'Offensive to me': Former Vancouver School Board chair sounds off on COVID-19 reporting policy
VANCOUVER -- If you want to know how many COVID-19 exposures there are in your health region, the information you can find online depends on where you live. That’s a discrepancy a former chair of the Vancouver School Board finds unacceptable.
“I heard the message from (provincial health officer) Dr. (Bonnie) Henry that all health authorities would be reporting in a consistent way, there would be a website you could check your health authority for schools exposures, and I’m seeing that for the other health authorities, but I’m not seeing that in Vancouver,” said Patti Bacchus.
That’s because the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which covers Vancouver, Richmond, the north shore and parts of the Sunshine Coast, is only posting notifications when there is a broader group of students who may have been exposed.
“We talk with Dr. Bonnie Henry regularly; she is quite comfortable with what we are doing in Vancouver Coastal Health,” said the region’s chief medical health officer Dr. Patricia Daly. “Her expectation is we do the appropriate assessment and post when we feel it’s appropriate, and that’s what we are doing here.”
And Henry backed that up in her Thursday COVID-19 news conference.
“I have full confidence that Vancouver Coastal is doing what we need them to do,” said Henry. “I think where some of the nuance came in was around exactly what we are talking about as an exposure event.”
Fraser Health and other regions are posting all school exposures, but VCH isn’t posting cases when the risk is low and all close contacts have been successfully traced. That’s not good enough for Bacchus.
“If they think it’s a low-risk exposure, they can add that to their communications and that’s the job of public health officials. But deciding the public doesn’t need to know information that I think the public should know and has a right to know is not appropriate,” she said. “It’s disappointing, it really is offensive to me to say, ‘You don’t need to know this information.’”
The Surrey school district, which has posted all 18 of its exposures on the Fraser Health website and tweeted a map with their locations, believes it has the right approach.
“With the rumour mill and people will talk and social media, it’s going to be out there anyway. So are they going to hear from the authorities or are they going hear from the rumour mill?” said Surrey school district superintendent Jordan Tinney. “People just want to know on a week-to-week basis — just tell me what’s happening. And so, at the very least, ‘Gee, if my school had a case linked to it, shouldn’t I be able to know?’ And our answer is yes.”