OPINION| Digging into the COVID numbers

So there’s depressing news on the COVID front again this week, as we report 11 people died over the weekend, and the number of patients in hospital and the ICU remain high. We also have a cryptic message accompanying Monday’s data published on the new MOHW data dissemination platform, with a reference to a July backlog, and a new “reporting site” which results in 48 of the 73 cases on San Pedro. I have no idea what this means to be honest, nor why a backlog takes over 2 months to enter the system. It raises so many questions, such as are there cases outstanding from August and September? Does the backlog involve new confirmed cases – are we really recording cases from July as new confirmed cases for today?

While we wait for those answers, let’s analyse what we have. New cases by week indicate that for the 7 days from the 5th to the 11th, we had 1,525 confirmed cases – the second highest week on record (the first week in December had over 2,000 cases). This follows a series of high weeks (7 of the worst weeks have all been in the last 3 months) and we have now had 4 consecutive weeks with over 1,000 cases – another record (the winter wave only saw 2 weeks with such high figures).

In fact, this month we have seen over 2,100 confirmed cases, which already makes it the highest 5 highest month and we are not even halfway through.

So last week saw 20 deaths, which is the 8th worst weekly toll, and the worst this year. Monday, with 11 deaths was the third highest daily total and again the worst this year.

The number of patients in hospital and the ICU continue to increase, again setting new records, where the average number of patients in hospital last week was over 50 for the first time since records began (this was only reported from the 4th of December, but even through the winter wave, the number was never higher than 42 on any one day). The average number of ICU patients jumped to over 14 a day for the week – another record, and the third consecutive week in double figures – coincidently the only 3 weeks in double figures. The graph below shows how the numbers dramatically increased from August.

This is a startling result, since we are comparing weekly cases to cumulative deaths – we wouldn’t expect this to be the case, but there is a really strong relationship.

There’s also a new dashboard for the Caribbean region here: https://bit.ly/caribcovid. It’s still growing, but there is vaccination data and case data. For case data, there is data on 14 countries, split into two groups – those with high and low case numbers. Belize falls in the lower group (based on infection rates but raw numbers) but is only 1 of the countries with numbers still rapidly increasing (the others are Barbados, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis). 

With respect to vaccinations, over 12.5 million people are fully vaccinated in the region – just under 40 people in every 100.The regional data comes from the Our World in Data (OWID) website, but they present the percentage of fully vaccinated persons in terms of the total population of each country. This can skew the actual situation though, especially in countries with a young population, such as Belize. If we instead use the 15+ population as the base figure, we get a more comparable set of values, as seen below. The light colour is the OWID value (total population) and the dark blocks represent the increase if we use the 15+ population. For some countries there isn’t much change, but for Belize, the rate jumps up by almost 15 percentage points. There’s more detail on the website.

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