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

Traffic on Cherry Creek Road is at a standstill as emergency vehicles deal with the aftermath of a collision on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY TONY SHUMUK)
Air ambulance called for motor vehicle incident near Port Alberni

Helicopter lands on field near Cherry Creek Road

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have teamed up with the WCGH Foundation in the past to deliver stuffed animals to patients at the hospital. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni Valley Bulldogs hope to score large donation for West Coast General Hospital

Challenge is part of a league-wide initiative to help give back to teams’ communities

A Port Alberni RCMP car blocks access to Anderson Avenue at Burde Street. (RCMP PHOTO)
Replica firearm prompts police incident in Port Alberni

RCMP had blocked off a neighbourhood while searching for ‘man with a gun’

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College to host practical nursing info session

10 seats are open in the Port Alberni region for practical nursing program

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP locate driver and vehicle, but are asking for video footage

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

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

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ in Metchosin

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read