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Ontario to remove incidental deaths from COVID-19 data reporting

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Ontario is changing the way it reports COVID-19 data and will exclude deaths where a person was infected but the virus did not cause or contribute to the fatality.

Officials said the change will take effect Friday and noted that deaths unrelated to COVID-19 were “significantly higher” in the most recent wave of the virus.

The province said Wednesday that deaths due to causes unrelated to COVID-19 made up eight per cent of all fatalities in the fifth wave. Since the pandemic began, around 4.2 per cent of fatalities involving people infected with COVID-19 were not related to the virus, officials said.

Read more: Ontario to lift mask mandate in most settings March 21, source says

Around 84 per cent of deaths in people with COVID-19 were either caused by the virus or it contributed to the death, officials said.

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For a portion of the deaths, the cause is missing or unknown.

“Due to the Omicron variant’s high transmissibility, Ontario has seen a larger number of cases than previous waves,” a slide deck from the government said.

“The Omicron variant required a review of our reporting, and we have already made changes to clarify between hospitalization and ICU admissions reporting to stratifying those admitted for COVID-19 versus admission for non-COVID reasons and tested positive with COVID.

Government of Ontario

“Data from other jurisdictions suggested that with the very high Omicron case counts, some people with COVID-19 infection were dying from causes unrelated to their COVID-19 infection.”

Officials said the reporting will be updated and will be consistent with categorization from the World Health Organization.

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Data reporting will also be updated to show rates of death based on vaccination status. Officials noted that those who are not fully vaccinated have a 20 times higher risk of dying compared with those who have received a booster.

Officials said due to PCR testing restrictions, the province is also “no longer able to accurately track” the total number of cases and as a result will stop reporting on the reproductive number.

Per cent positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admissions will continue to be reported.

Government of Ontario

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