New Brunswick removes COVID-19 'highlights' from weekly updates
New Brunswick has changed the way it provides weekly COVID-19 updates.
Tuesday's COVIDWatch report did not include the "highlights" feature, which used to provide some of the key data at a glance.
That information included, for example, the number of new COVID deaths and the pandemic death toll to date.
It also included the current number of people hospitalized and in intensive care because of the virus and how that compared to the previous week, as well as the number of new COVID cases confirmed in the past week through PCR lab tests and self-reported by people who tested positive on rapid tests.
The dashboard, which used to appear on the main COVIDWatch landing page, also included circular graphs showing the breakdown of COVID deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions by vaccination status.
Now, people must wade through a dense, eight-page report to retrieve this data.
The highlights for last week's report have also been removed from the website.
Department of Health spokesperson Adam Bowie said the website was updated "as part of an effort to move to routine disease reporting practices."
"As part of this update, changes have been made to the graphics and layout," he said in an emailed statement.
The highlights graphic was "used as a transition from the daily [COVID-19] dashboard to weekly COVIDWATCH reporting," Bowie said.
"It's important to note the department has not changed the information being reported. All of the information continues to be collected and publicly reported in the Full Report PDF document."
55.9% of COVID deaths 'fully protected'
As of Tuesday's update, which covers July 17 to July 23, the percentage of COVID deaths since Dec. 5, 2021, that were people who were "fully protected" stood at 55.9 per cent .
The province defines fully protected as boosted or fully vaccinated less than six months.
A smaller percentage — 44.1 per cent — had partial or no protection, meaning they were fully vaccinated more than six months, partially vaccinated or "undervaccinated."
Of the people hospitalized for COVID during that same period, a higher percentage were fully protected — 51.8 per cent, compared to 48.2 per cent who had partial or no protection.
And among those admitted to intensive care, 39.1 per cent were fully protected, while 60.9 per cent had partial or no protection.
Dr. Yves Léger, the acting chief medical officer of health, said vaccination rates are "better representations of some of the benefits that vaccines provide" because the percentages don't reflect the fact that there are more fully protected people in the province than not.
Those rates, included in Table 5 of the full report, show 38.9 per 100,000 deaths since Dec. 5 were fully protected, as of Saturday.
The death rate among the "unprotected" was higher, 39.8 per 100,000, according to the report.
Hospitalization rates, including ICU admissions, are also higher among the unprotected — 183.6 per 100,000, compared to 152.1 per 100,000 among the protected.
The same holds true for ICU admissions alone — 40.7 per 100,000 were unprotected, while 20.2 were protected.
"We know that vaccines, where they give the most benefit is really to protecting individuals against those more severe outcomes — so hospitalizations, ICU and deaths. And that's been shown certainly across many jurisdictions who have looked at that," said Léger.
The New Brunswick numbers change from week to week, he noted.
"So they're, you know, certainly sometimes they're a little bit higher, they're a little bit lower.
"But, you know, overall, if we look at the trends that we have since we've been reporting on these numbers, we see that the rates typically have been quite a bit lower for those who are protected to be hospitalized, admitted to the ICU or dying."
The COVIDWatch landing page still provides overall rates for first, second and booster doses, along with the number of additional doses administered in the previous week. This data used to be included in the highlights.
"Even though vaccination rates are not part of the regular reporting practices, we are continuing to report this information as part of COVIDWATCH," the Department of Health spokesperson said.
Highlights are still available for archived weekly reports, as of Wednesday.
Next week's COVID update will be released on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, because of the New Brunswick Day holiday.