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Data shows COVID-19’s much more prevalent and less deadly than previously thought

May 29, 2020   ·   0 Comments

As studies reveal COVID-19’s prevalence is exponentially more common than what was originally captured through conventional tests, Canadian health officials say this demonstrates the importance of antibody testing.

Through antibody tests it can be determined whether a person has already had COVID-19 and recovered, which is beneficial for recording the mild or asymptomatic cases that haven’t been tracked.

This can help to create a more accurate representation of what the actual case fatality rate is of those who catch the virus.

“Surveillance is the tip of the iceberg and it is possible that you’ve got 10 times as much or even more infection in the community than what we see with [testing] surveillance,” noted Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner.

“We know that from the zero prevalence studies that have been done in places such as New York.”

In New York state, the Department of Health completed an antibody prevalence study among 3,000 residents and estimated 14 percent of them had already caught COVID-19.

The same test showed that in New York City, one of the densest urban areas in North America, 21 per cent of residents had contracted the virus. This is 10 times what was originally identified through testing of suspected cases.

Another study that could provide insight into the virus’s potential prevalence in Canada was conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and University of Southern California.

The study found four percent of L.A. County residents had contracted COVID-19 instead of 0.3 percent, which was picked up from laboratory tests, meaning there’s 13 times more people who have fought off the virus in L.A than what’s being recorded.

However, the Public Health Agency of Canada indicates a roughly seven per cent crude case fatality rate for COVID-19 nationally – meaning their data shows seven out of 100 Canadians who catch the virus will die.

Meanwhile, laboratory confirmed cases in New Tecumseth recently spiked with an additional 12 from May 19-22, brining its total to 46. There are currently 15 active cases, either self isolating or hospitalized, as of press time.

Throughout Simcoe Muskoka there has been a total of 454 cases, of those about 75 percent have recovered and 71 individuals have died, according SMDHU data.

Of the 71 individuals who have passed away, 58 were over 80 years old, 33 were 65-79, and eight were 45-64. The median age of those deceased is 83.

So far, COVID-19 has killed approximately 0.0017 percent of Canada’s overall population and has killed 0.0044 percent of the world’s total population.

Interestingly, Sweden’s overall death rate is roughly 0.0040 percent and the country has remained open throughout the pandemic and kept their economy going. The United Kingdom has been in full lockdown since the start of the pandemic, yet shockingly has a 0.0055 percent rate of death, which is higher than Sweden.

Meanwhile, testing rates in Simcoe Muskoka are less than the provincial average but this is because there’s been less cases, Dr. Gardner noted.

“We’ve had low infection rates compared with the province – half the rate – we know that we’ve saturated with testing sufficiently to meet standards so what we call our test positivity rate – it’s three percent,” he explained.

This means three percent of cases are coming back positive, which is the provincial average and the level of testing Ontario says is adequate to accurately capture active cases of COVID-19 in the community.

While some residents are concerned reopening is moving to fast, Dr. Gardner said the proper protections are in place to address a potential resurgence as infection controls are relaxed.

“I think we need to ever be on guard for this… that possibility exists and therefore we need to be very careful about relaxing our controls,” he noted.

“Even when we relax the controls on business locations or public venues, we have to continue to maintain the physical distancing.”

Dr. Gardner said Simcoe Muskoka residents should be proud of their work to “flatten the curve” and avoid a “disastrous overtake of the healthcare system.”

Throughout the region, case counts appear to be levelling out but not yet declining.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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