British Columbia Ambulance Service paramedics transfer a patient to the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, March 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

British Columbia Ambulance Service paramedics transfer a patient to the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Tuesday, March 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Look at hospitalizations, not recovery stats for COVID-19, B.C. professor says

Cases in hospital are a definitive count of people who have the novel coronavirus

Scientists who track the growth of pandemics say some figures provided by public health officials tell more about the spread of the novel coronavirus than others.

Daniel Coombs says the number of people admitted to hospitals tells him where COVID-19 stands in a community, a province or across the entire country.

The mathematics professor at the University of British Columbia’s institute of applied mathematics said those numbers best indicate the daily status of COVID-19.

The number of new positive tests and reports of how many people have recovered are less important, said Coombs, who has also conducted research on overdose prevention efforts during B.C.’s ongoing illicit opioid overdose epidemic.

“Of all the statistics being reported, I would probably put the least weight on the recovery rate,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s nice information. The numbers I’m really paying attention to at the moment are the numbers of people in hospital, and the number of people in intensive care units and the numbers of deaths.”

He said those in hospital are a definitive count of patients who have contracted COVID-19, adding that the numbers associated with testing are not as firm because there are more variables involved.

Prof. Junling Ma of the University of Victoria’s department of mathematics and statistics said providing the recovery rate figures would likely be viewed by the public as comforting, but scientists are looking at different data.

Ma, who studies the spread of infectious diseases in populations, said the daily toll of new cases provide information, but it’s dated.

“The numbers right now are not quite related to today’s new cases,” said Ma, adding the daily case updates are from people who were infected two weeks ago.

Ontario public health officials reported Monday a total of 4,347 cases and added 13 deaths for a total of 132. There were 589 people in hospital.

Quebec had 8,580 confirmed cases, 121 deaths and 533 in hospital.

B.C. had 1,266 confirmed cases with 140 people in hospital and 39 deaths.

READ MORE: Recovery rate tops 60% but B.C. records death of man in his 40s due to COVID-19

Two dozen people have died in Alberta, which has 1,348 confirmed cases.

Overall, Canada had 16,666 reported COVID-19 cases on Monday, with just over 3,600 cases listed as resolved.

Ma and Coombs said the figure for people listed as being infected with COVID-19 isn’t as helpful as some other numbers because not everybody is being tested. But hospitalization data provides actual head counts, they said.

In recent days, those receiving hospital care in B.C. has not spiked, indicating the province’s self-isolation and physical distancing measures may be slowing the spread of COVID-19, Coombs said.

“What we’re afraid of is seeing exponential growth of anything related to the disease in the province,” he said. “I feel like the hospitalization and ICU number is very important information and may be overlooked by everybody focusing on the number of new cases.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, credited good fortune and lessons learned from other provinces for early restrictive measures that appear to have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

B.C. learned from Quebec and Ontario, where spring break began two weeks earlier and travellers unknowingly brought back the disease with them, she said.

“A lot of the work we did early on this,” Henry added. “Part of it was the system that we had in place to detect cases in our communities, part of it was luck, and I believe part of it was timing.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusUBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo
Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

A&W on Ryan Road confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 at their restaurant and temporarily shut its doors. Google Maps photo
Courtenay restaurant temporarily closed due to COVID-19 exposure

It’s the latest business in the Valley to be affected by the virus

The CSRHD board moved closer to passing a budget with a $4.4 million cut to the tax requisition. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona hospital district moves on budget with tax cut

At $12.6 million, budget requisition represents drop of $4.4 million for current year

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton, standing at right, sits on steering committees of two organizations that are tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. File photo
Courtenay councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more… Continue reading

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Numerous Comox Valley projects get CERIP grants

Numerous Comox Valley projects have received grants through the Community Economic Recovery… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

(Delta Police Department photo)
B.C. youth calls 911 after accruing $7K in online gaming charges

‘Police spoke with the student about appropriate times to call 911’

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Vancouver Island theatre can’t give you movies, but it can serve popcorn

Sidney’s Star Cinema using popcorn sales to prop up COVID-plagued bottom line

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Most Read