Opinion: Keep COVID numbers top of mind

Imagine waking up one morning to news of a disaster somewhere in B.C. that killed more than 900 people and put 2,500 people in hospital with almost 600 of those folks in critical care.

Such an event would be outrageously shocking and numb any of us to the core, yet that is exactly the level of carnage COVID-19 caused in this province in 2020.

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However, because this terrible tragedy stretched over 10 months, its impact was not felt as if it happened at once.

Still, those are the bottom-line figures of COVID-19’s toll on B.C. and when you put them all together as an end-of-year exercise, that toll takes on enhanced meaning.

We begin 2021 still very deep in the COVID-19 woods, but vaccines are starting to arrive in larger numbers so some light is finally coming through the foliage.

Nevertheless, we should keep the total yearly B.C. numbers of the damage that COVID-19 caused top of mind as we head into 2021.

The daily reporting of COVID-19 cases can be a bit mind-numbing for many people, I am sure. It can also seem like almost an abstract thing if you don’t know anyone who has had the virus or you are not out of work because of it.

Every day I enter the daily case numbers, hospitalizations, ICU cases and how they break down by health authorities in notebooks and charts I have been keeping since the pandemic was declared last March.

This daily exercise has allowed me to keep running seven-day “averages” of each health indicator (another is the positivity rate) in order to get a sense how of bad things are, or if things are improving.

A single day of COVID-19 reporting does not tell you a lot. However, last week 100 people died from the virus and about 40 people were sick enough to require hospitalization. More than 3,300 people tested positive for COVID-19 in one week alone. Numbers like that should grab your attention.

Do not be surprised if we see similar numbers this week. In fact, they could be even higher if too many people gathered in large numbers at Christmas events. Symptoms tend to present themselves five to seven days after contracting the virus.

Meanwhile, the demographic profile of our pandemic will likely continue for some time. More than half (54 per cent) of our positive cases struck people under the age of 40, yet they only account for about 15 per cent of our hospitalizations and just one death.

By comparison, people over the age of 70 account for just 10 per cent of all the cases, but about 90 per cent of all deaths – a reminder that younger people can inadvertently infect their elders, leading to potentially catastrophic outcomes.

There are many COVID-19 numbers out there, in all kinds of categories. It is important to keep at least some of them handy as a reminder what this virus can do – and is continuing to do – to our communities and loved ones.

Here’s hoping I don’t have to write a column similar to this one a year from now.

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