Health Unit Changing How it Reports COVID-19 Activity Due to Revised Provincial Testing Rules
PORT HOPE, ON (March 21, 2022) – Change is coming in the way COVID-19 activity is reported in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is revising the way it reports COVID-19 cases on its online COVID-19 Dashboard. HKPR’s new reporting process – taking effect on March 21 – will align with the recent changes to COVID-19 testing eligibility in Ontario and follows similar moves made by other Ontario health units.
On December 31, 2021, the Ontario Ministry of Health updated eligibility for publicly-funded Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing. Since the start of 2022, this has meant PCR testing is limited to only at-risk individuals who live or work in the highest-risk settings and/or who may be at the highest risk of severe illness if they get infected with COVID-19. Household members of staff who work in highest-risk settings and patient-facing health care workers are also eligible for PCR testing.
“Given lab-confirmed COVID-19 case numbers are no longer a true measure of virus activity in the community due to limits on PCR testing eligibility, we are updating our COVID-19 Dashboard to provide a clearer, more current picture of virus activity in our region,” says Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medical Officer of Health with the HKPR District Health Unit.
HKPR’s revised COVID-19 Dashboard will continue to provide key daily indicators such as lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases, active cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, deaths, outbreaks in high-risk settings, tests completed and percent positivity. Cases will also continue to be reported by county, and a new table will be added to the COVID-19 Dashboard providing a year-to-date summary of lab confirmed cases by lower-tier municipalities.
Another new addition to HKPR’s COVID-19 Dashboard will be the results of COVID-19 wastewater surveillance currently being done at municipal treatment plants in Lindsay and Cobourg.
However, the major change will see COVID-19 numbers for these indicators separated out into current data (Jan. 1, 2022 and onwards) and historical data (Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021). According to the Health Unit, the splitting of COVID-19 data into current and historical categories aligns with the change in Ontario’s PCR testing eligibility at the start of this year, and also coincides with the timeline when the Omicron variant became the main circulating strain of COVID-19 in the HKPR region.
The reporting of the seven-day COVID-19 incidence rate and cases by immunization status will be discontinued once the new reporting system takes effect. “Due to current limits on PCR testing eligibility, these statistics represent only a small segment of the population, and therefore, not a true picture of COVID-19 activity in the area,” Dr. Bocking notes.
With COVID-19 activity plateauing and slowly declining in the area, the Health Unit will also reduce the frequency of COVID-19 case reporting to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (except holidays) rather than each weekday.
“We know the COVID-19 Dashboard is well used to access current data,” says Dr. Bocking. “While the changes and look of the Dashboard may require some adjustment, local residents and community partners can be assured that the Health Unit’s revamped COVID-19 Dashboard will continue to highlight key indicators that provide reliable and up-to-date tracking of COVID-19 activity in the area.”
In 2021, there were 594,713 click-throughs alone from the HKPR website to the online COVID-19 Dashboard.
For media inquiries, contact:
Ashley Beaulac, Manager of Communications and IT Services, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1212, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at www.hkpr.on.ca.