True to its word, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is shifting the focus of the COVID-19 information it reports to the public.
Two weeks ago, Public Health Physician Dr. Carol Zimbalatti indicated a change was coming to reporting practices and those updates have now been reflected on the Health Unit's COVID-19 Status Report dashboard.
"There is a real shift away from the [case] numbers," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico said then. "The numbers are so large, it has spread so quickly that there is no way that we can have accurate numbers. It's not going to change what we do but those indices [hospitalizations, ICU admissions, number of patients ventilated] are the most important thing now."
"Case numbers are no longer a good representation of the local COVID-19 situation, so I won't be reporting on those," Zimbalatti said during Thursday's bi-weekly press conference. "The more important numbers relate to the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions, locally, because the goal of the current public health measures is to decrease the incidence of severe disease."
The Health Unit's dashboard is updated at 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and now includes more prominent and detailed information on hospitalizations and percent positivity — the percentage of COVID-19 PCR tests that are performed that come back positive — and reporting during future press conferences will also focus on that data. These changes are meant to shift the COVID-19 case indicators reported by the Health Unit from exposure-based demographics to data showing the severity of illness through hospital admissions and deaths.
Zimbalatti announced the reporting of outbreaks will also change due to their "vast number." Public service announcements will not be issued by the Health Unit for each outbreak "unless there is a specific reason to inform the public in this way. We are now only able to manage outbreaks in the highest-risk settings, such as hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, corrections facilities, and group homes."
Outbreaks and case information data will still be available via the dashboard. Zimbalatti explains this outbreak policy is similar to every other health unit in Ontario. "We don't have the capacity or the test results to be able to manage outbreaks in any other type of facility or environment."
The dashboard has also been updated to show vaccination statistics from age 5 and up, previously the Health Unit reported 12 and up.
Zimbalatti added it "will be continuously evaluated to ensure it accurately reflects the local COVID-19 situation."