Ontario’s chief medical officer says the province will soon change the way COVID-19-related deaths are reported in an effort to identify potential accidental cases.
Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, made the remarks during his weekly COVID-19 briefing Thursday.
A reporter asked Moore about the cause of the recent spike in COVID-19-related deaths in Ontario, whether it’s Delta or Omicron, and whether there are any trends regarding vaccination status or the age group of individuals who die.
Ontario has reported 3,630 people with COVID in hospital, 500 in the intensive care unit.
“We’re trying to do the same analysis and get answers to the questions I just asked. A lot will be from the previous delta wave that was so virulent and had higher mortality rates than Omicron,” Moore said.
“But what we also see is that Omicron affects many people at once because of its high transmissibility, we’re going to have more deaths associated with it, but a very small percentage of the total cases.”
Moore also noted that the county recently began distinguishing between those hospitalized with COVID-19-related illness and accidental admission.
The data showed that nearly 45 percent of hospital admissions related to COVID are “accidental” – meaning they were admitted to hospital for a reason other than the virus but tested positive for COVID during screening. Nearly 20 percent of intensive care admissions related to COVID fall into the same category, Moore said.
When the hospitalization data was first released, Health Minister Christine Elliott noted that it “does not change the critical situation in Ontario hospitals” but provides additional context.
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“Some of these deaths may be tangentially related to COVID-19, so we are trying to get better public data and better analysis to understand the true mortality rate associated with both Omicron and Delta as we go forward,” he said.
We recently met with the head of coroner’s office. We will send notes to hospital partners to ensure that death is appropriately documented if it was related to or caused by COVID-19, to make it clear to the public the cause of death.”
It is not clear exactly how the death can be considered accidental or directly caused by COVID-19.
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The government previously announced its intention to consider changing its reporting on COVID-19 deaths.
On January 7, Alexandra Helkin, a spokeswoman for Health Secretary Christine Elliott, sent a statement to reporters.
“Given the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we are evaluating whether there is a need to update reporting to distinguish accidental and causal deaths related to COVID-19, similar to the ongoing work in hospital reporting,” she said.
“For example, we have heard anecdotal evidence of a small number of individuals receiving palliative care in pooled care settings who unfortunately contracted COVID but not necessarily from the virus.
“While any change in reporting will not change the fact that these individuals tragically lost their lives, it is important that we be transparent and provide the public with as much context as possible.”
On Thursday, Ontario reported 35 more COVID-related deaths, bringing the province’s death toll to 10,480.
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