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New COVID-19 'hazard index' launches for Canadian provinces

The online resource gathers public health information on COVID-19 and attempts to condense it as a risk assessment tool for the public.

A website called COVID-19 Resources Canada aims to provide Canadians with up-to-date information, including a provincial “hazard index,” on the ongoing pandemic as health officials warn of a looming wave of infections this fall.

Among the new tools launched by the volunteer public health group is the Canadian COVID-19 Hazard Index that helps Canadians understand the risk of infection in each province.

Without widespread testing, the index is calculated from four equally weighted categories: vaccine protection, current infections and spread, health-care system impact and mortality.

Estimates of infections from the Omicron variant are said to predict more severe outcomes reported in the public health sector.

The index also notes estimated daily and cumulative hospitalization costs due to the virus.

Presently, COVID-19 hospitalizations have cost Canada $4.6 billion — calculated using average Canadian COVID-19 hospitalization and ICU admission costs reported by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI).

“CIHI estimates that the cost of an average COVID hospitalization is three times the cost for a heart attack, and about the same as a kidney transplant. We reduced CIHI-estimated hospitalization costs used in our estimates by 27%, to account for shorter average duration of hospitalizations for Omicron compared to pre-Omicron variants reported by the [USCDC],” states the index.

The index has many caveats and footnotes attached to the simplified data it presents, as a result of underreporting of certain factors by provincial health authorities and different metrics used by the provinces.

The group is decidedly pro-vaccine and acknowledges the more extreme risks COVID-19 presents to older people.

“One of every 457 unvaccinated children 0-11 years old are hospitalized if infected with Omicron, but one of every 1,905 children in this age group infected with Omicron will be hospitalized if they have two vaccine doses.

“Unvaccinated children younger than 11 have about the same risk of ICU admission from Omicron as people 40-59 years old who have received a fourth vaccine dose in the last three months.”

The website also has an excess mortality tracker. In B.C., excess mortality has risen 22.3 per cent since February 2020.

The online website is spearheaded by Dr. Guillaume Bourque, a professor of the department of human genetics and the director of bioinformatics at the McGill Genome Centre and Dr. Tara Moriarty, of the Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto.

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