Comment: No borders with COVID-19

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This editorial is written by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia.
When an epidemic hits a community, one of the most urgent things people want is information. It’s human nature because information allows us to protect ourselves, our families and loved ones.
Information is at the heart of public health: knowing what our risks are, where they come from and who is affected. One of the main ways we collect information is to actively seek out contacts, when public health teams map the transmission, alert those at risk and close the circle to break the chain.
Public health protocols also state that when the potential for transmission is unknown, we must immediately alert the public. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in British Columbia, we have been doing just that – alerting people to the risks in communities through regular briefings and connecting with people who are close contacts. When we cannot close the circle, we open the circle.
Public health is health care in the field, which means that teams work to connect with everyone who may be exposed to COVID-19. We do this to provide individual support and, just as important, to continue following the path of transmission.
Initially, public health teams identified the source of transmission among travelers. That’s why our briefings listed travel locations and cruise ships. This information being known, we were able to take precautions.
However, as we have seen here in British Columbia. and globally, once there is community transmission, there is no limit to the spread of COVID-19. In other words, risk is everywhere.
It would be irresponsible to mention only a few communities and to give people outside these areas a false feeling that they are not sensitive or at lower risk. Each health region in British Columbia has people with COVID-19. Every community and hometown, whatever its size, is threatened.
When informing the public about COVID-19 cases, we have been careful about what we disclose about the personal details of potentially exposed people and the precise location of confirmed cases. Indeed, as with many communicable diseases, the stigma associated with the infection is still very present.
We want people who have symptoms to contact us and feel safe in contacting us, knowing that their personal information will be protected. It’s important for everyone. It allows public health teams to do the work they need to keep us all safe.
So, even if I understand the desire to know and understand the situation of COVID-19 in your community, I must emphasize that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community. The actions you take will do it.
No one is immune to this disease, but everyone can make a difference. Each British Columbia has a role to play in smoothing the curve.
Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay at home if you’re sick and stay away from physically. Let’s all do the right thing.
Learn more:
For the latest medical updates, including the number of cases, prevention, risks and tests, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/
Or follow @CDCofBC
For prescriptions, opinions and advice from the provincial health official, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/phoguidance
For non-health related information, including information on finance, child care and support for education, travel, transportation and essential services, 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.



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