Reports of a rise in COVID-19 cases among younger adults underscores the importance of looking closely and carefully at how data about the pandemic is collected and presented.
“In many of the media reports about the increased number of cases in younger adults, the proportion of total COVID-19 cases was being presented,” says Vivek Goel, the University of Toronto’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives, and a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “That proportion will go up if the number of cases in older adults goes down, which it has as a result of the nursing home outbreaks being brought under control.
“It's important that we look at the rates based on a population level, as opposed to the proportions.”
In episode 21 of his podcast on the pandemic, Goel – a renowned public health expert and founding head of Public Health Ontario, which was set up in response to the 2003 SARS outbreak – discusses the importance of statistical fluctuations, changing testing algorithms, taking care when interpreting data, understanding long-term trends and looking at patterns rather than daily counts.
As of July 1, Goel will take on a new role as a special adviser to U of T’s president and provost, helping to guide the university’s COVID-19 planning efforts.
COVID-19: What’s Next is a bi-weekly podcast created by Goel in collaboration with a University of Toronto Communications team led by producer Lisa Lightbourn.
Note: The information in this podcast is current as of the posting date. Listeners should consult their local public health agency for the latest information in their jurisdiction.