While Alberta’s current coronavirus case numbers might not be “terrifying,” the province’s chief medical officer of health suggested they may just be the “tip of the iceberg.”
In Thursday’s briefing with media, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said another 67 cases were added since Wednesday, bringing the provincial total to 486. More than 36,000 people have been tested for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, with updated statistics, there have been 27 recoveries, Dr. Hinshaw said.
Thirty-four of the cases out of the total number are suspected to be community spread.
“Three weeks ago, (first confirmed case) I said that COVID-19 would test our health system. To date, our health system has responded remarkably to that test,” said Dr. Hinshaw.
Few cases compared with number of tests
Dr. Hinshaw was asked about Albertans looking at these numbers and that they’re not seeing “the big, huge, terrifying outbreak that they maybe would have expected.”
She said there are still 33 confirmed community transmissions – so they don’t know where people acquired the disease.
“It’s clear that we have cases in the community that we have not detected,” she said.
“So those 33 cases are the tip of the iceberg.”
Dr. Hinshaw said the other cases that haven’t yet been detected are out in the community, potentially spreading the virus.
“That’s one thing that I would flag is the we really need to be cautious about these numbers. They’re only the portion that we have identified,” she said.
She said that’s why the public health action is being taken now. The virus is out there, there’s no vaccine for it and there’s no single treatment for it.
“And so if we don’t take action now, if we wait until we’re in a situation where our hospitals are overwhelmed, it’s too late,” Dr. Hinshaw said.
Curve appears to be flattening
The case numbers, however, don’t have the same surge as they do in other countries like Italy, Spain, or now the US, which now has the highest number of cases globally.
“Well, we aspire to be Singapore,” Dr. Hinshaw said.
When asked how Alberta’s numbers compare internationally, Dr. Hinshaw said there are multiple factors that go into that determination.
In countries like Singapore or Japan, they could trace the majority of cases to a single source – China.
“We also know that every country around the world that has experienced this virus has really unique circumstances in terms of their culture, how people interact with each other, what their social norms are, what kinds of resources and processes those different countries have in place,” Dr. Hinshaw said.
Right now, it’s too early to tell which country our infection arc is mimicking.
“I think it’s a bit early to say who we are tracking alongside, but just to say that we definitely – everything we’re doing is to avoid ending up in a situation like Italy, and to try to be more like those countries that were able to bend the curve,” she said.