Alberta and COVID-19 – Facts Amid the Fears (‘Rona #25)

Mass and Social Media have done a good job of making people highly fearful of COVID-19. However, as we learn more about the virus, statistics and studies support a less fearful scenario.

The media dwells on case counts but it is becoming obvious that confirmed cases are mostly mild and don’t, in fact, represent the number of actual cases. Many cases may have gone undetected because people didn’t have symptoms or didn’t seek testing. (If officials don’t know how many cases there actually are, how can they say what the COVID death or survival rate is?)

Here are the statistics in Alberta that I think are more important and less fearful:

1. The most significant metric of Covid is how many people died. Covid deaths to date are a very small percentage of both the population and of Alberta deaths per year. Covid deaths are less than 2 times greater than the flu season of 2017-2018, which was a high severity flu season.
– Deaths from all causes in Alberta in 2019: 26,972
– Covid-19 deaths to August 9, 2020: 213 (.0036% of Alberta’s Population of 4,428,247)
– Lab Confirmed flu deaths in the 2017-2018 flu season: 92

2. Another important metric is the number of hospitalizations. The 2017-2018 flu season (high severity) had significantly more hospitalizations than Covid. Covid Hospitalizations peaked in late April and have not reached a level anywhere near the capacity of Alberta’s health-care system.
– Covid Hospitalizations: 598 (.0091% of the population)
– Hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season: 3047

3. The vast majority of Covid deaths were Seniors over the age of 80. The Average age at death was 83. Ninety one percent of the deaths were people over 70 years of age.
– Deaths 80+ years and older: 148
– Deaths 70-79 years of age: 46
– Deaths 70+ years and older: 194 ( 91% of the deaths)

4. Ninety percent of the people who died had 2 or more comorbidities. Officials have not said whether there is a distinction between death caused by Covid and death caused by the comorbidity but Covid was present.
– Deaths with 2 or more comorbidities: 179 (90% of the deaths)
Comorbidities include: Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD, Cancer, Dementia, Stroke, Liver cirrhosis, Cardiovascular diseases (including IHD and Congestive heart failure), Chronic kidney disease, and Immuno-deficiency.

5. Data and studies point to new assumptions that differ from those held at the beginning of the  Covid-19 pandemic:

– The perceived risk of transmission from contaminated surfaces is lower than it was earlier in the pandemic when not much was known about the coronavirus. (Linsey Marr, expert in the transmission of viruses, Virginia Tech, studies of the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces)

– The vast majority of transmission seems to be through close contact with an infected individual, primarily in an indoor setting. (Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease physician, Toronto General Hospital.)

Wearing gloves for extended stretches while touching various objects can lead to cross-contamination the longer you’re wearing them which winds up being less helpful than just washing or sanitizing your bare hands regularly. (Infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, associate professor, McMaster University in Hamilton.)

Playgrounds are probably one of the safer places for kids to congregate, if they have to congregate. And the reason why is that sunlight kills off the virus pretty effectively(Linsey Marr, expert in the transmission of viruses, Virginia Tech, studies of the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces)

– Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. (New England Journal of Medicine, Universal Masking in Hospitals)

– The absolute risk of infection from an exposed individual was 12.8% at 1 m and 2.6% at 2 m. (From a Study of observational papers, published in The Lancet, June 1, 2020)

– We therefore strongly support the calls of public health agencies for all people to wear masks when circumstances compel them to be within 6 ft of others for sustained periods. (New England Journal of Medicine, Universal Masking in Hospitals)

– Recent data suggests that the human body reacts no differently to this virus than to other respiratory viruses: it mounts immunity, and once achieved, the virus gets cleared and there is protection from future infection. (Dr. Neil Rau infectious diseases specialist, medical microbiologist, Oakville, Ont.)

– Increased infections, as long as they do not involve the elderly or medically vulnerable, are an unavoidable path to herd immunity. Our “flattening of the curve” has once again proven the axiom: “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Holding out for a vaccine is impractical and likely naive, in light of previous vaccine failures with other coronaviruses. (George Delgado, MD, Covid Planning Tools)

7 thoughts on “Alberta and COVID-19 – Facts Amid the Fears (‘Rona #25)

  1. None of my siblings will listen to herd immunity logic. It’s too risky: 1 is a doctor, 1 is hosptial pharmacist, another is patient intake-receptionist on floor for pediatric cancer and finally 1 works in IT at large mental health and addictions facility. All of their locations have dealt with covid patients.

    Then they must come home to sanitize themselves before looking after their children or aging in-law. (or my mother who is 86).

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    1. Jean, I think you’ve just summed up how different perspectives are depending on personal experience. I’m 70 years old with no comorbidities, living in a rural situation. Risk, to me, is very different than my 90 year old mother-in-law (who has been in lock down mode in a senior’s complex for months.)
      No one knows yet what combination of things will suppress or eliminate COVID – but herd immunity will play some role (either by a vaccine or by people getting the virus.) Treating COVID patients with certain drugs will also be important. COVID could end up being like the flu – seasonal and not all that serious except to the frail elderly. At this point, no one really knows.

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    1. “In a 2018 review of 11 recent studies on the durability of influenza vaccines, researchers concluded that effectiveness (of the flu vaccine) CAN vanish as soon as 90 days after vaccination.” However, it might last as long as 6 months in some people, apparently.

      The constantly mutating flu viruses that circulate each year, means those who want the best protection need to get the vaccine each year. They also need to realize that the vaccine does not necessarily stop them from getting the flu, but potentially reduces how sick they might get.

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    1. Thanks for posting the link. I follow Judith Curry’s blog too.
      I’m looking forward to knowing how Sweden fares when the dust settles. If the concept of “You can pay me now or pay me later” holds true, Sweden’s game plan will look good.

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