A new study out of the Université de Montréal reveals that there could be many more COVID-19 cases in Quebec than what's officially reported. Economists at UdeM developed a new statistical technique that shows roughly 12 times more cases than what current screening efforts have identified. The study estimates that there were actually over 250,000 total cases in Quebec as of April 22, 2020.
Comparing the official reports from both Quebec and Ontario, the economists estimate that the disparity between the numbers of confirmed cases in the two provinces (20,965 in Quebec compared to 12,245 in Ontario as of April 22) is a result of testing standards.
"Our results show how differences in testing standards between provinces can greatly mask the true severity of outbreak," said Joshua Lewis, an economist at UdeM who co-authored the study.
The economists believe that more testing is needed amongst the general population.
"They argue that rapid diagnostic and serological testing should be expanded to the general population to prevent recurrent unobserved community transmission and identify the large numbers of individuals who may have some level of immunity to the virus," a press release states.
Despite the differences in Quebec's and Ontario's official reports, the actual number of cases is "remarkably similar," according to Lewis.
He says that it's paramount that both government officials and the public know the actual extent of COVID-19 in the general population.
As Quebec prepares to gradually deconfine the population, researchers say that the "true numbers" will help public health officials better evaluate the situation.
"That’s what we need to get a much better picture of," Lewis writes.
"It’s important for policymakers who have to make difficult choices about how long to impose costly social distancing measures."
Premier François Legault has said that the government will proceed with deconfinement with the utmost care and observation to prevent a second wave of infections.
Taking these results into account should factor into these upcoming decisions, say the researchers.
"It’s also a question that’s very much on the minds of many Canadians. Every time we venture out to the supermarket or for a walk, we worry about crossing paths with someone who has the virus. The question is, should we, and to what extent?" Lewis concludes.
Stay tuned for more news.