Where are we at in dealing with COVID19? Nunavut isn’t saying
Health Department should release more data on cases, hospitalization
More than 750 days into this pandemic, where is Nunavut exactly when it comes to COVID-19?
In an interview with Nunatsiaq News this week, the territory’s chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said the kind of key indicators that would provide a true picture — hospitalization rates, lab-confirmed cases, medevac trips taking COVID-19 patients for treatment — haven’t changed much since most public safety restrictions were lifted a month ago.
Yet also this week, the Government of Nunavut confirmed the eighth death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
So where are we in turning the corner on this pandemic? Residents deserve to know.
In early April, Nunavut’s Health Department said it would no longer release COVID-19 data related to cases and vaccination rates, outside of the usual requirements for reportable diseases. In fact, it should release more hard data. If it has the information, why wouldn’t it?
For starters, how many people are currently in hospital, and what do hospitalization trends look like since the start of the year?
How about the trend in confirmed cases since January?
Five weeks since the lifting of restrictions, are cases on an upward trend again? That’s important to know, since this is an illness we can protect ourselves against to some extent, based on our actions like masking and avoiding crowds.
Canada is in the midst of a sixth wave of COVID-19 and the latest dominant variant of the virus appears to be far more transmissible than previous ones, but generally causes less-severe illness.
Granted, full testing is limited now. Still, of the known positive cases, the department should reveal what age group is hardest-hit right now.
It’s not necessarily older people. While they are generally more vulnerable because of their age and in some cases their medical conditions, their rate of vaccination is higher than that of most younger age groups.
So who is getting sick?
Issuing blanket statements to the public urging more vaccination is a good thing. Even better, though, would be if the Health Department told us which age groups are less vaccinated, and targeted that message toward them.
Vaccination, especially for those who have received their third-dose booster shots, and for people 50 and older a second booster, has been proven to reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization.
And yet, the Health Department hasn’t told us how many of the confirmed cases it sees now involve people who are vaccinated and those who are not.
Looking to the federal government’s website isn’t very helpful. It lists a total of 3,531 cases in Nunavut and seven deaths (it hasn’t updated to include the latest one yet).
Interestingly, the number of Canadians who have died from COVID-19 — 40,169 — outnumbers the entire population of Nunavut (36,855, according to the 2021 census).
Aside from Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador, the other provinces and territories have also scaled back reporting their COVID-19 data. But there is less COVID-19 information for Nunavut on the federal website than there is for any other region. Nothing on total cases in past seven days or 14 days; nothing on the number of tests performed.
This information is important for the public to have, if only to counter the bad info and misinformation that still circulates.
In Nunavut, the public health emergency order was lifted in April. On the GN website, the Health Department includes a section titled Nunavut’s Path: Living with COVID-19, sub-titled Where Are We Now.
It notes the availability of vaccinations, self-testing options for people and “two years’ worth of education on how Nunavummiut can protect themselves from COVID-19” as tools for avoiding infection.
And, it notes, people taking personal precautions to reduce the risk of respiratory diseases spreading will play a “larger factor” in managing life with COVID-19.
Protect ourselves? Fair enough.
But what’s the level of risk, right now? That’s what the Health Department isn’t telling us.