COVID-19 Resource Canada co-founder says infection and mortality rates still high

Tara Moriarty says the risk of COVID-19 is still high across Canada. AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Many Canadians have been moving towards a “return to normal” stance since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one researcher says the risk remains high across the country.

Tara Moriarty is an infectious disease scientist and a co-founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada, a group aiming to tackle vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

She said the COVID-19 risk remains high across most of Canada, noting that it is higher in some provinces than others.

Saskatchewan’s risk sits in the middle, at high, in line with the Canadian average, beside Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.

B.C., New Brunswick and Newfoundland are rated as very high, while the remaining provinces and territories were considered to have elevated risk.

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“Even though infection numbers have come down considerably compared to 2022, we’re still seeing roughly about six times more infections per day than we were before Omicron and before the lowest period of the epidemic in Canada to date,” Moriarty said.

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She said many people have been infected, but many have also been vaccinated, noting her concern revolved around the fact that many who are getting infected now are older adults.

“We know this from the Public Health Agency of Canada from the age of people who are being hospitalized, and the age of people who are dying.”

She said many of the people being infected are those who are at higher risk for serious illness, adding the mortality rate hasn’t come down as much as she had hoped.

Moriarty said COVID-19 deaths are under-detected and underreported.

“We look at something called excess mortality, which is the people who have died untimely deaths, and we look at what that is like compared to the reported COVID-19 deaths.”

Excess mortality numbers come out from Statistics Canada, and Moriarty says they will subtract the number of excess deaths that can be attributed to other causes.

“The leftover number could potentially be COVID-19 deaths.”

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Moriarty said they will also predict the number of deaths from COVID-19 based on the number of infections being seen across the country.

She said that prediction lines up closely with the excess mortality numbers after the other causes are subtracted.

“We’re fairly confident that our estimate of excess COVID-19 mortality is fairly accurate.”

She said the numbers are also pretty close to other countries when you look at it from a per capita basis.

Moriarty said people should assume about 1 in 100 people are infected with COVID-19, noting that number could change.

She recommended that people still wear an N95 mask in indoor settings besides their own homes – this was especially recommended for people who are at higher risk.

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“It’s relatively easy to pick up COVID-19, especially if you haven’t had a new vaccine dose or been infected in the last six months.”

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