As a fall wave of the pandemic appears to be building, infectious disease experts warn that the risk of BC is high and the government-reported COVID-19 death toll is misleading.
The fine print of the BC Center for Disease Control’s weekly COVID-19 Situation Report says that as of April, the province only includes deaths that occurred “within 30 days of the date of its first positive lab result for COVID-19.
Sarah Otto, a UBC professor of biomathematics and a senior fellow at the BC COVID-19 Modeling Group, said she has confirmation that if someone had a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 in August 2020, they got sick again in August this year. year and was hospitalized. , she tested positive and died from the virus, that person would not be counted, as it was more than 30 days since their first positive test.
“I think it’s very important that we don’t just say, ‘Oh, you’re reinfected, you don’t count in our hospital admissions, you don’t count in our deaths,'” Otto said. “Of course, if people are dying from COVID-19, we want to know about it. We want to know what the total mortality rate is for this disease.”
The 30-day reporting change has been criticized for potentially leading to an overcount of COVID-19 deaths, since someone who tested positive but died of another reason, such as a car accident or terminal illness, would count. But Dr. Bonnie Henry has clarified that even hospitalized patients with symptoms are only tested for the virus if their course of treatment changes.
A Canada-wide “COVID-19 Danger Index” by a collection of academics, researchers, data scientists and others rates BC as “serious” with a score of 9 out of 10, while the national rating is 7.
LONG-TERM REVIEW OF BC’S DEATH RATE
Last year, a study by the Royal Society of Canada found that the number of deaths in the province could be double what was reported, as BC has an exceptionally high excess mortality rate, meaning more deaths from those that would normally occur without a specific cause, such as a mass. disaster.
At the time, Henry tried to dismiss the finding as inaccurate and blamed a reluctance to seek medical attention for the excess deaths, but they continued: British Columbia has thousands of deaths with no attributed cause.
“What hasn’t been there is the political will to address that. To answer, ‘Why are all these people dying in this province and we don’t know what’s causing their deaths?’” said Tara Moriarty, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto.
“BC has always had a large gap between expected and unexplained excess mortality that is not explained by the number of reported COVID-19 deaths or toxic drug deaths, and many of these deaths are in people 65 and older.” .
The official count of COVID-19 deaths in the province is 4,370, according to the latest figures from the BC Center for Disease Control. The Public Health Agency of Canada has the deaths per capita in BC at 84 per 100,000 people, compared to 98 in Ontario and 195 in Quebec. But BC and Ontario have much higher excess mortality.
Moriarty says that both Quebec and Manitoba go to great lengths to count pandemic deaths, often doing post-mortem tests if someone had possible symptoms, resulting in very few excess deaths and higher COVID-19 death rates.
WHY NOT FIX THE PROBLEM?
Throughout most of the pandemic, the BC government and health officials have been criticized for keeping statistics, studies, and various COVID-19 data secret, despite calls to “show (their) work.”
The prime minister and health minister have repeatedly boasted that they weathered the pandemic better than most other promises, but BC has consistently tested for the virus well below the national average and enjoyed targeting infection rates as a result. lower.
At the same time, the medical examiner service is overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with drug toxicity deaths and heat-related deaths, making diagnosis difficult, even without the strain of enhanced detection of COVID deaths.
CTV News asked Moriarty if he thought it was pandemic politics, inaccurate accounting for toxic drugs, unreported hyperthermia cases, or insufficient resources that were leading to excess deaths.
“It’s probably a confluence of all those things, even though it’s obvious there’s a problem, and there are several research groups, including ours, that point to these obvious problems,” he replied. “It’s never a bad time to do the right thing.”
BC continues to have more excess deaths than any other province, per capita, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada: