It’s easy to get fixated on the daily numbers of COVID-19 cases reported in the media, but a clearer picture emerges if you pay attention to a broader range of indicators.
It’s important to consider the average number of cases over a set period as well as the reproduction number – the number of people that each infected person infects – and to keep an eye on the capacity of the health-care system, says Vivek Goel, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a special adviser to the president and provost who is helping guide the university’s COVID-19 planning efforts.
“How many people are being hospitalized, how many ICU admissions are there and how many people are on ventilators and what proportion of people are dying? These are indicators of our health system capacity, as well as the severity of the disease,” Goel says. “These numbers and proportions are staying low relative to the level seen in the spring.”
In episode 27 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 – says we’re doing well in most indicators across Canada although “we may have to re-impose some restrictions in order to manage the upticks.”
In the meantime, he advises: “Avoid the three Cs: close contact settings, closed and crowded spaces. Stay home if you're ill. If you're coming to one of the University of Toronto campuses, use the new uCheck application, which is an online symptom assessment tool. Practise hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and wear masks when required. Observe the posted gathering limits and maintain your social circles.”
The COVID-19: What’s Next podcast is 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.