Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has no immediate plans to change the way COVID-19 case numbers are reported to show data for individual communities or regions – but she isn’t ruling out a change in the future.
From the onset of the pandemic Henry and the health ministry have released overall numbers by health authority, as well as information about cases at health care and long-term care facilities and so-called “community outbreaks” tied to some businesses like food processing plants.
Other jurisdictions, including Alberta and Ontario as well as Washington State, have been releasing data on a regional or county level.
Henry was asked during her May 23 briefing whether B.C. would be willing to change its policy.
Her answer was similar to the answers she’s given to that question in the past:
“It’s not only privacy reasons, [though] certainly it is when we have small numbers like one or two people in a small community [where] they can be readily identified,” Henry said. “Part of the reason is because it gives people who are not in those communities a false sense of security that they don't have the virus.
“It’s this sense that it’s those people over there that have a problem and I’m OK that we need to be very careful about right now,” Henry said.
Henry also said reporting by health authority “gives you the sense of where in the province we’re having the force of infection” and that the areas chosen for reporting in other jurisdictions “are quite comparable to our health authority units.”
She added, however, “We will continue to provide as much information as we can and more data as we move forward. And we are looking at whether there are reasonable smaller levels that we can look at as well.”
At various points during the pandemic, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) officials have given a percentage breakdown of case numbers within the health authority. Most recently, on April 23, VCH deputy chief medical health officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn said “all of our rural areas combined” have accounted for about three per cent of VCH’s COVID cases.
The VCH rural areas include the upper and lower Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, and central coast areas around Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
As of Henry’s May 23 briefing, 890 of the province’s 2,517 total cases had been in Vancouver Coastal Health.