Ontario, Canada has acknowledged that many of the people reported to be hospitalized with Covid-19 were actually admitted because of other health conditions and were incidentally found to be infected with the virus.
Of the 3,220 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the province, 54% were admitted because of the virus, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Tuesday. The other 46% were at hospitals for medical treatments unrelated to the pandemic, but they tested positive for the virus.
Elliott said that starting on Wednesday, hospitalization data will be broken down to show cases that were incidental to admission, such as asymptomatic infections. “While this doesn’t change the serious situation in Ontario’s hospitals, it is important to share this data to provide additional context on the state of the pandemic.”
The announcement comes as Covid-19’s Omicron variant has caused infections to surge around the world, including in Ontario. Multiple studies have found that the variant is easier to spread than previous strains, although it might be milder than its predecessors. Hospitalization figures that lump in incidental cases without any delineation of cause do not appear to factor that distinction in.
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Among Ontario’s intensive-care patients with Covid-19, about 17% are incidental cases, Elliott said. More than 70% of patients were fully vaccinated against the virus before being hospitalized. A further 5.4% had received one jab, while the remaining 24% were unvaccinated. Nearly 45% of Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units were unjabbed. More than 88% of Ontario residents are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Patients who are admitted to hospitals are typically tested for Covid-19 as part of routine screenings. While some experts have suggested that the variant could help bring an end to the pandemic by increasing the rate of natural immunity, Covid-19 infections, whether symptomatic or not, strain health care systems because hospitals must employ isolation measures to prevent spreading the virus to other people.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul earlier this month asked hospitals in her state to start breaking down their Covid-19 data to show incidental cases. NYU Langone Health told the New York Times that about 65% of its Covid-19 patients were found to be infected after being admitted for other reasons.