71 COVID-19 cases linked to Calgary Stampede — but expert says that may be an underestimate

The Calgary Stampede and Alberta Health said Tuesday that 71 people contracted COVID-19 at the 2021 event — but that may be an underestimate, according to the province’s former top doctor.

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This represents about seven cases per day or a total of 0.01 per cent of 528,998 attendees, the Stampede said.

“This year, our community celebration was the first step in the safe return of live events for our city and our country,” said interim CEO Dana Peers in a news release.

“We believe Stampede 2021 was a success.

“We committed to operating safely, and these results show the effectiveness of the enhanced safety measures that were put in place,” including rapid testing and reduced park capacity.

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Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician advising the Stampede, said the festival went “above and beyond” with safety measures.

“In context, over the past two weeks, 749 cases were reported across Alberta. The low number of cases associated with the Stampede is not unexpected and reinforces the safe operating measures put in place along with the effectiveness of vaccines,” she said in the news release.

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Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications at Alberta Health, echoed Hu’s comments about vaccines and the “diligent way” organizers applied public health measures.

“While a small number of cases were identified, the Calgary Stampede so far does not appear to have been a significant driver of rising COVID-19 cases in the province,” he said via email.

‘Likely an underestimate’

But Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health says we haven’t seen the spike in cases yet. Dr. James Talbot presumes the 71 cases were from people who were tested and contact traced.

“Since we know some people are asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic and unlikely to have been tested, it is likely an underestimate — not to mention that activities associated with the Stampede, like bar hopping, would still cause cases but would not be traced as ‘was at the Stampede,'” Talbot said via email.

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The Stampede ran July 9-18.

“Cases tend to show up about two weeks after the exposure. The first would have started showing up on July 23 and the end was July 19, so those would continue to show up until Aug. 2,” Talbot said.

“After that, cases will continue to rise as the people exposed to those people get infected.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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