LILLEY: Acting like we’re all at the same risk from COVID makes no sense


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While there were no new COVID deaths to report in Ontario, 489 deaths were taken off the total COVID death count for the province.

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It’s all due to Ontario following standard practices elsewhere and not counting people who die with COVID but not from it.

Today’s Ontario COVID data update shows exactly why so many of us have been calling for better data from the Ford government for so long.

This past Saturday saw 21 deaths reported, but three of them had a missing or unknown cause of death. In six deaths, COVID was listed as a contributing factor but not the cause of death, meaning only 12 of the 21 deaths were definitively from COVID.

It’s the same in our hospital system.

Less than half of the people listed as COVID patients in Ontario’s hospitals were admitted due to COVID, while 53% were admitted for other reasons and then tested positive.

I was one of those cases while back; I ended up in the emergency room for another matter and tested positive while I was there. I had no clue that I had COVID, but it was added to the count.

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In our intensive care units, the percentage admitted for other reasons but now testing positive is growing. In January, about 82% of COVID-positive ICU patients were admitted due to their COVID symptoms, now that’s at 77% and falling.

In the age of Omicron, where the virus is highly transmissible even for the 91% of us who are fully vaccinated, this information about whether a patient is admitted for or with COVID matters even more.

How many people who were listed over the past several months as dying from COVID actually died of something else while having no or mild symptoms because they were vaccinated?

We now know that over the course of the pandemic, 489 deaths, or 4% of the total, have been removed from the list. That’s a figure likely to grow.

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We need more data — not less — and we need to start discussing it in intelligent ways.

For most of the pandemic, media outlets have been big on telling the public how many new cases there were, but little time was spent putting those case numbers in context. That lack of context falls partly on those of us in the media, but also on the poor quality of data we’ve been offered by the government.

Now that the data we have access to is improving, it needs to be shared widely and wisely.

There are reports of a new wave of COVID hitting China at the moment, despite the country reporting a vaccination rate just slightly higher than Canada’s.

With just 1,437 new cases reported on Monday, the Chinese government ordered 51 million people into a new lockdown as part of their COVID Zero policy. We may well see cases rise again here, and we may see new variants, but we cannot follow the policy now being pursued in China.

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Any government reaction to future case increases needs to learn from our experiences with an eye to protecting those who are vulnerable, not shutting down society. Use the data before us to make better decisions.

Those over the age of 60 only account for 16% of the 1.1 million COVID cases in Ontario, but make up nearly 92% of all deaths. Those over 80 account for 4% of all cases, but 58% of all deaths.

Ontario doesn’t release data on the underlying conditions of those who died with COVID, but Alberta’s health system has reported that 75% of those who died from COVID in that province had three or more underlying conditions. Factors such as age, obesity, heart and kidney disease all increase the likelihood of severe outcomes.

Acting as if everyone is at risk from COVID makes no sense at all.

As we hit the two-year mark, let’s move forward in dealing with this virus, not backward.

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