'Information is power': Social media page keeps track of COVID-19 exposures in schools
VANCOUVER -- When it comes to possible COVID-19 exposures in schools, who gets notified depends on the health authority where the exposure happened.
The discrepancy and lack of consistency compelled one Lower Mainland parent to take it upon herself to ensure others can easily access that information.
“I was super frustrated and I said, ‘Something really needs to be done. If I need to know this information, I'm sure others do, too,’” Kathy Marliss told CTV News Vancouver.
Marliss started a Facebook page called “BC School COVID Tracker”, which keeps tabs on possible exposures and confirmed cases at schools.
“Information is power; information is valuable. And it just gives parents that sense of comfort to say, ‘OK, you know what, I know what's happening. I can make some informed choices,’” she said.
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Fraser Health Authority and other regions are posting all school exposures, but Vancouver Coastal Health isn’t posting cases when the risk is low and all close contacts have been successfully traced.
“The decision to post notifications, we will do that when there's a broader group of students who may have been exposed,” VCH’s chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly explained to CTV News Thursday.
Since only certain exposures are being posted, parents, teachers and concerned residents are sharing information by anonymously sending a private message to Marliss’ page.
The page was started less than a week ago, and through the power of crowdsourcing, it has identified 51 B.C. schools with possible exposures and a total of 57 exposure events.
“It sends a really clear message that the health authorities, the government aren't doing what needs to be done,” Marliss said.
Patti Bacchus, a former long-time chair of the Vancouver School Board chair, has been calling for greater transparency and consistency with the reporting policy.
“When you don't get that information, and you're hearing it through the back channels or through Facebook, you start to question, ‘What else aren’t they telling us?’ And that's just not a good place to be,” Bacchus said.
She said it’s no surprise parents have taken matters into their own hands, but cautions it could lead to misinformation.
“People want information and I think it's critical that they have that. But I think it's also risky. And I think that's why it's important for the official bodies, the public health authority, (to) be keeping people informed in a timely way with up-to-date, accurate information,” she said.
Marliss would also like to see public health officials make the information available, but until then, she is busily updating her Facebook page several times a day.
She said the secrecy further stigmatizes those who test positive for the disease.
“I don't think we need to know who has COVID. I don't think we need to know which class necessarily has COVID, we just need to know if it's in a school,” she said. “I think instead of us trying to hide it, we should be seeing if those people need support, and how we can help them, and not ostracize them from the schools.”