Case counts not the only measure of COVID-19 severity, say London doctors
LONDON, ONT -- While it may be human nature to grow increasingly concerned over the rising positive COVID-19 case counts in Ontario, a pair of London’s top intensive care unit physicians say it’s not the only measure we should be looking at. Far from it, in fact.
Thursday saw yet another day north of 400 as far as positive cases in Ontario, but such numbers are not unexpected, says Dr. Robert Arntfield.
“If we increase socialization, if we engage with one another, we put people back in schools the cases going up is not a mystery or surprise. In many respects it’s not even news in my opinion, it’s expected.”
Dr. Arntfield is the medical director of the intensive care unit at Victoria Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre.
He says rather than just case counts, a more complete measure of covid-19 severity is hospitalization rates and deaths.
“Other countries that have seen really big second wave numbers, a lot in Europe, have seen a really different response in terms of hospitalizations and deaths. They have not seen the same magnitude. There certainly is a magnitude and there is an importance to that, but it is not anywhere near the same level that we saw back in the early wave.”
As of Thursday there were fewer than 100 COVID-19 hospitalizations in all of Ontario, and in London there have been none in the past week according to Dr. Wael Haddara, the Chair of Critical Care at LHSC.
He says if that changes, intensive care units are far better prepared than in spring.
“We have a very robust plan in place in terms of IC beds, creating capacity to accommodate patients if we need to. So we’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
And while it’s a message that’s heard time and again, both doctors continue to stress that how well we follow social distancing rules will go a long way to determining how we fare during this second wave of infections.
According to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, people under the age of 40 account for roughly two-thirds of the most recent cases. While their hospitalization rates are much lower than older demographics, it’s still a major concern says Dr. Haddara.
“The challenge is that younger people don’t and should not to exist in a bubble from the rest of society. And so as younger people encounter older people the rates of hospitalization will be very similar to what we saw in the spring. No man is an island.”