BC moves to further automate COVID-19 case reporting

Jan 7 2021, 3:01 pm

BC is making some changes to how it reports daily COVID-19 case data in an effort to streamline the process through further automation.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said they’ve recently completed a process of unifying labs across the province so that positive COVID-19 test results will immediately be fed to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Previously there was a lag, where lab staff had to report a positive test result to the local health authority, which would start the contact tracing process and notify the BC CDC.

The province will now count each case based on the date the patient tested positive, not the date it was reported to the local health authority.

BC will also begin tracking new COVID-19 cases from midnight to midnight, making each calendar day a new reporting period. Previously, the province tracked new cases from 10 am to 10 am. Henry said that system used to work when numbers were low, but epidemiologists have had to start work at 5 am to reconcile all the data with increasing cases.

Henry explained tracking COVID-19 cases is an arduous task because labs across the province use different IT systems, and so do the five health authorities.

She hopes this streamlining step will make data reporting easier for staff and the public to understand.

The BC CDC will be retroactively updating its case data from January 1, 2020, to the present so that cases are reported based on test-positive dates. That might change the epidemiological curve slightly, but its essence should stay the same, Henry said.

The data reporting change might lead to elevated case counts this week, but they should stabilize as the province gets used to the new method.