EDMONTON -- As the number of COVID-19 cases mounts in both Canada and Alberta, we're getting a clearer picture of how the pandemic is spreading and how the situation here compares to other jurisdictions.

While the daily case count announcements from provincial health authorities are the most eye-catching figures, there's other important numbers beyond newly confirmed cases, including hospitalizations and testing data.

This page will be updated daily as new information on Alberta, Canada and international cases of COVID-19 is made available. 

Starting the week of June 29, the province began providing daily data updates Monday through Friday and not on weekends and holidays.

Follow the links below or scroll down to see how the COVID-19 situation is changing in Alberta as the pandemic continues.

HOW IS COVID-19 GROWING IN ALBERTA? 

The province's daily case count announcement is among the most prominent COVID-19 statistics.

The number of new cases represents the number of patients who are newly infected with the coronavirus. The number of active cases in the province can go up or down depending on the number of new recoveries on a given day.

In simple terms, a recovery is someone who contracted COVID-19 but didn't die due to the virus. A recovery is not necessarily synonymous with a return to full health as many patients report severe symptoms long after their infections have cleared.

Recoveries are defined by Alberta Health Services as follows:

  • A return to health after 14 days of isolation for those with COVID-19 but who experienced only mild symptoms.
  • If hospitalized due to COVID-19, anyone who does not require additional hospitalization or treatment in the 10 days after they left the hospital.
  • If tested, such as a health care worker, two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Daily case counts include both lab-confirmed and probable cases. The case count for a given day is regularly revised to more accurately reflect probable cases that were either later confirmed or determined not to be related to COVID-19. 

WHERE IS COVID-19 HITTING ALBERTA THE HARDEST?

Since early April, the province has provided a geographic breakdown for both its five health zones as well as individual cities and community-level subzones within those cities. 

Alberta Health Services divides the province into five health zones: Calgary, Central, Edmonton, North and South.

A map of those zones can be seen here, and it's important to note that the Edmonton and Calgary zones cover an area significantly bigger than the cities they are named after.

Sizable daily jumps in the new number of cases can't necessarily be attributed to the virus growing, as testing volume and reporting time also influence the data.

For more local data, the province's COVID-19 statistics page has an interactive map showing cases by city and community.

HOW MANY COVID-19 PATIENTS ARE IN HOSPITAL?

Tracking hospitalizations is an important indicator of how severely the pandemic is affecting Albertans as well as how the coronavirus is taxing the province's health care system. 

Alberta has the capacity for 295 intensive care unit beds and nearly 8,500 total beds, according to the province's modelling released in April. 

So far, the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions have both remained well below those maximum capacities.

Hospitalization data is often retroactively updated by the province as individual hospitals report data at varying times and speeds. 

HOW IS ALBERTA TESTING FOR COVID-19?

Alberta has been the top province in Canada measured by per capita COVID-19 testing since near the start of the pandemic. 

More than one million Albertans have been tested for the coronavirus so far.

Determining test positivity percentage is not as simple as dividing the daily number of positives by the daily number of tests. A test administered will count for statistics of one day, and a positive result would be recorded in the daily statistics between two and seven days later given the processing time to evaluate a test. 

It's also important to distinguish between test volume (the number of tests completed) and the number of people tested as patients can be tested more than once. Each person tested is counted only once in the number of people tested statistics.

The province has made nine notable shifts in policy around who can be tested.

  • March 23: The province announced testing was being focused on at-risk populations and health care workers. At the same time, testing returning travellers was deprioritized to only those showing symptoms. 
  • April 7: Testing is opened to any symptomatic individuals in the Calgary Zone, which had seen significant spikes in cases in March and April. 
  • April 13: Testing was expanded to any Albertan with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. 
  • April 17: The province announced it would start testing all staff and residents of continuing care facilities for COVID-19 regardless of whether or not they show symptoms.​
  • May 4: The testing criteria was expanded again to include anyone exeperiencing headache, muscle or joint aches, fatigue or severe exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained loss of appetite, loss of sense of smell or taste, or pink eye.
  • May 11: The province opened testing to asymptomatic residents of the Calgary zone who work outside their home. Testing is to be done on a first-come, first-serve basis for up to 1,000 asymptomatic residents each day. The policy was in place until May 18.
  • May 29: The province announces all Albertans, including those who are asymptomatic, were eligible to be tested.
  • October 13: the province announced it was moving to an appointment-only testing model. And, on
  • October 20, the province paused testing for asymptomatic individuals with no know exposure to infected persons.

HOW IS COVID-19 BEING SPREAD IN ALBERTA?

The province divides the ways COVID-19 is being spread into three categories: travel-related cases, spread via a known source, and spread via an unknown source, or community transmission. 

Initially, travel-related cases were responsible for many of Alberta's new COVID-19 cases. But since travel restrictions came into effect, the growth in the number of travel-related cases has largely flattened since early April.

Close contact with individuals known to be carrying the virus remains the most common way of spreading COVID-19 in Alberta.

Suspected community transmitted cases, where the carrier isn't immediately known, are an important indicator of how the coronavirus is spreading in a community as well as how successful measures like physical distancing have been in limiting transmission.

Identified cases are investigated by AHS and classified into one of the three categories. The classification can change pending further investigation.

WHICH AGE GROUPS HAVE BEEN MOST SUSCEPTIBLE TO COVID-19?

Since the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 has affected the elderly more than other age groups as seen in high death and active case counts. 

But, younger age groups are not immune, with cases among Albertans under the age of 40 rising to form a majority of all active cases in the province for much of the summer.

HOW DOES COVID-19'S GROWTH IN ALBERTA COMPARE TO ELSEWHERE?

Conclusions drawn from comparing provinces are somewhat limited by widely differing testing volumes and practices among provinces, but the raw data does allow from some contrast.

The above graphs rank provinces by the number of tests they administer and how many confirmed cases they have, both adjusted for population.

Tests are also not without their own biases. More tests will produce more positives, and it's easier to test everyone in a less populous province.

Rates adjusted for population provide a snapshot of the COVID-19 situation on any given day, but experts say the growth of the virus, which is unrelated to population size, is also an important indicator of future trends.

The below graphs display Alberta's coronavirus curve alongside other provinces and other countries. Both use a logarithmic scale to better depict the exponential growth of COVID-19.