PEI

P.E.I. could see 120 hospitalizations by June from COVID-19 even with strict restrictions

Even with strict control measures, P.E.I. could see 120 hospitalizations and nine deaths of COVID-19 by June 1, according to modelling projections released Tuesday.

It's been one month since P.E.I.'s first positive case was confirmed

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, presented the modelling for COVID-19 on P.E.I. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Even with strict control measures, P.E.I. could see 120 hospitalizations and nine deaths of COVID-19 by June 1, according to modelling projections released Tuesday.

The projections were presented by chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison and P.E.I. Premier Dennis King at a news briefing, and showed two scenarios.

With milder control measures, the model shows 14,000 hospitalizations and 900 deaths by June 1.

With the strict restrictions, the model predicts only 15 of those cases would require acute care beds and four critical care beds. With milder restrictions, that number soars to 3,250 acute care beds and 840 critical care beds. The province currently has 207 acute care beds available and 40 critical care beds.

It's been one month since P.E.I.'s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced. P.E.I. has 25 confirmed cases, 23 of which are considered recovered. There have been no hospitalizations.

"If only mild control had been put in place when we had our first case, so we hadn't implemented these public health measures, it's possible that the critical care beds that we have in this province would be full by today," Morrison said.

She said P.E.I. is still in the early phase of the epidemic and still has the opportunity to control it.

"If we let go today of all our measures, by mid-May we would exceed our capacity for critical care beds."

'Not crystal balls'

The modelling was put together with a group of experts, Morrison said, including the Atlantic Veterinary College, epidemiologists from the Chief Public Health Office and other government officials.They used data from P.E.I., Canada and other countries to model the spread of COVID-19 in the province. 

"Models are not crystal balls to predict what will happen, rather they help us understand what might happen to inform planning and support decision making," Morrison said. 

Prior to stronger public health measures, each infected person in Canada infected about 2.2 other people on average. Morrison said if each infected person infects fewer than one person on average, the epidemic will die out.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says the new normal will be a 'modified type of living at it’s very best.' (Ken Linton/CBC)

Morrison said the next steps in modelling is to assess scenarios for modifying the public health measures and testing strategies to control the epidemic without overwhelming health-care capacity.

"Some of them would be lifted if people can certainly continue to have physical distancing, for instance."

Anything we would look at first would look at moving around Prince Edward Island a little bit more freely than we have been without compromising the entry points— Premier Dennis King

She said the importation of the virus is still a big concern, so easing restrictions at points of entry — the airport, bridge and ferries — would not be the first measures to be lifted.

King said how and when restrictions will be lifted is an ongoing discussion.

"Obviously, anything we would look at first would look at moving around Prince Edward Island a little bit more freely than we have been without compromising the entry points," he said.

King said he is often asked what the "new normal" will look like when restrictions begin to be eased. He mused about retail stores opening with modifications, or even soccer games "without huddling."

"The realization we all have is the new normal, whatever that is, is going to be drastically different from what we would be preparing to do this time last year or any other year," he said.

"It will be a modified type of living at it's very best."

COVID-19: What you need to know

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 can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.

With files from Malcolm Campbell, Kevin Yarr and Jesara Sinclair

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