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Alberta coronavirus cases could reach 800,000, said Premier Jason Kenney

In the province’s ‘probable’ coronavirus scenario, as many as 800,000 Albertans could be infected with COVID-19, there could be more than 400 deaths, with a peak in mid-May.

He also said the triple whammy of an economic shutdown, COVID-19 and the collapse of world oil prices could see the province hit a staggering $20 billion annual deficit.

In his televised address to Albertans Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney outlined the potential coronavirus scenarios. He said the models “are not a done deal.”

“I want Albertans to see them as a challenge,” he told a TV audience.

“Those numbers are not inevitable. How this actually plays out – how many people are infected, how many die, whether we overwhelm our health care system – all of that depends on us and our choices.”

The coronavirus scenarios

In the probable scenario, Premier Kenney said we could see the 800,00 infections and between 400 and 3,100 deaths.  In a less likely ‘elevated’ scenario, the province could see 1 million infections and between 500 and 6,600 deaths.

In a follow up after the televised address, the Premier’s Office provided further context to the numbers quoted in the speech.

“The numbers reported by countries are their detected cases who are tested or go to hospital. These are the tip of the iceberg,” wrote the premier’s press secretary, Christine Myatt, via email.

“Alberta’s modeling estimates the total cases we may see in Alberta – total cases are the entire iceberg – both those that are tested and diagnosed, and those that have mild illness and would never be detected.

“For this reason, the numbers in the Alberta model are higher than what is being reported in countries who have been hit hard by COVID.”

Without social distancing and other public health orders in place, Premier Kenney said as many as 1.6 million Albertans could be infected and 32,000 deaths.

“Albertans won’t let that happen,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the province announced 25 new cases of the coronavirus and two new deaths. That brings the Alberta totals to 1,373 cases and 26 deaths.

The lower number of cases is the likely result in only having done roughly 1,200 tests in the past 24 hours. Recently, after a testing material snafu last weekend, they were doing 4,000 tests daily.  

Medical supplies and equipment situation

Monday’s briefing was where Premier Kenney first mentioned the Tuesday address to Albertans. He said the numbers they provided would be further broken down and explained Wednesday during the daily briefing.

They would also include an update on medical supplies and the capacity of the health system.

At that time, he also said that the province is “in good shape” with respect to personal protective equipment. He said based on current projections, that we’d have a one month’s supply of the N95 respirator masks.

“We are constantly seeking more suppliers and ordering from suppliers around the world,” he said.

Alberta’s relaunch strategy

Among the key elements of Alberta’s strategy when rules can be relaxed, Kenney said, will be to have a mass, rapid testing system in place to execute as many as 20,000 tests daily.

They also want to expand the effort to contact trace those people who are infected.

(In a previous interview, Dr. Richelle Schindler said that public contact tracing is one of the most important tools to stop the spread of the virus.)

Kenney said he would push for better border controls, stricter quarantine controls and encourage the use of masks in places where people congregate.

And then how to dig the economy out of a pit.

In a conference with oil and gas executives, Premier Kenney said Alberta’s unemployment rate could hit 25 per cent.

He said they’d continue their advocacy for oil and gas in the province. Premier Kenney outlined the supports they’ve put in place to this point, totalling $12 billion.

“We will do more, including a huge new investment in job-creating infrastructure projects,” said Premier Kenney.

Kenney asked Albertans to pull together to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Keep in touch with your loved ones, and keep an eye out for your friends and neighbours,” he said.

“We will get through this storm together.”

Opposition leader Rachel Notley was expected to provide a response after Premier Kenney’s address.