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Health unit makes major change in reporting COVID outbreak data

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A review in how local COVID outbreaks will be reported resulted in the addition of almost 200 outbreak cases on Wednesday.

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The major change means the Brant County Health Unit unit now will report both confirmed PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and RATs (rapid antigen tests) rather than waiting for results from a PCR test.

On Tuesday, St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre had two residents and three staff members affected by the virus, according to the health unit. On Wednesday, the numbers posted for the Brantford long-term care home were 11 residents, 46 staff members and one death due to COVID.

“Overnight, the numbers are exponentially worse, calling into question the quality of reporting,” said a family member of a long-term care resident. “Visiting a home reporting two positive staff members is certainly a different scenario than visiting a home reporting 46 positive staff members.”

The changes didn’t affect St. Joseph’s alone.

An outbreak at Penmarvian retirement home in Paris went from one resident and one staff member to 32 residents and eight staff on Wednesday.

Park View Retirement Home in Brantford went from just two staff members affected to 22 residents and nine staff.

An outbreak at a small Brantford group home, Meadan Mansion, earlier this week was listed as two residents. Although the outbreak was declared over Wednesday morning, the data was changed to 18 resident cases.

In total, Brantford and Brant County now have 22 outbreaks involving 438 people, 189 more cases than recorded on Tuesday.

Health unit spokesperson Allison Campbell said the agency had previously been reporting only confirmed positive PCR test results but, since the results of those can take up to 10 days to be received, it created a discrepancy in the statistics.

She said a new strategy was adopted after a review of how to communicate outbreak statistics with the infectious diseases team, epidemiological team and Dr. Rebecca Comley, Brant’s acting medical officer of health.

Campbell said that, while numbers may not have been publicly reported, the health unit never lagged in acting on outbreaks.

“We do not wait for PCR confirmation to declare or respond to an outbreak,” she said.

“Our involvement begins immediately when a site has a suspected case.

SGamble@postmedia.com

@EXPSGamble

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