The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is transitioning into including more information on the hospital, and ICU capacities in the region when reporting COVID-19.

Due to the recent testing requirement changes by the Ontario government limiting who can get tested to those most vulnerable, daily cases counts are now being underestimated.

The recent testing changes by the province have prompted Dr. Kit Young Hoon, Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU to focus on the statistics of the virus.

“Now that we know case numbers are likely an underestimate, it’s more important to pay attention to the other types of statistics such as per cent positivity, hospitalizations, and deaths to get a true sense of the burden of illness for the region,” Young Hoon said.

Young Hoon will also be focusing on the overall trend of COVID-19.

“When I look at trends I look back as far as the summer so I can see what the trend was over the summer, fall, and into winter to really get a sense of what does this mean for us, and what is this pandemic bringing,” Young Hoon added.

The region's top doctor mentioned this method of reporting has been used in the past to report Influenza.

“For influenza, there was no case count on every single case but a close attention to the impact of the health care sector.”

Locally, the number of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the region is seven, and 13 deaths due to the virus since the pandemic began. From the week of January 3 to 9, 2022, the test positivity rate was 17.71 per cent.

The health unit will transition into this method of reporting later this week as they will add the information to their website.

On Monday (January 10, 2022) the province reported at least 2,467 COVID-19 patients are in hospital.

Young Hoon concluded by saying the health unit won’t be announcing each individual death or hospitalization but will be including the information on their website to give people a sense of risk, and impact of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the health unit reported 36 new cases of COVID-19 and brought the active case count down to 365, which as mentioned before is underestimated due to the recent changes to testing, and self-isolation requirements by the province.

Rapid tests are now being reserved for test-to-work policies to allow employees to return to work after illness, regular testing of workers in high-risk jobs, and for people who aren’t eligible for PCR tests.

The new recommendation includes unvaccinated workers who are required to undertake rapid antigen testing twice weekly to go into work but does not include the use of rapid testing for social events.

As well, if you’re symptomatic of COVID-19 but show negative results from two rapid tests, taken 24 to 48 hours apart, Ontario says you’re now asked to isolate until symptoms improve for at least 24 hours, or 48 hours if the symptoms include gastrointestinal illness.