Peterborough Public Health Announces Changes to the COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Risk Index
Written by Kerri Tojcic, May 9, 2023
Changes Implemented on May 10
Peterborough Public Health (PPH) is introducing changes to the COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Risk Index to help prevent illness and support our community to assess their personal risk and make informed decisions for their health.
Starting Wednesday, May 10, indicators for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses will be separated to more accurately reflect differences in seasonal transmission rates. Guidance will also be updated with links to COVID-19 Rec Map, a resource that provides a breakdown of the recommendations and available evidence in plain language.
“Data shows waves of COVID-19 transmission in the spring and summer while the transmission of other respiratory viruses tends to slow,” said Dr. Thomas Piggott, Medical Officer of Health. “Using separate risk levels provides a clearer picture of respiratory virus transmission in our community.”
Additional updates will improve how available data is used to determine risk levels. Moving forward, current COVID-19 outbreaks will be used to estimate the risk of COVID-19 transmission and Influenza case rate will be used to measure risk of other respiratory viruses. Indicators such as hospitalizations and deaths are what is called “lagging”, meaning they provide a picture of transmission that could be outdated by as much as 2 weeks. For this reason, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to be available on the dashboard, but will not be used to determine risk levels.
According to Dr. Piggott, viruses may be present in the community well before they result in a hospital visit. “It can take several days for viruses such as COVID-19 to incubate, and even longer for someone to decide that they need to go to the hospital. Focusing on outbreaks and case rates gives us an early signal that viruses are present in our community. We can use these insights to help limit viruses from spreading and lower our own risk of getting sick.”
PPH will be consolidating the COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Risk Index webpage and Guidance webpage into one webpage. The risk index and tracker will also be available directly on this webpage. The goal is to increase findability and reduce clicking and scrolling. These changes are based on the findings of a user-experience survey completed in 2022.
Dr. Piggott shares, “like the previous version, the updated tracker is designed to inform community members of their current risk of getting a respiratory infection and provides guidance for staying safe. A multi-layer approach can protect against respiratory viruses, particularly so when risk is high or increasing. This approach includes wearing a well fitted mask, gathering outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, staying home when you feel unwell, and staying up to date with influenzas and COVID-19 vaccines.”
Find out if you are eligible for a spring booster by visiting: www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca/covid-19-vaccine-clinic/
The COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Risk Index is updated weekly on Wednesday by 5:00 p.m. The Risk Index can be found online at: www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca/covid-risk-index.
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