Understanding who is being tested for COVID-19 in Ontario is critical for flattening the curve. ICES, a non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues, has released up-to-date COVID-19 testing dashboards to the public, available on the ICES website.
The researchers also created a report entitled “COVID-19 Laboratory Testing in Ontario: Patterns of Testing and Characteristics of Individuals Tested, as of April 30, 2020” that provides a comprehensive picture of the COVID-19 testing data in Ontario up to April 30, 2020, that report can be accessed here.
The dashboards, which reflect the most current data updated on a weekly basis, highlight patterns and characteristics of individuals tested including demographics like age and sex, as well as testing results from lower income neighbourhoods and residents in long-term care homes and COVID-19 testing done on those with underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and dementia.
According to the testing data:
- Females represent the majority of those tested for COVID-19, particularly among those aged 20 to 59 years and 80+ years.
- Among people living in long-term care homes who were ever tested for COVID-19, about 8 per cent in total have tested positive as of May 9.
- The percentage of long-term care homes testing residents has increased rapidly over the last month.
- Compared with Ontarians who had not been tested for COVID-19, those who had been tested, and those confirmed positive, were more likely to live in marginalized neighbourhoods with greater residential instability, material deprivation and dependency, and lower income status.
- Those who were confirmed positive for COVID-19 also were more likely to live in neighbourhoods with a relatively greater concentration of immigrants and visible minorities.
- The greatest number of residents tested for COVID-19 per capita live within the Peterborough Public Health, Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, Timiskaming Health Unit, Sudbury and District Health Unit, and Thunder Bay District Health Unit
“Our report and dashboards are unique because we are measuring person-based testing episodes and can consolidate them at a provincial level. For example, we can tell if a person has had three negative tests and one positive test, and we can separate that out if we just want to know the total unique individuals who tested positive,” says Dr. Michael Schull, CEO and scientist at ICES.
A unique feature of these dashboards is that the results can profile the tested individuals and highlight things like other health conditions based on linkage to prior health records at ICES.
The dashboards are created using comprehensive and multiple data sources to look at the characteristics of people in four groups: tested; not tested; confirmed positive; not confirmed positive and will be updated on a weekly basis.
“We are currently exploring bringing new demographics such as ethnicity and immigrant status into the dashboards, as well as identifying testing in settings like group homes and correctional facilities,” adds Schull.
ICES has been providing information about COVID-19 testing and test recipient characteristics as well as testing by long-term care and retirement homes to Public Health Ontario and the Ministry of Health daily since April 17, 2020.
Through partnerships at the provincial level, ICES has rapidly added near-real-time COVID-19-relevant data sets to its collection of linked health data. ICES’ securely held database de-identifies personal health information from the health system, that can then be accessed for research and analytics by health system knowledge users and researchers.
A pioneer in enabling artificial intelligence and machine learning in population-wide health research, ICES is one of several contributors to Ontario’s recently announced PANTHR initiative (Pandemic Threat Response).
ICES continues to work on other COVID-19-related study topics and projects:
- Ongoing work with the Health AI Data Analytics Platform (HAIDAP)
- Primary care responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Characteristics and outcomes of children with COVID-19
- Understanding the impact of COVID-19 in persons with neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia
- Health care use, quality of care, and outcomes among long-term care residents
- Short term outcomes following COVID-19 tests
- Resource utilization (ICU, ED use) by demographics with association between comorbidities and complications of coronavirus
- Duration of viral shedding at confirmation of COVID-19 infection
- Reports on COVID-19 epidemiology among Indigenous populations for and at the request of Indigenous partners
- Blood-type and association with coronavirus and SARS-like illness
- Examining the risk and severity of coronavirus and prescription drug use (cholesterol-lowering medications, anti-hypertensive medications, anti-inflammatories)
- Effect of pandemic and COVID-19 positive patients on renal care and support of chronic kidney disease
- Ventilator capacity
- Planning for future waves of COVID-19
- Making data available to non-ICES mathematical modelers
- Waiting-times for surgery for various conditions (e.g., cardiac, cancer)
- Elective procedures and likelihood of resulting ICU admission
- Opioid therapy use associated with COVID-19 pandemic
ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario
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Media Advisor, ICES