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Coronavirus: B.C. health officials aren’t saying which communities have cases. Here’s why

Click to play video 'B.C. officials report 77 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 348' B.C. officials report 77 new cases of COVID-19, bringing total to 348
WATCH: Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urges the public to minimize contact outside of the family and explains why restaurants need to stop dine-in service – Mar 20, 2020

British Columbia announced 77 new cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, bringing the provincial total to 348.

To date, health officials have not been specific about which communities have recorded cases, opting instead to say which of B.C.’s five health regions the are in.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. announces 77 new cases and 1 new death, 22 now in hospital

The move has not been popular, with many British Columbians taking to social media to express concern that they are not getting more detailed information.

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City of Vancouver ban dine-in service at restaurants, close park playgrounds – Mar 20, 2020

Two of B.C.’s health regions, the Northern Health Authority and the Interior Health Authority, account for more than two-thirds of the province’s entire landmass.

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A map of British Columbia’s five health regions.
A map of British Columbia’s five health regions. B.C. Ministry of Health

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry defended the approached Friday, arguing officials want people everywhere in B.C. to be taking precautions.

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“We are now at a place where it’s irrelevant what community you’re in,” said Henry.

READ MORE: UBC study to look at how people cope with coronavirus outbreak

“The risk of this virus is everywhere in British Columbia. Everywhere in Canada … so we cannot say it [makes] any difference whether somebody was in, you know, the North Shore or in downtown Vancouver.”

She said people who may have COVID-19, but are not showing symptoms yet, continue to return to British Columbia from travel either within Canada or abroad.

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And she added that there is still significant travel around the province, and that many people may live in one community but work in another.

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“So knowing where somebody was two weeks ago when we detected them is not going to protect you,” said Henry.

Henry went on to say the current pandemic is different than previous outbreaks where the location of individual cases was reported.

During the 2019 measles outbreak, Henry said there were a limited number of cases, restricted to just a few areas and that there were often just one or two people who needed to be notified.

READ MORE: All dressed up and nowhere to go: B.C. woman hosts stay-at-home soiree in the age of COVID-19

She said the novel coronavirus is also a different kind of disease.

“Measles can be spread in the air after somebody has left the room, so we need to give people an idea of where they might have been in contact with it,” she said.

“We’re not seeing that with this disease.”

B.C.’s approach has differed from other Canadian jurisdictions that have seen large numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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Ontario, for example, provides an online list tracking the age, sex, community location and vector of infection of every case.

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Alberta is reporting numbers in smaller zone units which include key cities such as Calgary and Edmonton.

Quebec’s health region reporting includes massive areas similar to British Columbia’s, but also includes smaller units such as Quebec City, Montreal and Laval.

Around British Columbia, 200 cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 95 are in the Fraser Health region, 30 are in the Island Health region, 19 are in the Interior Health region and four cases are in the Northern Health region.​