Look at COVID-19 trends rather than day-to-day data, experts advise
KITCHENER -- Health officials have some tips for people feeling overwhelmed by the COVID-19 numbers released every day.
Experts agree that the numbers can be overwhelming and misinterpreted.
Their main message was not to get too fixated on what comes out each day, instead looking at what's happening over longer periods of time.
"You have to look at the trend, how the cases are increasing and generally it should be a 14-day period that you look at those trends," said Zahid Butt with the University of Waterloo's School of Public Health and Health Systems.
"We can't continue to fixate on the day-to-day trend," infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said.
Dr. Sharkawy said daily numbers can be skewed by testing numbers or a lag in test results. He said throughout the pandemic, there have been predictable spikes two weeks after events like Mother's Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving.
"We really need to focus on what's going to happen from one to two to three weeks at a time," he said. "We know what we need to do, we need to adjust our habits quite significantly."
"If your hospitalizations start increasing, that means that the preventions and control measures you're taking are not enough, so that's an important indicator as well," Butt said.
Hospitalizations and deaths are an indicator that problems have been building for a while, according to Dr. Sharkawy.
"There are metrics that we refer to as lagging indicators," he said. "By the time we're seeing evidence of hospital admissions, people in ICUs and deaths, we've really reached the endpoint of community transmission being entirely uncontrolled."
Dr. Sharkawy also warned against comparing positivity rates from the first and second waves of the pandemic. He said there weren't as many tests performed in the first wave.
He said focusing on daily data can provide a false sense of security, which can lead to people letting their guard down.
It's important to keep following public health guidelines to help combat a dangerous and lethal virus, he said.