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EDITORIAL – Why we must be told where COVID-19 is showing up

(Image: Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE SECRECY AROUND where COVID-19 cases are occurring has to stop.

From the beginning of the contagion, B.C. medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has refused to reveal which communities are experiencing confirmed cases.

Initially, her rationale was “privacy.”

Revealing names of patients, or which streets they live on, is certainly a privacy issue under the law, but naming communities isn’t.

At the weekend, Henry defended her continued refusal to reveal locations with the claim that people must understand the importance of preventive measures and not assume they’re safe if their community hasn’t been identified as having COVID-19 cases.

In fact, though, the secrecy has the opposite effect. Some people locally still think the virus doesn’t affect them because their community hasn’t been named, the false rationale being that it must be happening somewhere else.

There’s also a double standard at work. We regularly receive updates about cases at the Lynne Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver and other seniors facilities. Why is it OK to identify a care facility but not communities with many more residents?

There are two good reasons for doing away with the general secrecy. One is a matter of principle — facts are friendly and we’re all part of this situation. We have a right to know.

But there’s a very practical reason, as well. Being aware of exactly where COVID-19 is occurring, especially if it’s in our own community, would make people smarten up about the need to take precautions.

The alternative is exactly what’s happening — communities like Sun Peaks taking matters into their own hands and releasing the information themselves. Worse yet, rumours are starting to run rampant.

Henry and the powers that be must lift the veil of secrecy.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7618 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on EDITORIAL – Why we must be told where COVID-19 is showing up

  1. Beverley Campbell // March 24, 2020 at 7:55 AM // Reply

    Actually, when people say that Bonnie Henry is schooling us on how to conduct a public statement that isn’t the entire story, when Public Health speaks it is always in a quiet voice, lest anyone else hear what they are saying, sometimes one is grateful for this secrecy however in the case of is there active Covid-19 in your particular area it is a beneficial thing to know and it should be revealed, no details of who it is of course but the community? Certainly.

  2. R A George // March 23, 2020 at 2:17 PM // Reply

    Bonnie perhaps had too much to do with the RCMP,the past masters of secrecy!

  3. I think its safe to say that all communities are affected. Unless you are very ill, they tell you to stay home. Testing is not always available, so its impossible for anyone to say just how many cases there are out there.

    On another note,how on earth does one socially distance in a grocery store? The aisles are narrow and its busy, so impossible to stay back from everyone. You are face to face with the cashier. The hours are shorter in most all places, which just adds to more crowding. Its scary!

  4. You are so right Mel. We need to know what communities are affected.

  5. Sean McGuinness // March 23, 2020 at 8:18 AM // Reply

    Actually, not knowing exactly where the outbreaks are may be a good thing. People will be more careful because they don’t know exactly where the virus has spread.

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