A report leaked by the BC Center for Disease Control into the more detailed geographic spread of COVID-19 transmission leaves some wondering why this data has not been available to the public in the past year.
According to documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun, a recent internal report shows the distribution of coronavirus cases in more localized neighborhoods in British Columbia than has been published since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Currently, officials publish weekly case counts segmented by local health service areas, which may include population groups from towns the size of Surrey (over 500,000). The internal report does not present disaggregated data for rural areas.
News agencies across the province, including Black Press Media, have in the past asked for more detailed breakdowns of COVID cases, with officials raising concerns about privacy.
There have been 134,000 confirmed cases of contagious respiratory disease in British Columbia since January 2020.
Other regions of the country, such as Toronto and central Alberta, record regular daily case counts in neighborhood data.
The more detailed breakdown of confirmed cases comes as health authorities announce how vaccines will be deployed, based on the ever-changing supply. While the province uses an age-based method (older British Columbians must have access to vaccines first), there have been pop-up clinics targeting what authorities have called transmission “hot spots”. .
Data was not ready for the public’s eyes, officials say
Vice President Dr Réka Gustafson of the BC CDC said the data was withheld because it was not “up to standard” that the BC CDC considers viable for public disclosure.
Workers are spending their time collecting and disseminating data based on what interests them at the time, Gustafson said at a press conference on Friday.
Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry said British Columbia “does not have systems to support the consistent collection of the same data over time.”
“We still have huge gaps,” she said, noting the lack of data collected on workplace outbreaks and minority and cultural groups in communities across the province.
“Every day we are looking to make things better,” said Gustafson.
As it stands, health regions are more often able to provide up-to-date data on COVID-19 cases and vaccinations than provincial authorities.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Do you want to support local journalism? Donate here.