Metro Vancouver mayors facing COVID-19 surge call for more regional data

Click to play video 'Metro Vancouver mayors call for more detailed COVID information' Metro Vancouver mayors call for more detailed COVID information
Five mayors from the hard-hit Fraser Health region say the B.C. government should release more detailed information about COVID-19 cases and transmissions, to help them make better decisions about enforcement and restrictions. Richard Zussman reports – Nov 18, 2020

Five mayors in the B.C.’s Fraser Health region have asked Premier John Horgan to release community-specific COVID-19 data.

British Columbia releases data five times a week based on the five health authorities in the province, but does not provide specific municipal data.

Ontario provides much more specific regional data and, in Toronto, provides data in many cases based on neighbourhoods where people testing positive for the virus live.

“As municipalities, we are committed and uniquely positioned to supporting senior governments, residents, businesses and other stakeholders during the challenges of the pandemic. To perform these functions effectively, we need more granular and frequent data,” the mayors write.

“A better understanding of community transmission levels will help us make informed decisions regarding our facilities and the associated safety plans.”

Click to play video 'Metro Vancouver mayors want specific COVID-19 data for municipalities' Metro Vancouver mayors want specific COVID-19 data for municipalities
Metro Vancouver mayors want specific COVID-19 data for municipalities – Nov 19, 2020

Read more: Canadian officials urged to collect race-based health data during COVID-19

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The letter is signed by Delta Mayor George Harvie, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, City of Langley Mayor Val van den Broek and Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese.

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Fraser Health has been the hardest hit by the surge of COVID-19 cases. But the province does not provide daily data on which municipalities in the region have seen the greatest increase in cases.

On Tuesday, a record-breaking 717 new cases of the virus were announced, 484 of them in the Fraser Health region.

The mayors say more detailed local COVID-19 data would guide decision making an resource allocation and allow communities to work with local businesses and community organizations.

The data would also allow the municipalities to tailor messaging, implement preventive measures, focus enforcement and work with the Fraser Health Authority on any other appropriate measures, they mayor say.

“We appreciate the privacy and reliability concerns that can be associated with more granular data; however, we strongly believe that the benefits associated with responsible use of this data is significant and needs to be considered,” the mayors write.

“Local governments play a key role in the province’s COVID-19 response and providing data similar to the monthly data provided to the six subareas in Vancouver will strengthen our response while recognizing our diverse and geographically unique communities.”

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Click to play video 'Premier John Horgan takes questions amid surge in B.C. COVID-19 cases' Premier John Horgan takes questions amid surge in B.C. COVID-19 cases
Premier John Horgan takes questions amid surge in B.C. COVID-19 cases – Nov 18, 2020

On Wednesday, Horgan defended the government’s position to not provide localized data.

The premier argued COVID-19 is everywhere and people across Fraser Health need to work together.

“We need to adapt our behaviours to that simple truth. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Delta, or if you’re in Langley, or if you’re in Chilliwack, COVID is in the community so you need to act accordingly,’ Horgan said.

When asked what the province was hiding, Horgan bristled at the idea. The premier added the province does not want to stigmatize individuals or communities by providing an localized breakdown of COVID cases.

“We’re not hiding anything. We have been as transparent as any jurisdiction in North America on a daily basis for months, giving appropriate information to the public so they have an understanding of the risks of COVID-19 in B.C.,” Horgan said.

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“We want everyone to understand that we are all at risk, regardless of who we are, where we come from, what our economic status is, we are all at risk, and we have to act accordingly.”

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