How people in N.B. are sharing COVID-19 data on their own

Click to play video: 'Volunteers in N.B. sifting through COVID-19 data and information' Volunteers in N.B. sifting through COVID-19 data and information
Watch: As New Brunswickers get through this latest wave of COVID-19, some people are finding other sources of information on the virus. One of these groups is Protect Our Province New Brunswick. It’s a group of volunteers who sift through data and information. Nathalie Sturgeon explains. – Apr 6, 2022

In the absence of readily-available COVID-19 information, citizens and medical professionals in different provinces began taking the task of providing COVID-19 information to the public into their own hands.

Groups bearing the name Protect our Province have popped up in many places, including British Columbia, Alberta and even New Brunswick.

The groups, which are volunteer-based, typically have doctors, health-care workers and community members working on providing information, mutual aid and even COVID-19 briefings to the public on a regular basis.

In New Brunswick, it’s mostly community members.

Read more: Some N.B. parents frustrated with back-and-forth on mandatory masks in schools

One of them is Kathleen Gadd, who lives in Miramichi.

She said Protect our Province New Brunswick began as a movement of kindness. The group wanted to show support to local front-line health-care workers.

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“The first thing that we did was the kindness thing,” she said. “So it really has evolved.”

She said she was watching how PoP Alberta had helped many people get information on masking, ventilation, the airborne nature of the virus and felt New Brunswick could ultimately benefit from something like that.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick launches new website for COVID-19 data' New Brunswick launches new website for COVID-19 data
New Brunswick launches new website for COVID-19 data – Apr 5, 2022

Over time, people began lending their expertise to the group.

“As stuff was happening, I knew personally I was waiting for an updated information,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “I know I was expecting we would have a physician that would come out and be like, ‘OK everybody, let’s focus on this and let’s solve some problems.’”

No doctors have come to the group yet, Gadd said, but said in a province of New Brunswick’s size, there may be hesitation despite a recent rise in doctors speaking out on the pandemic situation in the province.

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The next step is to create a website much like the ones that exist for the other groups.

Read more: COVID-19: N.B. reporting 9 deaths, nearly 3,900 positive PCR tests in weekly update

Ray Harris, founder of the data analysis company DataWazo, also had his own COVID-19 dashboard. At certain points, he even included data that was not provided by government.

He has since stopped doing it, though, due to the slowdown of updates from the province.

“I’ve always thought the government dashboard was reasonably good,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “It had a lot of good stuff to help keep informed. So, I thought the extra mile, the nitty gritty stuff that I was kind of doing, probably wouldn’t resonate with people. I thought it would be data nerds like me … but that wasn’t the case.

“A lot of people had those questions and wanted that underlying data.”

He said he likely won’t bring it back but said he feels having readily-available data does help people make an assessment of their risk to virus.

“I think having data is really, really impactful,” he said, adding if information is published regularly and consistently, it evens the playing field for everyone.

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Dr. Lyne Filiatrault is with Protect Our Province British Columbia and said the group was also inspired by the one in Alberta.

She said there were inconsistencies in the messaging being given by Public Health in the province. Many myths were being perpetuated and the group of medical professionals felt compelled to reach out to the public themselves.

It includes live briefings, something that Canadians have become accustomed to through the government.

Filiatrault said, like New Brunswick, B.C. is also moving to once-weekly reporting which will make accessing data more challenging, but they have other options.

They will also use wastewater data to help measure the levels of COVID-19 in the province.

“Like a lot of public health leaders across the world and in Canada, we tend to scan what’s happening elsewhere, so will continue trying to let the public know how the virus is evolving in other places in the world and what is likely coming our way,” she said.


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