By Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press, April 7, 2020.
VICTORIA – Scientists following the growth of pandemics say some figures from public health officials say more about the spread of the new coronavirus than others.
Daniel Coombs says that the number of people admitted to hospitals tells him where COVID-19 is located in a community, a province or across the country.
The math professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Applied Mathematics said these numbers best indicate the daily status of COVID-19.
The number of new positive tests and reports on the number of people who have recovered is less significant, said Coombs, who has also researched overdose prevention efforts during the illicit opioid overdose epidemic by courses in British Columbia.
“Of all the statistics reported, I would probably put the least weight on the recovery rate,” he said in a recent interview. “This is great information. The numbers I’m really paying attention to right now are the number of people hospitalized, the number of people in intensive care units and the number of deaths. “
He said inpatients are a definitive number of patients who have contracted COVID-19, adding that the numbers associated with the tests are not as firm as there are more variables involved.
Professor Junling Ma of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Victoria said that providing the recovery rate figures would likely be seen by the public as comforting, but scientists are examining different data.
Ma, who studies the spread of infectious diseases in populations, said that the daily number of new cases provided information, but that it was dated.
“The numbers right now are not entirely related to the new cases today,” said Ma, adding that the daily case updates came from people infected two weeks ago.
Ontario public health officials on Monday reported a total of 4,347 cases and added 13 deaths to a total of 132. There were 589 people in the hospital.
Quebec recorded 8,580 confirmed cases, 121 deaths and 533 in the hospital.
BEFORE CHRIST. had 1,266 confirmed cases with 140 people hospitalized and 39 deaths.
Two dozen people have died in Alberta, which has 1,348 confirmed cases.
Overall, Canada had 16,666 cases of COVID-19 reported on Monday, with just over 3,600 cases reported as resolved.
Ma and Coombs said that the number of people listed as COVID-19 is not as useful as some other numbers, because not everyone is tested. But hospitalization data provide real numbers, they said.
In recent days, those receiving hospital care in British Columbia has not experienced peak, indicating that measures of self-isolation and physical removal from the province could slow the spread of COVID-19, said Mr. Coombs.
“What we are afraid of is seeing exponential growth in everything related to the disease in the province,” he said. “I think hospitalization and the number of intensive care units is very important information and can be overlooked by everyone focusing on the number of new cases.”
British Columbia provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry blamed good fortune and lessons learned from other provinces for the first restrictive measures that appear to have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
BEFORE CHRIST. She learned from Quebec and Ontario, where the spring break started two weeks earlier and where travelers have brought the disease unknowingly.
“Much of the work we did at the start of this process,” added Henry. “Part of that was the system we had in place to detect cases in our communities, part of the luck, and I believe part of the time.”
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