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Ontario is changing how it reports COVID-19 deaths

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Ontario is changing how it reports COVID-19 deaths beginning on Friday in an effort to more accurately reflect fatalities tied to the virus.

Starting March 11, the province will start breaking down deaths into three categories: whether COVID-19 contributed to a death, whether COVID-19 caused a death, or if the cause of death is unknown or missing from provincial data.

The Ministry of Health detailed the changes in a document released on Wednesday — the same day Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced the province is dropping its mask mandate later this month.

“This change will provide a more accurate representation of deaths that are due to COVID-19 rather than all deaths in people with COVID-19,” the province stated in the document.

According to provincial data, as of March 6, about 84 per cent of COVID-19 deaths were either caused by the virus or it was a contributing factor, while 4.2 per cent of fatalities in people with COVID-19 were unrelated to the virus.

The province will also begin reporting the rate of COVID-19 deaths based on vaccination status and age group. This new information will include seven-day moving averages and a historical outlook dating back to March 2020.

Due to COVID-19 testing restrictions made in December, which largely limited testing eligibility in Ontario, the province said some indicators have become “less relevant” during the Omicron wave.

“In this context, we are no longer able to accurately track the total number of cases of COVID-19 in Ontario,” the ministry said. “Accordingly, as of March 11, we are discontinuing reporting on the reproductive number.”

In the near future, outbreaks and cases in non-high risk settings will be entirely removed from the province’s data.

The province will keep reporting per cent positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, all of which health officials still deem “key indicators.”

Currently, the province releases data daily, but the Ministry of Health said at this point in time, health officials are examining whether that frequency should be adjusted. 

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