Increased testing alone can't account for COVID-19 spike: experts

  • Connexions
  • 2021-01-04
  • 898

Though most jurisdictions are performing far more tests than they were earlier in the pandemic, the increase in testing alone doesn’t account for the increase in cases, experts stress.

In April, there were about 10,000 tests completed daily in Ontario. In September, the daily figures have been two to four times that amount.

But that comparison is not useful, said Bogoch.

“That was a time when we didn’t have very good testing capacity and people were being turned away from testing facilities and testing was largely restricted,” he said. “You have to take things with a grain of salt and look at other metrics when you’re comparing it to April.” 

Now, the number of positive cases is “far more reflective” of the actual burden of disease in our communities, said Bogoch, but the testing numbers don’t explain the rise in cases. Other pandemic metrics are equally concerning. 

OTHER WORRISOME METRICS 

The increased testing is providing a clearer picture of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s not a pleasing image. The greater testing capacity is revealing a real shift in the spread of the disease from the summer months into early fall, said Bogoch.

“Because we have a greater ability to have a better appreciation of what the ground truth is … we can watch this change over time. We can watch this change from July and August to the present day,” said Bogoch. 

One key factor is the shift in demographics. In the summer months, we saw young people, largely in their 20s, making up a disproportionate number of cases. This was a trend seen in many other countries too, countries that are now seeing a shift that Canada is just getting a hint of: COVID-19 is finding its way into communities of older people again.

“It’s such a contagious infection, it doesn’t stay restricted to a particular age cohort or particular geographic location for long,” said Bogoch. “That’s exactly what happened in many parts of the world and that’s what’s starting to happen here in Canada.”

It is expected that, as older age groups contract the disease more during the second wave, that hospitalizations will go up as a result. It has been well documented that people over the age of 60 are at greater risk of more severe health consequences, including death.

“If you look at just about every metric, it’s clear that there are a growing number of cases. This is not all explained by us doing more tests,” said Bogoch. “There really is a trend in the wrong direction, showing a growing number of cases and unfortunately we’re going to see a growing number of hospitalization associated with them.

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