Coronavirus Canada Updates: Bad COVID-19 data in Alberta could lead to dubious decisions

Coronavirus Canada Updates: Ottawa sees fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19 in one-day dip
Coronavirus Canada Updates: Ottawa sees fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19 in one-day dip

Good decision-making comes from good data.

But as Alberta struggles to contain an exponentially growing wave of COVID-19 cases, good data is becoming harder to come by.

For months, Alberta has been touting its ABTraceTogether smartphone app, a tool meant to help contact tracing teams find people who’ve potentially been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

But as Postmedia first reported on Nov. 14, the app is often unable to detect the presence of other ABTraceTogether-equipped phones nearby.

Since then, it’s been reported the problems are even more widespread than first thought.

All that, plus lacklustre uptake, could explain why the app has only identified 19 cases among 70 close contacts since it was rolled out back in May.

The app’s troubles are not helped by the fact Albertans are still in contact with many people — perhaps too many, even as public officials encourage us to keep our social bubbles as small as possible.

Earlier this week, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 are reporting some 15 close contacts.

With daily additional case counts now typically north of 500 — closer to 1,000 on several occasions — this means contact tracers would theoretically have to track down an additional 7,500 to 15,000 new people every day to warn them of potential exposure.

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