Coronavirus: Alberta’s R value to be publicly posted starting Monday

Alberta Health tells Global News that the R value will now be posted online each Monday, making public the metric Premier Jason Kenney said will be used to assess new measures announced earlier this week.

The online reporting will be the first public disclosures of the R value outside of the daily updates with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

On Tuesday, Kenney said the metric to re-evaluate new restrictions announced will be the rate of the virus’s transmission, also known as the reproduction number or R value.

READ MORE: What the coronavirus reproduction number is, and why we should keep an eye on it

The R value explains how many people a positive case will infect. For example, if the R value is one, then one person will infect one other person, who infects one other person.

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An R number of two means one person infects two others who go on to infect two others each. An R number of 0.5 means fewer people will become infected than the previous generation of cases.

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Kenney said Tuesday that the province’s R value must be below one by Dec. 15 for measures to be lifted; he said ideally the R value would be 0.8.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

As of Nov. 22, the R value in Alberta stood at 1.12.

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Developmental biologist Gosia Gasperowicz said the R value is a good metric for making decisions, but it should also be coupled with daily case numbers.

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“It’s an average number and, in the case of COVID, R is not very democratically distributed.

“So 20 per cent of people are responsible for 80 per cent of transmission,” she said.

Read more: ‘Majority’ of Canadians should be vaccinated against coronavirus by September: Trudeau

Paul Veugelers, an epidemiology professor at the University of Alberta, said the pandemic can come to an end if the R value is below one.

However, he said the timeline to bring the R value down will depend on the behaviour of people and whether they comply with public health measures.

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Veugelers said that an R value of simply one will not be enough to ease the stress on the healthcare system.

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“If we have an R value of one then basically we are more or less at status quo.

“The number of infections will not come down quickly. Also hospitalizations will not come down. ICU will not come down,” he said.

“We want this pandemic to come to an end or to be less severe. To get there, we need an R value of below one.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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