You want the numbers and we want the numbers.
Though The Chief and other news organizations repeatedly ask, the Ministry of Health has so far refused to release the specific count of positive COVID-19 cases for Squamish or any other community in B.C.
Instead, stats are only released for B.C.’s five health regions, Squamish falling into the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which includes Vancouver, the North Shore, Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast.
If the health authority is concerned staff couldn’t reach all the contacts of an infected person, that is when they will say publicly specifically where a case is.
That hasn’t happened in Squamish.
The reasons for the lack of transparency sound rational on the surface, and perhaps withholding is the right thing and we just don’t understand it at this point, but the hard cold fact is that the unknown is causing more stress for locals than knowing the truth.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told The Chief she wants people to feel comfortable getting tested for COVID-19.
The concern is those who are ill will fear seeking help if their status could be revealed. There is also likely fear the ill could be targeted in the heightened tension around this virus.
Henry also argues people should take this pandemic seriously, no matter the number of cases in their town.
The virus is throughout the province, “it’s irrelevant what community you’re in,” she said in a recent press conference.
Whether we have a few cases or many, we need to respect the closures, restrictions, and advice.
Full stop. We agree.
But Squamish residents are left to wonder if our community is a hotbed for the virus, or not.
It makes some think something is being hidden from them by their leaders, and their local media.
As we have seen in Squamish, some are turning instead to social media forums where the information is not verified.
That is not good for anyone.
And not all provinces are handling information in the same way.
In Ontario, the age, sex, and location of each positive case are released.
In Alberta, the stats are in zones, but the zones are smaller, so more specific, though again, people aren’t getting the exact cases for each community.
Quebec’s health ministry is handling information in a similar way to ours, except for releasing much more specific information for bigger centres, such as Montreal and Quebec City.
Saskatchewan is early in the virus spread, but is releasing this type of information: “An individual in their 20s was tested in Regina following travel in the U.S.”
To be clear, Dr. Henry’s handling of this outbreak has been otherwise top-notch.
She has been thoughtful, systematic and swift. She knows far more than any of us, the next best steps in terms of what we should do.
But fear spreads in darkness.
We need the numbers.