Editorial – Numbers do matter

This past week has been about numbers. How many people could ultimately be infected by COVID-19, and how many will die. The numbers as they are look grim, but not as grim as they could have been had a majority of people not started physical distancing, or abiding by the various closure orders.

Ontario finally got it right when it released all the projected numbers on April 3rd. Stark numbers that there could be up to 80,000 people infected by the end of April, and just under 1,600 dead from COVID-19. That is down from 300,000 infections and 6,000 deaths had no restrictions been implemented. More restrictions may lower those numbers even more. Transparency in numbers is just as important as announcing restrictions. Sadly this type of leadership and honest dialogue has not come from the federal government. At the local level, we get a mixed bag of information from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.

Test results have been slow to come in, due to the provincial testing backlog, but is improving. As of April 6th, 42 people have been infected with COVID-19 in the EOHU region, 16 of which are marked as recovered, one is currently hospitalized. Most of those cases are from travel. The EOHU has been all over the place with numbers. First it showed every case, with location, then reduced the numbers to an overall graph. After backlash from many media in the region, it is now working to put back some of the demographics. Accurate numbers help bring home the message that people need to follow the restrictions put in place to help lessen the spread of COVID-19.

But there is another issue which puts the people in this region at great risk. Through The Leader’s own investigation, later confirmed by the EOHU, there are only 16 acute care beds in the region: Cornwall has 12; Winchester has four. The health unit says plans are underway to expand the number of beds and says there are more ventilators in the region than 16. Officials can’t say how many because they don’t know.

An outbreak of COVID-19 in a long-term care home similar to the tragic reports out of Bobcaygon where 24 people have died, would quickly overwhelm the health care system in our region. With the aging demographics of Eastern Ontario, a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19 will be devastating.

Numbers show the true extent of threats. Numbers do matter. In dealing with COVID-19, numbers are literally a matter of life or death.

*Note – Numbers used in this editorial were current to when it was originally published in The Leader’s print edition April 8th and may not reflect current numbers.

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