calgary zone:  309 active, 4,483 recovered.
  •  Edmonton zone:  44 active, 497 recovered.
  •  South zone:  28 active, 1,202 recovered.
  •  North zone:  17 active, 213 recovered.
  •  Central zone:  0 active, 97 recovered.
  •  Unknown:  2 active, 9 recovered.

This map provides an overview of how COVID-19 has impacted the province of Alberta as of June 1, 2020. CBC News

This map shows the total number of cases recorded in the Calgary zone as of June 1, 2020. CBC News

Across Canada

Sense of helplessness ‘must not paralyze us,’ says Toronto Raptors president. Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the protests around the United States that have followed. The Canadian Press. CBC

The federal government is accelerating infrastructure cash to help struggling municipalities taking a financial hit from COVID-19.

An Alberta woman is scared for her life in Peru, as the death toll rises and the health-care system collapses around her.

A mortgage expert says people who have to sell their homes and have fixed-rate mortgages are being hit hard because of how financial institutions calculate penalties.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees along with Own the Podium unveiled a $5-million investment in a phased return to high-performance sport in a joint statement Monday as much of the sports world remains on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a tally of coronavirus cases and deaths maintained by Johns Hopkins University, there have been about 372,000 deaths to date. The true death toll is believed to be significantly higher, as many victims died of the virus without ever being tested.

The U.S. is still the hardest-hit nation in the world, with almost 1.8 million cases and more than 104,000 deaths. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 26,000 of those deaths are from nursing home residents.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said in a statement on Monday that the generosity of the U.S. government and the American people toward global health has been “immense” and has made “a great difference in public health all around the world.”

“It is WHO’s wish for this collaboration to continue,” Tedros said Monday, as WHO experts discussed the virus, lifting lockdowns and a risk assessment tool for mass gatherings.

In Canada, the epidemic is highly regional, with the vast majority of COVID-19 cases concentrated in parts of Ontario and Québec. As of 6 pm ET on Monday, there were 91,681 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 49,713 of those cases considered recovered or resolved.

A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 7,385.

   Canada and around the world – CBC Timeline
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Self-assessment and support
Alberta Health Services has an online self-assessment tool that you can use to determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

The province says Albertans who have returned to Canada from other countries must self-isolate. Unless your situation is critical and requires a call to  911, Albertans are advised to call Health Link at  811 before visiting a physician, hospital or other health-care facility.

If you have symptoms, even mild, you are to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

You can find Alberta Health Services latest coronavirus updates here.

The province of Alberta also operates a confidential mental health support line at  1-877-303-2642 and addiction help line at  1-866-332-2322, available from 7 am to 11 pm, seven days a week.

Online resources are available for advice on handling stressful situations and ways to talk with children.

There is a 24-hour family violence information line at  310-1818 to get anonymous help in more than 170 languages, and Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence is available at  1-866-403-8000 from 9 am to 9 pm.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which could lead to death.

How COVID-19 symptoms develop, and how long they last

Alberta expands testing eligibility to anybody showing COVID-19 symptoms

What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

  • Stay at home.
  • Immediately call Tele-Care  811.
  • Describe symptoms and travel history.
  • Follow instructions carefully.

What to do if you think you have COVID-19: A guide to each province and territory

How can I protect myself?
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • When outside the home, keep a minimum of two metres away from other people.
  • For walking, the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter, for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. See Belgian-Dutch Study: Why in times of COVID-19 you should not walk/run/bike close behind each other.
  • Masks won’t fully protect you from infection, but can help prevent you from infecting others.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government web site.

Important reminder
The World Health Organization said more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 infections are estimated to be mild.
 Find coronavirus local updates
Your local guide to the coronavirus outbreak. Get the latest advisories, updates and cancellations for where you live.
 Calgary cancellations, closures and other updates.
Report notices to be included by emailing  calgarynewstips@cbc.ca
 Edmonton cancellations, closures and other updates.
Report notices to be included via email  webedmonton@cbc.ca
An update on local services and all the ways to access COVID-19 information on CBC News

Everything from a new email destination for your questions to a dedicated page tracking coronavirus cases

Why we can’t tell you the full COVID-19 story – Lives Remembered

CBC News has compiled a wealth of resources on closures and other essential information you need to know to get through this public heath emergency. Ben Nelms CBC

Brodie Fenlon, CBC News Mar 25, 2020 Updated 12:00 pm March 29

We are all involved in a remarkable story.

As we move forward into the next few weeks and what most experts agree will be the most perilous part of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, we must not lose sight of the human face of this crisis.

Canadians are ill and some have died; we will tell their stories.

Canadians are fighting; we will showcase the first responders and health care workers working flat-out to save lives and the challenges they face.

Canadians are worrying; we will get answers, aggregate the best advice and hold our officials to account.

Canadians are helping; we will find the stories of hope and civic generosity that bring communities together.

We are seeing millions of Canadians turn to CBC News daily on TV, radio, digital and social media. Every word we publish, post and broadcast matters in the face of this voracious appetite for trusted news, context and the latest developments.

We cannot afford a misstep, and I’m grateful for the care and diligence that our staff bring to our reporting every day.

This is what public service journalism is all about.

A peek behind the curtain: How CBC staff are covering the pandemic

Some quick highlights from the past two weeks:

  • To manage the thousands of questions we’re getting from Canadians, we have set up a new email destination and will endeavour to answer as many as possible on all of our programs and platforms. Write to  COVID@cbc.ca
  • We launched a COVID-19 fact checking unit to expose falsehoods and disinformation around the global pandemic. See some of their early work here and here.
  • We made CBC News Network (NN) freely available on cable and digital to all Canadians, here and abroad.
  • We launched a COVID-19 newsletter. It’s already at 48,000 subscribers, our fastest-growing newsletter. A remarkable 70 per cent of users open this daily email. Sign up here.
  • On CBC Radio One, we have extended the Current with Matt Galloway until noon in most time zones in order to provide you with the latest information and updates.
  • Our coronavirus tracker is live. It will give you the latest data on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 as we know them, here and around the world.
  • Our CBC News app will launch an update soon that will contain a COVID-19 guide to help our local audiences access resources, local stories and key video about their community.
  • We’ve compiled local resources and updates for communities across Canada here.
  • We have partnered with Canada’s private broadcasters to pool video coverage of official press briefings across the country in order to space out the number of crews present at any one event.

As I noted in an earlier blog, we temporarily paused our local 6 p.m. newscasts last week and moved quickly to shore up our ability to offer local and national programming on CBC TV and CBC News Network.

That decision was the result of us broadcasting more live events, press conferences and daily video than ever in the history of CBC News, which caused a logjam at our centralized resource desk in Toronto at the exact same time staffing levels there had dropped on account of COVID-19.

We also wanted to get ahead of the staffing crunch we anticipate in the next several weeks as more of our staff in newsrooms across the country are forced to self-isolate, work from home and potentially fall ill.

We are working in new ways with far fewer people available to do the resource-intensive work of television production.

We promised to assess the situation daily and bring the supper hour newscasts back as soon as possible — a commitment we took seriously.

Since last week, we’ve stabilized demands on our resources desk and can now channel some of our social media live streams through new software. We also created redundant systems for our television control rooms and resource work areas.

While it’s certainly not business as usual in these times, we will begin a gradual, staggered return to local news on CBC TV at 6 pm. We started today with the return of a half-hour newscast in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Beginning tomorrow, we will broadcast a half-hour of Compass from P.E.I. and a half-hour Atlantic newscast from Halifax covering Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

We will take it one day at a time, continually adding back where we can while ensuring that nothing jeopardizes the essential services we intend to provide Canadians through to the very end of this crisis.

It’s important to remember that our commitment to local journalism on radio, TV, digital and social remains unchanged.

As always, thank you for your patience and continued support of CBC News at this unprecedented time.

CBC temporarily replaces local evening TV news amid coronavirus pandemic

About the author
Brodie Fenlon is editor in chief and executive director of daily news for CBC News.

Source CBC News Calgary

 

Have you got a news tip tied to the COVID-19 outbreak? You can reach CBC Calgary at calgarynewstips@cbc.ca or CBC Edmonton here.

Also see
The challenge of misinformation during disease outbreaks BMC Series blog
Physical distancing is here for a while – over 100 experts call for more safe walking and cycling space The Converstion

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