Ontario is changing the way it reports COVID-19 data and will exclude deaths where a person was infected but the virus did not cause or contribute to the fatality.
Officials said the change will take effect Friday and noted that deaths unrelated to COVID-19 were “significantly higher” in the most recent wave of the virus.
The province said Wednesday that deaths due to causes unrelated to COVID-19 made up eight per cent of all fatalities in the fifth wave. Since the pandemic began, around 4.2 per cent of fatalities involving people infected with COVID-19 were not related to the virus, officials said.
Around 84 per cent of deaths in people with COVID-19 were either caused by the virus or it contributed to the death, officials said.
For a portion of the deaths, the cause is missing or unknown.
“Due to the Omicron variant’s high transmissibility, Ontario has seen a larger number of cases than previous waves,” a slide deck from the government said.
“The Omicron variant required a review of our reporting, and we have already made changes to clarify between hospitalization and ICU admissions reporting to stratifying those admitted for COVID-19 versus admission for non-COVID reasons and tested positive with COVID.
“Data from other jurisdictions suggested that with the very high Omicron case counts, some people with COVID-19 infection were dying from causes unrelated to their COVID-19 infection.”
Officials said the reporting will be updated and will be consistent with categorization from the World Health Organization.
Data reporting will also be updated to show rates of death based on vaccination status. Officials noted that those who are not fully vaccinated have a 20 times higher risk of dying compared with those who have received a booster.
Officials said due to PCR testing restrictions, the province is also “no longer able to accurately track” the total number of cases and as a result will stop reporting on the reproductive number.
Per cent positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admissions will continue to be reported.
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