The arrival and spread of COVID-19 led to rapid changes to all aspects of our society not the least of which our health care system and our economy. For provincial governments tasked with implementing many of these changes, dealing with the considerable uncertainty is challenging.
The New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) and the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU) developed a series of Rapid Response Reports to provide provincial government decision makers with information about the COVID-19 pandemic, its evolution, and the impact of different response strategies around the world.
“As we’ve all learned over the past few months, weighing the evidence for possible responses to COVID-19 has been challenging when so much about this pandemic has been unprecedented. There was a real need to gather and synthesize information to support decision-making in a situation that was developing so rapidly. We had the capacity to serve this function and were able to learn from other parts of world where the pandemic was more advanced,” says Dr. Ted McDonald, NB-IRDT Director and MSSU Principal Investigator in New Brunswick.
Shortly after COVID-19 was first diagnosed in New Brunswick, the team began modelling how the pandemic might progress in the province. They developed an algorithm for projecting rates of infection, hospitalization, and mortality in the province based on the experience of similar regions. The first projections were provided to the New Brunswick Department of Health in a Rapid Response Report on March 31, 2020, followed by two updates on April 14, 2020 and April 27, 2020.
The quick implementation of physical distancing and other public health restrictions meant that New Brunswick followed the best-case scenario laid out in each report. As the number of active cases in the province dwindled, it was no longer necessary to generate new projections and the team turned their attention to other pressing policy concerns around a possible second wave of infections. These included the allocation of medical resources and alternative approaches to lifting public health restrictions.
“When the COVID crisis arose and our health system mobilized all of its resources to ensure capacity to cope, the MSSU and NB-IRDT provided essential research capacity that we could call on to support our clinical and system decision-making. Their experienced teams were able to deliver valuable literature syntheses and rapid reporting at a moment’s notice,” says René Boudreau, Assistant Deputy Minister, New Brunswick Department of Health.
To date, the NB-IRDT has produced six COVID-19 reports. They are currently preparing a new report on the implications of keeping virtual methods of health care in place after the pandemic has passed.
Download the reports