Northern Health will not catch all COVID cases, official warns


More than 850 residents of northern British Columbia have been tested for COVID-19, Northern Health chief medical officer of health said Friday, but warned that the majority of cases will not be confirmed by the process.

“It is important that people understand this and that residents of northern British Columbia should assume that COVID could be anywhere in our community and plan accordingly,” added Dr. Raina Fumerton during a teleconference. with regional media.

Those who develop respiratory symptoms are asked to assume that it is COVID-19 and to isolate themselves for 10 days. An online self-assessment tool is available at

“If, at the end of the 10 day period, they feel they are no longer feverish, they feel back they are back to themselves, then they can withdraw from self-isolation and we will not have laboratory data, “said Fumerton.

As of Thursday, there were 10 active cases in the northern health region and three of those patients were in intensive care, according to the B.C. Center for Disease Control. To date, 17 cases have been laboratory confirmed since the start of the pandemic.

The number of people tested is only a small proportion of the more than 46,000 people tested across the province. Fumerton said tests moved away from travelers entering the province through the Lower Mainland after the system became overwhelmed and now targets those at risk of or already in hospital, long-term care residents, workers of health and those in an epidemic cluster.

“These come from all over the North, so from our small and large communities across the region,” said Fumerton. “Many have been linked to travel but some have been acquired in the community. “

Fumerton defended the policy of health officials not to name specific communities where a case has been confirmed. She spoke in part of a legal obligation to protect privacy which limits officials to the number of cases at the level of health authorities and to provide information on a “need to know” basis.

This includes notifications of epidemics at high-risk sites such as acute and long-term care facilities, “of which we have none (in Northern Health) yet”, and high-risk exposures in which the contacts could not be identified. , like the Pacific Dental Conference.

“There is a provincial consensus among all medical officers of health in British Columbia that more detailed case information, including the number of cases for each community, is not necessary for communities to plan their responses and not therefore will not be published, “said Fumerton.

Even if no case has been confirmed in a community, it is not a guarantee that there is none, she added.

“We know that, given our current testing strategy, the majority of cases will go undiagnosed in terms of laboratory confirmation, as we are continuing our testing efforts for high priority populations,” said Fumerton.

“So these types of announcements, community by community, could produce a false sense of security. “

Conversely, she said that community-by-community disclosure risks identifying specific people. She said there had been cases of “stigma and vigilance promulgated across the province by people responding to a perceived threat”, and more specific details could only worsen the response.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ullrich said doctors and management are working on a modeling plan released last week to secure enough ventilators, intensive care beds and acute care beds, but said refused to provide details.

“This is a gap that can be closed,” said Ullrich.

According to the modeling, 12 people would need intensive care and 10 of them would then need ventilators if the pandemic were to reach the relatively moderate scale seen in South Korea. Under current conditions, this would leave Northern Health short of two intensive care beds and a ventilator among its top three hospitals – University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace and the hospital Fort St. John.

Using northern Italy as the most unfavorable scenario, 47 patients would require intensive care, 38 of which require ventilation, leaving 37 beds and 27 ventilators in hospitals, which have been designated as care sites primary.


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