EDITORIAL: Communities have a right to know when COVID-19 arrives locally

Island Health should be more forthcoming about where on the Island cases are confirmed

The very first thing everyone wanted to know when the first case of COVID-19 on Vancouver Island was announced was where on Vancouver Island the person is.

Frustratingly, Island Health and the provincial ministry do not provide this information to the public. They should.

The idea seems to be that they are protecting people’s privacy, which is important of course, and that they are encouraging everyone to behave as if the virus is in their community, rather than giving them a false sense of security by telling them it is elsewhere.

We question this reasoning, on both counts.

Announcing that there are eight cases or 12 cases on Vancouver Island is not good enough. People in every community have the right to know where the infection has infiltrated, and how serious the infection is in their community.

People are demanding information, and they deserve it.

If Island Health, or the ministry, thought people weren’t taking this pandemic seriously enough, they were correct. Until the slew of cancellations and closures that started at the end of last week, there was a feeling that the virus was somewhere else, and that perhaps it wouldn’t come here and affect our lives personally. Those attitudes changed overnight in the Comox Valley, when Dr. Tanja Daws went public, alerting the community that the disease had arrived there. Within 24 hours, the streets had emptied and people started staying home, which is exactly the message the authorities were trying to get across.

We have no doubt the reaction would have been the same in Cowichan. It’s not about creating panic, it’s about driving home the reality of the situation.

Privacy is an important consideration, but our communities are big enough that officials would not be giving it away if they specified if someone had been diagnosed in the Cowichan Valley.

If they want people to take this seriously, it’s time they start being more forthcoming with their announcements of where the infection has spread.

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