Coronavirus: B.C. says no, again, on releasing COVID-19 numbers for cities or regional districts

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry looks on while answering a question during her daily announcement of coronavirus statistics in B.C., on Saturday, May 23, 2020. Global News

B.C. health officials are holding firm on a policy not to share data on confirmed coronavirus cases for specific communities — though say they could one day release that data.

On Saturday, as usual, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided the latest daily COVID-19 statistics throughout the province.

Since the pandemic began, B.C. has issued only statistics for its five health regions: Vancouver Coastal, Fraser, Vancouver Island, Interior and Northern.

Asked weeks ago if the province would supply a smaller breakdown of numbers, the province flatly said no.

Asked again on Saturday if the province will rethink its strategy and provide numbers for smaller areas, such as cities or regional districts, the answer was again no.

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This isn’t the case in Alberta or Washington state, where those governments provide more detailed statistics.

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Number of confirmed cases by health region in B.C.:

  • Vancouver Coastal: Saturday, May 23: 890 (Friday, May 22: 888).
  • Fraser: Saturday, May 23: 1,244 (Friday, May 22: 1,236).
  • Vancouver Island: Saturday, May 23: 127 (Friday, May 22: 127).
  • Interior: Saturday, May 23: 194 (Friday, May 22: 194).
  • Northern: Saturday, May 23: 62 (Friday, May 22: 62).

Latest statistics:

  • B.C.: 2,507 cases, 155 deaths and 129,942 tests.
  • Alberta: 6,818 cases, 135 deaths and 209,4121 tests.
  • Washington: 7,669 cases, 542 deaths and 308,358 tests.

For example, in Alberta’s Red Deer County, as of Saturday, there were 16 cases, with one active, 15 recovered and zero deaths. Within the City of Red Deer, there were 37 cases, 35 of which have recovered, and two deaths. In the City of Calgary, there were 3,800 cases, (630 active, 3,073 recovered) and 88 deaths.

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In Washington state, Whatcom County had 363 cases (50 hospitalizations) and 36 deaths. Neighbouring Skagit County had 426 cases (49 hospitalizations) and 15 deaths, while King County had 7,669 cases (1,547 hospitalizations) and 52 deaths.

Notably, the Interior Health region in B.C. services around 800,000 residents and covers approximately 215,000 square kilometres — which is bigger than Washington state (approx. 185,000 sq. km).

However, Interior Health gets only one set of numbers, while Washington gives numbers for all its 39 counties.

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And the Interior Health region, which is about one-third the size of Alberta, is much smaller than Northern Health (approx. 600,000 sq. km).

On Saturday, Henry said the decision in not releasing the equivalent numbers to B.C. residents is to prevent “a false sense of security.”

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“As we’ve come through this, we have not tested everybody,” said Henry. “There have been people in communities around this province who have been exposed to the virus, who have been sick with the virus, who have been at home, who have spread it to others.

“It’s this sense that, ‘It’s those people over there that have a problem and I’m OK’, that we need to be very careful about right now and certainly in the last number of months.”

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Henry said, “we are presenting the data by health authority region for that reason primarily because it gives you a sense of where in the province we’re having the force of infection and the fact that it is everywhere right now, and we are still in that place.”

The provincial health officer added: “we will continue to provide as much information as possible as we can, and more data as we move forward, and we are looking at whether there are reasonable, more smaller levels that we can look at as well.”

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In an email to Global News, a communications spokesperson for Alberta Health said: “from Day 1, we committed to being as transparent with Albertans as possible, while still protecting patient confidentiality.”

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To view Alberta’s statistics, click here.

To view county-by-county statistics, click on the “Geospatial” header, which then brings up more stats, including an interactive map.

Alberta Health says the map protects patient confidentiality and provides no identifying demographic information on each case, but added that it is continually assessing and reviewing Alberta’s approach.

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