Almost half of participants in B.C. COVID-19 self-isolation study broke the rules
A B.C. study looking into self-isolation through the COVID-19 pandemic has found almost half the participants broke the rules.
The research was conducted by scientists with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHEOS), along with representatives from UBC, St. Paul’s Hospital, and Vancouver General Hospital.
The team surveyed symptomatic people discharged from the emergency departments at St. Paul’s, Lions Gate and Mount St. Joseph’s hospitals from May to June of 2020, to see how well they adhered to self-isolation instructions.
They found only 56 per cent of patients stuck to the rules.
The team’s senior investigator, Dr. Andrew Kestler, described the results as “fairly surprising,” given the type of people involved in the study.
“Most participants were middle class and about 20 per cent of them were health-care workers,” Kestler said.
The most common reasons for breaking the rules were people leaving their homes to get food, medication and fresh air. There were also challenges with isolating at home.
“A lot of people shared their homes with others,” Kestler said. “Two-thirds of people lived with other people and a lot of those places were small, so they had trouble in their own homes self-isolating from others. Most people don’t have a mansion with multiple wings where most people can have their own wing.”
The research team reached out to 342 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 during the study period, but only 65 people met the criteria and completed the survey. Kestler admits it was a small group, but believes “it’s still good information” to apply to any future pandemics.
“The public health system needs to find ways to support people in self-isolation, or community organizations need do so, whether it’s food delivery, medication delivery,” he said.
One organization that conducted outreach work during the pandemic is United Way British Columbia. The group’s president and CEO Michael McKnight said more than 46,000 people signed up to volunteer.
“The community response was amazing,” McKnight said. “(People were) picking up food, picking up prescriptions or in some cases just checking on the well being of some people.”
McKnight said one challenge his organization found was being able to respond quickly enough to the fast-moving crisis, but he added the processes in place now helped with the wildfire response.
“We learned a lot and I think United Way would be ready to respond when the next kind of crisis comes along,” he said.