Aerial photo of Powell River (Vista Radio file image.)
The qathet Region is the latest to challenge health officials on their policy to not release the locations of confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.
The Regional Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) is asking the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCH) and the government of BC to share daily updates regarding the total number of cases.
It says this will help to provide effective and trusted local emergency management, as the lack of information regarding case numbers “has resulted in increased anxiety, stress, and fear” throughout local communities.
“Daily community updates from the province and VCH reflecting current local case numbers are important for the health and safety of our residents for the remainder of this unprecedented pandemic,” the EOC says. “Sharing this information enables our EOC to plan effectively and to meet the needs of our residents to make educated decisions for themselves and their families.”
The operations centre says to date, VCH’s approach has been to provide public notification “only when there has been an identified public exposure or when those affected cannot be contacted directly.”
When a COVID-19 case is identified, it says contact-tracing personnel work closely with the infected individual to follow-up with anyone who might be at risk and to help prevent further spread of the virus.
“While we agree with not commenting on individual cases for obvious reasons of confidentiality, we see no justification for withholding daily updates on the number of cases within our region.”
The EOC appreciates Vancouver Coastal Health’s latest community update, released this past Tuesday.
“In the update, VCH has stated that all of the COVID-19 cases in our region are associated with known exposure events or contact with other cases. The information supplied has already had a calming effect on our residents.”
All residents and visitors are being reminded to always assume there are cases of COVID-19 in the community, and the EOC is urging anyone experiencing symptoms to get tested.
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government are also asking the province to provide information on confirmed or suspected cases near their communities.
The First Nations accuse the Ministry of Health and other public bodies of failing to comply with section 25 of the Act, which demands the mandatory disclosure of information where there is an imminent risk of significant harm to the health and safety of the public.
They want to use the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to get around the provincial policy of not revealing the locations of COVID-19 cases.