As of this publication (April 4), Northern Health has 21 confirmed cases.
Northern Health President and CEO Cathy Ulrich and Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Raina Fumerton spoke to reporters Friday, April 3.
The two officials explained how the health authority responded to the pandemic and expanded its plan, while maintaining all control of the province.
“The way we plan our response is structured around the WHO (World Health Organization) pandemic response phases,” said Ulrich.
“There are six phases and we plan based on these first four responses. “
Ulrich says the Northern Health Emergency Operation Center was set up three weeks ago, adding that it follows all the orders and directives of British Columbia provincial health worker Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“It is closely aligned with Health Emergency Management B.C. as well as with the structure of the Ministry of Health. “
In addition to the 21 confirmed cases, a total of 850 tests were administered throughout the northern health region and its three service delivery areas, including five in acute care and five fully recovered.
Regional officials say most of the cases are travel related, but some have been acquired in the community.
Dr. Fumerton said she believed residents and communities should be aware that most cases of virus will not be confirmed by laboratory tests, as tests are needed for priority cases, but echoed Dr. Henry’s request to citizens to act as if the cases were already around them.
“The majority of COVID cases will not be confirmed by laboratory tests,” said Fumerton.
“It is important that people understand this and that residents of northern British Columbia should assume that COVID-19 may already be present anywhere in our communities and plan accordingly. “
“We know that given our current testing strategy, the majority of cases will not be diagnosed in terms of laboratory confirmation, as we are continuing our testing efforts for high priority populations. Community-by-community announcements could produce a false sense of security. “I appreciate that this is frustrating for some people. “
The start of testing saw a majority in the Lower Mainland due to the size of its population and there were many trips inside and outside major centers like Vancouver and the communities of the Lower Mainland.
“The progression of this epidemic in the province, it obviously started in the Lower Mainland,” she said.
“The test criteria were quite different as it is today. You may know that there has been a significant change in the people we test and the system was quickly overwhelmed by extensive testing across the community of returning travelers and those who were in contact with returning travelers, etc., which resulted in a large backlog in the laboratory system, which prevented us from quickly providing the supplements for which we needed results very effectively. The testing strategy has changed to prioritize people who are hospitalized or likely to be hospitalized, long-term care, healthcare workers, and people who are part of a cluster or hatching scenario public health teams are investigating. “
“The tests were therefore largely over-represented in this part of the province. At the time, we had no confirmed cases here in the north. “
There is a highly trained public health outbreak management team assembled at Northern Health with representatives from each of the health service delivery areas in the north which, according to Furmerton, is just as effective as in the Lower Mainland.
Authorities declined to say how many health workers have been tested and their results.
“I can tell you that anyone [health care workers] who is tested and tested positive, will be treated like any other individual and will receive the support they need to isolate themselves, “said Ulrich.
Communities were frustrated that health authorities did not disclose the location of cities with those that tested positive, which had led some to believe that there was no transparency.
“Medical officers of health, other experts and health care leaders, we all have a legal obligation to protect the personal information we receive regarding cases of reportable communicable diseases of which COVID-19 is one them, “said Fumerton.
“This includes locations, which are legally confidential information. This information can be shared as needed. The information that would be shared publicly would be the number of cases at the level of health authorities, notifications of epidemics in high-risk contexts such as acute care and long-term care facilities as well as notifications of high-level public contacts. risks that are not otherwise identifiable. “
“There is a provincial consensus among all medical officers of health in British Columbia that more detailed case information, including the number of complete cases for each community, is not necessary for communities to plan their responses” , she added. “Therefore, we will not be released. “
Ulrich wanted to especially thank all those on the front lines and the leadership of Northern Health staff and physicians across the region.
“We truly appreciate the leadership of our staff and the physicians across the organization who participated in the planning process,” said Ulrich.
“And second, the support from the community, I think, has been very encouraging and we really appreciate the way people have followed PHO guidelines. “