B.C. government transitioning to weekly COVID-19 data reporting

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Two years into the pandemic, the B.C. government says it will transition from daily to weekly COVID-19 reporting.

Starting today (April 7), COVID-19 dashboards and reports will be updated on a weekly basis, according to a media release by the Ministry of Health.

The new reports will focus on key measures of severity and trends over time, similar to how other communicable diseases are reported. Data will be updated Thursday afternoons and will provide information from the past full week, from the previous Sunday to Saturday, according to the ministry.

The new COVID-19 reporting approach is part of a shift away from a “case-management” model to a “surveillance” approach that focuses on identifying meaningful changes in COVID-19 trends over time across different parts of B.C., according to the ministry.

Cases will be based on an individual’s first PCR test through the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

In the current system, case counts include both laboratory data and health authority line lists.  The latter will be discontinued with the updated approach. Comparisons between the two systems indicate that the number of reported cases show similar trends over time, according to the Ministry of Health.

Hospitalization reporting will leverage the hospital occupancy data that is currently used to report on “currently in hospital” for all hospital metrics.

The weekly situation report will move to reporting on critical care, in line with the COVID-19 dashboards. 

Death reporting will change to rely on data from Vital Statistics, the agency that registers all deaths in B.C. and reports on death statistics reported by BC Coroners Service. In the current system, each death in someone with a documented COVID-19 infection was reviewed to determine if the death truly resulted from the COVID-19 infection.

In the new system, all deaths that occurred within 30 days of an individual’s positive lab result will be reported, regardless of whether the underlying cause of death was determined to be COVID-19 or not. This broader definition means that some deaths will be reported that are not related to COVID-19. Knowing when a death occurred can take, on average, four to six days to enter the system. The new approach relies on more preliminary information from an automated data linkage and discontinues the manual, resource-intensive approach, according to the Ministry of Health.

Mortality data will be reviewed retrospectively once the cause of death is reported by Vital Statistics in order to better understand the true scope of COVID-19 mortality. Cause of death information takes, on average, four to eight weeks to enter the system.

Reporting of deaths in this system is different from the previous system and is not comparable, the ministry said. A new separate death data stream will be started while access to the previous records will remain. 

The dashboards and reports will continue to track case data, including outbreaks and variants, and vaccine reports.

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