THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO ~~~~~~ October 19, 2020 (LSN) I am tired, mentally fatigued, irritated and frustrated as I listen to mainstream media’s unrelenting hype and fear mongering over COVID-19. It is never good news, its always bad, despite the fact that COVID-19 has a 99.5% survival rate and the mortality rate, in Canada has been declining since it peaked in the spring of this year. The constant media barrage has amped up again as we move into the second wave of this “deadly virus”. Kenora, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, Ontario
Government can only manage risk, not eradicate it. As a society, hysteria seems to have overtaken our rational powers. Somewhere, someone decided that our goal with respect to COVID-19 should be to have zero tolerance of death.
But this extreme and unattainable ambition only applies to COVID-19 and not, for example, to pneumonia, which kills thousands of elderly Canadians, year after year. I have not heard you rail about that. Not a wo
Media Ignore Statistics to Paint a Dire Picture
So we have the media eagerly and yet, at the same time, gravely rhyming off rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and discussing fears that medical resources will be overwhelmed and the need for another lockdown. What they fail to mention is that the numbers are rising largely because of an 800 percent increase in testing since the spring. At the same time they gloss over the fact that this uptick was to be expected, as kids finally began returning to school, more businesses and facilities re-opened and more people returned to work in these businesses.
They are also quick to note with the rising numbers, there has been a large increase of positive test results among people under the age of forty. What they neglect to point out is that that most people under the age of forty who do test positive for COVID-19, present with mild symptoms, if any at all, and seldom require hospitalization and thus will not overwhelm medical resources. Nor do they discuss the fact that while there are new COVID-19 cases, there has been a steady decline in deaths and hospitalizations since they peaked in the spring. As of October 9th, the number of people under the age of forty requiring hospitalization due to COVID-19 make up just 17 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Given the current case numbers that amounts to less than 400 people over the course of nine months. We also don’t know how long of a hospital stay they required, was it one day, a week, a visit? We don’t know, or at least aren’t being told.
Statistics Don’t Lie
It is true that media certainly have made note of the fact that it is primarily the elderly that are more severely impacted by COVID-19, particularly if they have underlying health issues. Yet, they really don’t underscore this fact with any further detail or context when that information is readily available on the Health Canada website as outlined in the chart below which is an epidemiological summery of the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Canada by age cohort as of September 6th, 2020.
Elderly Account for Vast Majority of COVID-19 Deaths
According to these statistics, as of September 6th, 2020, 9011 people in Canada died due to COVID-19, or they at least had tested positive for COVID-19 when they died (which is another issue regarding COVID-19 mortality statistics). As the chart indicates, to that date, a total of 80 people under the age of 50 have died from COVID-19 and another 914 people, between the ages of 50-69, have succumbed to the virus. Most of these people likely had underlying health conditions that may have increased their risk. We will never know if that was, in fact the case, because due to “privacy concerns”, hospitals, public health authorities and various other medical officials, will not release this type of information.
As for COVID-19 deaths in the elderly, the math is pretty simple. Of those 9011 COVID-19 deaths, 8,070 COVID-19 occurred in people over the age of 70— that is 89.6 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada. If you look further at that chart you will see that 71.4 percent of those 8,070 deaths occurred in those aged 80 plus.
Long Term Care Facilities
According to the Health Canada statistics the bulk of those elderly deaths occurred between late March and early May, when reports of devastating outbreaks of the virus in long-term care facilities first began to emerge. Many of these facilities, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, were poorly managed, crowded, understaffed and alarmingly unprepared to protect their residents and control the spread of the virus*. They were essentially the perfect breeding ground for the virus.
Another element of the COVID-19 deaths in these long-term care facilities is that very few residents were hospitalized for treatment because when outbreaks occurred in these residences they went into immediate lockdown and quarantine. As a result the majority of residents who came down with the virus remained in the facility to receive whatever medical treatment available on site or perhaps provided by public health authorities. Some recovered, but many others died in these homes, alone without the comfort of family members at their side. These people did not overrun hospital emergency rooms or ICUs, putting an extra strain on these facilities.
No official statistics have ever been provided on the number of deaths attributed to this debacle, but estimates indicate that at least 81 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada, to date, occurred in long term care facilities. We also know that positive COVID-19 cases are again on the rise in these facilities as we enter the second wave. This is troubling, given that governments, at all levels, pledged to make it a priority to ensure these facilities would be better equipped to safeguard their residents when the second wave hit.
*This was partly due to the fact that neither the provincial or federal governments, when first hearing reports of this virus emerging in China, and spreading, thought to make it a priority to ensure such facilities had proper preparation and mitigation measures in place to protect their vulnerable residents.
The number of hospitalizations of infected people provides a good indicator of the severity of COVID-19 infections. Health Canada provides statistics on the number of hospitalizations, as well as admissions to ICU and patients requiring a ventilator. Between January (when COVID-19 first arrived in Canada) and September 26, there have been 148,438 confirmed cases, out of a population of 37.5 million. That is an infection rate of 0.4 percent. Of those 148,438 confirmed cases, 12,000 required hospitalization (9 percent). We do not know the length of time spent in the hospital, which would be another indicator of severity. Of those 12,000 hospitalized of 2,440 were admitted to ICUs, and of that number, 470 required ventilation. So out of a population of 37.5 million, some 3,000 people required critical care for COVID-19, which amounts of 0.008 percent of Canada’s entire population. As of October 9th, 2020, based on Health Canada’s statistics, there has been no significant increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, despite the rising number of positive cases. And as with the long-term care facilities, if governments expected a second wave, why were additional hospital facilities, such as temporary Emergency Rooms and ICUs, not part of their response planning on a going forward basis, particularly in “hot zones”.
Why are COVID-19 Policies Based on Case Numbers Rather Than Morbidity Rates
So, it is clear that the mortality rate in Canada, due to COVID-19 is very low, even in the highest risk groups, based on the statistics laid out in the Health Canada chart. Yet, the current public health policies related to the pandemic are not based on mortality rates, but rather on the number of cases, or positive test results, regardless of their severity. This has resulted in the lockdowns, business closures, school closures and instructions to limit social interactions, even with family. It is also the reason for ongoing restrictions for businesses that were allowed to be open, or re-open, to stay in business and the changes in classrooms as kids return to school. We also don’t know if there will be more delays in routine and even essential medical procedures in preparation for another “onslaught” of COVID-19 cases.
By: Roxanne Halverson
Former TBT anchor and reporter
Living in Ottawa (retired RCMP Senior Emergency Management Planner
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