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A Lesson in Obfuscation
New Brunswick's revised Covid-19 reporting does its best to obscure the most critical and the most damning information.
On December 16, 2022, New Brunswick public health quietly released a report on the Covid Watch page under the heading “Number of COVID-19 Deaths updated.” The report contained one chart with no other explanatory material.
Just as quietly, an accompanying news release was issued which stated (emphasis added):
As previously indicated in COVID-19 Report: Deceased Reconciliation, deaths are subject to a lag in reporting, with an average of two months between the date of death and receiving the registration of death form at the Vital Statistics branch. Therefore, deaths that are reported weekly do not typically reflect the deaths that have occurred during the reporting period.
This reconciliation analysis has resulted in 86 additional deaths attributed to the COVID-19 virus. The revised number of deaths related to COVID-19 in the province is 714. A chart showing the deaths, and when they occurred, has been posted online.
In total, 86 additional Covid-19 related deaths were added to the New Brunswick count, bringing the total to 714.
The chart showing deaths and when they occurred is below. At a glance one can see that the new deaths were added spanning the period between September 4 and November 28, a period for which the province previously reported 70 deaths.
Or did it?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Public Health has provided what was assumed to be timely death statistics. On occasions when deaths occurred prior to the reporting period, the fact was explicitly communicated so as not to skew people’s perception of mortality numbers. In March of 2022 when the province moved to weekly reporting, they continued this practice.
People viewing the December 16 chart naturally assumed the 86 deaths were in addition to the 70 previously reported deaths, concluding that 156 New Brunswickers died due to Covid in the months of September through November.
But something was off about the revision, including the fact that the above chart only showed 82 additional deaths, not 86.
Four days later the first revised format Covid Watch report was published. In it we were given an updated version of the same chart.
In this new version we see that the “previously confirmed deaths” are equal to the “newly confirmed deaths” of the previous December 16th update.
In other words, of the 70 Covid-19 deaths previously reported in weekly Covid Watch updates during the months of September, October and November, only two actually occurred during that time. The 82 new deaths were the first time in three and a half months that New Brunswickers had received any information on how many of us Covid-19 was killing during the autumn of 2022.
Since New Brunswick Public Health abdicated all responsibility for managing the pandemic by abandoning all protective measures on March 14, 2022, the public has been instructed to asses their “own risk.” Knowing one’s personal risk factors is only half of that assessment, the other half being adequate awareness of the level of the hazard in the community. Remove one of these two pieces of information and an accurate or effective personal risk assessment is impossible.
With case numbers acknowledged as wildly inaccurate (even by the government themselves), and definitions of hospitalization changing to project a more publicly palatable picture of Covid-19 outcomes, Covid-19 related deaths were one of the last metrics at-risk New Brunswickers were depending on to provide them with some indication of the level of community hazard.
The weekly deaths and their relative trends had become the last remaining barometer of pandemic risk. Public Health’s new report reveals that the metric was not only absent of timely, relevant data, but that it was largely limited to deaths that occurred over four months prior.
The trend of having no current data continues in the three reports we have seen be released in the new year, with a disturbing addition.
The January 4 report on the period of December 18 to December 31, 2022 added 18 deaths to the total while saying on its first page that 15 new deaths have been confirmed. The reason for the discrepancy is that “outcomes” now arbitrarily means “since August 28, 2022” when discussing deaths.
The January 11 report on the period of January 1 to January 7, 2023 added nine deaths to the total.
Today’s report on the period of January 8 to January 14, 2023 adds 13 deaths to the total while saying on its first page that 11 new deaths have been confirmed.
The arbitrary obfuscation of multiple deaths and New Brunswick Public Health’s reticence at publishing transparently clear numbers is troubling, but it unfortunately isn’t the final problem with this data.
Of the 40 Covid-19 related deaths added to New Brunwick’s total in the past four weeks, only four of them occurred in that time frame, all between December 18 and December 24. The remaining 36 confirmed deaths are scatter across the previous four months or in some cases even earlier.
We continue blind. We have absolutely no information on what Covid-19 is doing to us today, this week, or even this month. We have no adequate awareness of the level of the hazard in the community. And we have no ability to assess our own risk.
It becomes clear that to New Brunswick Public Health, the death rate is not as important as the public perception of the death rate, as more effort is being made to keep people purposefully uninformed than is being made to keep them alive.
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