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)

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

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Ashcroft RCMP are warning businesses to be aware of a suspect passing counterfeit $50 and $100 bills in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek area. (Photo credit: Stock image)
Counterfeit money being circulated in Ashcroft/Cache Creek area

Police are warning local businesses to be on the alert for counterfeit cash

The former Ashcroft Elementary School building, which closed as a school in 2015 and is now operated as the Ashcroft HUB, pictured during Skip’s Run, June 2017. The board of education of SD74 voted on March 2 to sell the property to the society for a ‘nominal fee’. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
School district votes to sell Ashcroft HUB for ‘nominal fee’ to HUB Society

Amendment to motion seeks to keep school district’s financial interests in property secure

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Most Read