Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents B.C. Centre for Disease Control modelling on spread of COVID-19, March 27, 2020. (B.C. government)

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

By Dr. Bonnie Henry

When an outbreak hits a community, one of the most urgent things people want is information. This is human nature, as information allows us to protect ourselves, our families and our loved ones.

Information is at the heart of public health: knowing what our risks are, where they are coming from and who is affected. One of the key ways we gather information is through active contact tracing, when public-health teams map the transmission, alert those at risk and close the circle to break the chain.

Public-health protocols also dictate that when the potential for transmission is unknown, we must immediately alert the public. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in B.C., we have been doing exactly that – alerting people to the risks within communities through regular briefings and connecting with individuals who are close contacts. When we cannot close the circle, we open the circle.

Public health is boots-on-the-ground health care, which means teams work to connect with each and every person who may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19. We do this to provide individual support and, equally important, to continue to follow the transmission trail.

Initially, public-health teams identified the source of transmission was from travellers. That is why our briefings listed travel locations and cruise ships. With that information known, we were able to put precautions in place.

However, as we have seen here in B.C. and globally, once there is community transmission, there is no boundary to the spread of COVID-19. Simply put, the risk is everywhere.

RELATED: B.C. secures hotel, motel rooms for COVID-19 isolation

RELATED: Border entries down 90% with essential-only travel

It would be irresponsible to mention only a few communities and give people outside those areas a false sense that they are not susceptible or at lower risk. Every health region in British Columbia has people with COVID-19. Every community and home town – no matter how large or small – is at risk.

As we notify the public about COVID-19 cases, we have been careful about how much we disclose about the personal details of people who were potentially exposed and the specific location of confirmed cases. This is because, as with many communicable diseases, there is still very much of a stigma associated with infection.

We want people who have symptoms to contact us and to feel safe contacting us, knowing their personal information will be protected. This is important to everyone. It allows public-health teams to do the work they need to do to keep all of us safe.

So, while I understand the desire to know and understand what the COVID-19 situation is in your community, I need to emphasize that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community. The actions you take will do that.

No one is immune from this disease, but everyone can make a difference. Every British Columbian has a part to play to flatten the curve.

Wash your hands, do not touch your face, stay home if you are ill, and stay apart with physical distancing. Let’s all do the right thing.

For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and testing, visit the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website: www.bccdc.ca or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.

For the provincial health officer’s orders, notices and guidance, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/phoguidance

For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/COVID19 or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Dr. Bonnie Henry is Provincial Health Officer for B.C.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

85-year-old Comox sprinter competes in worldwide virtual track meet

Toronto was slated to be the host city for the 2020 World… Continue reading

City of Courtenay 2019 annual report available for review

The City of Courtenay has released the draft 2019 Annual Report highlighting… Continue reading

Scaled-down Comox Valley Exhibition set for Aug. 28-30

The Comox Valley Exhibition is a go for 2020. The annual event… Continue reading

Military personnel relocation producing many foreign licence plates in the Comox Valley

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott is asking the public to consider the possible… Continue reading

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Police find used, uncapped needle tied to handrail in Vancouver Island Park

Officers believe the needle was put there with the intent to harm someone

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

Most Read