Northern BC decides identifying Covid-19 locations ‘unnecessary’
Unless there is a facility outbreak or a risk to the community, northern British Columbia’s health agency won’t reveal the location of confirmed Covid-19 cases, said Northern Health’s chief medical officer.
“These types of announcements community-by-community could very well produce a false sense of security,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr Raina Fumerton last week.
Since no one knows how many people are managing symptoms at home without diagnosis, she said, announcing which communities have lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 and which don’t could be misrepresentative and even dangerous.
“We’ve seen multiple examples of stigma and vigilantism enacted across the province by people responding to the perceived threat of Covid-19 in their community,” Fumerton said.
The NWT and Yukon have taken a similar approach for smaller communities, at times to the frustration of those communities’ leaders. Nunavut, by contrast, has said it will name the communities in question.
Instead of worrying about who has tested positive in their community, all BC residents should follow health orders as if the virus exists in their midst, because it probably does, said Fumerton.
Public health orders in the province have directed people to avoid crowds, stay home whenever possible, and keep social distance of two metres or more from other people when outside the home.
Highway 7, which connects northern BC to the NWT’s Dehcho, has been closed to all traffic since March.
Twenty-six northern BC cases
In BC, the identities of those who test positive are protected and their location is given by health authority. Specific community-level locations are only revealed if there is an outbreak in a facility or if people of unknown identities are at risk.
For instance, if a person attended a large gathering or public event, then later tested positive, the BC health authority might issue a public notice to reach anyone who may have come in contact with the infected person.
“Public health follows up on every lab-confirmed case,” said Fumerton. “If a public notification of risk in the general community was warranted, we would have issued one.”
As of April 11, 1,445 positive tests had been recorded for Covid-19 in BC. Of those, 26 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus in the north of the province. Five people in the region had fully recovered and no one had died.
“These cases haven’t been concentrated in any one area,” said Fumerton of the northern BC cases. “They’ve been diagnosed in large and small communities and in across the entire region.”
Ollie Williams contributed reporting.