Projecting COVID-19 Infections and Hospitalizations 

Many coronavirus infections are mild or cause no symptoms. Because of this, the number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa represents only a small fraction of all the people who are infected (Figure 1). Diagnosed cases are often referred to as the “tip of the iceberg,” which means that for each case that is diagnosed, there are likely many individuals who are infected and unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.   

Public health interventions aim to reduce transmission from individuals with known and unknown infection to other individuals.

Figure 1. Confirmed COVID-19 cases as a subset of all COVID-19 infections. 

Pyramid, starting with confirmed cases at the top followed by symptomatic infections, people who are infected with COVID-19 virus (symptomatic, asymptomatic and incubating) and all people at the bottom

To predict the effect of different public health interventions, and to plan for how many people with COVID-19 will need care, we use models to understand how COVID-19 might spread in a population. Models take into account what we are seeing, in terms of the number of confirmed cases, and what we have learned from other countries about the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.   

These models produce epidemiologic “curves,” which show the number of people infected over time with different interventions, such as physical distancing and using masks. We evaluate which interventions will best “flatten the curve” and decrease the number of infections occurring within a period of time. This can assist the broader health care system with overall planning in areas like hospital admissions and intensive care unit beds. Public health interventions such as physical distancing and using masks can be very influential in achieving the goal of “flattening” the curve.

For projected counts of confirmed cases and hospitalizations in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health is collaborating with Dr. Doug Manuel and colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, described at  

Learn more about the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 and the current situation in Ottawa

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