Recently, I filed a Freedom of Information Request with the Province, specifically the NS Health Authority, asking for several pieces of information I thought would be relevant for analysis and discussion. The information I requested was as follows:
- Confirmation of the PCR cycle threshold used in NS, and if the figure has ever changed
- What is the average PCR cycle threshold required to determine a positive test in NS since March, 2020.
- Of all positive cases in NS since March, 2020, what percentage of them were detected with greater than 30 PCR cycles.
- What was the average cycle threshold required to determine a positive case for all those who have been determined to be a covid related death
Initially, I was advised that much of that inf0rmation would be classed as private since it would have to come from individual patient files. However, I pressed them on that, since any healthcare data/stats, such as cancer deaths etc...would all initially have to come from individual files, but since I am not asking for any individual or identifiable information, just cumulative totals, this would not be a privacy concern. It appears they ultimately agreed, and I was provided most of the requested information. Results are as follows:
- The PCR cycle threshold used in NS has been consistent since they finalized the figures last year, early on in the pandemic. They couldn't give me a specific date but I would guess that would be March or April, 2020. There was NO change to these cycle thresholds when the WHO issued guidance in January, 2021 that cycle thresholds may be too high in some cases.
- The PCR cycle threshold used in NS ranges from 34-37. I didn't get any explanation as to why it varies, other than each lab, of which there are 16 spread across 9 sites in NS, has their own test and associated cycle threshold (see image below). It appears the (presumably) main lab at the QEII is the only lab with an in house test (not one that is purchased from a third party) and that is the only test with a 34 cycle threshold (35-38 is considered indeterminate). All others are 36, 37 or aren't listed, which I assume means the tests is self contained and simply gives a positive or negative result and the cycle threshold is set by the manufacturer of the test and is not noted.
- The average cycle threshold required to diagnose a positive case since March, 2020 is 26.9
- The percentage of all positive cases that required a cycle threshold greater than 30 is 35%. I find this one especially interesting since we know unequivocally (link) that at 30 cycles, 80% of positive test results are dead, non-infectious viral material, aka, meaningless, not a case, not anything worth discussing. At 35 cycles, this becomes 97% and beyond 35, it's effectively 100% of positive results are false. Currently, there are 1699 cumulative positive cases in NS since March, 2020. If 35% of those were diagnosed at 31 or more PCR cycles, that is about 594 cases. A conservative estimate would be that 500 of those should have never been classed as a case. That's nearly 30% of all cases, and realistically could be higher. That's a lot of people that had to isolate for 14 days unnecessarily (and all the impacts that go along with that) because of the way we use PCR tests and the refusal of our medical professionals and politicians to do anything other than a "better safe than sorry" approach. A year in, that's unacceptable and far too simplistic, especially given everything we know to date.
- I was not given any data around deaths as the "PCR values are not directly linked to patient outcomes"
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