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

This week, the Comox Valley Record published two articles regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) arriving in our community.

Courtenay doctor confirms arrival of COVID-19 to the Comox Valley

Comox Valley school exposed to COVID-19

We did so because we believe getting as much information out to everyone as quickly and accurately as possible is the responsible thing to do.

It’s a shame Island Health does not share our attitude.

On March 15, Island Health sent out an advisory to the Comox Valley Waldorf School community, stating that a member of the school had tested positive for COVID 19.

But Island Health made the decision not to send that same statement – or any statement regarding local positive tests – to the mainstream media.

That’s exactly how rumours start.

When only certain factions have the correct information, and other people have none, the version of the story becomes twisted, almost immediately.

We heard everything from “one student” to “one staff member” to “the majority of the school” being infected, all because Island Health chose to only supply some of the information to some of the people.

We continue to get rumours, via email, phone and text, every day. Island Health continues to pass the buck, referring all questions to the ministry.

Announcing that there are seven 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, thinks people aren’t taking this pandemic seriously enough, they are correct. There is a certain underlying attitude, in any situation, that “it won’t affect me.”

Those attitudes changed overnight in the Comox Valley, when Dr. Tanja Daws went public, alerting our community that the disease has arrived here. Within 24 hours, the streets had emptied and people started staying home – which is exactly the message the authorities are trying to get across.

We reached out to both Island Health and the Ministry of Health for comments on Dr. Daws’s statement.

Island Health deferred to the ministry.

The ministry did not reply.

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.

We know it’s in B.C. We know it’s on Vancouver Island. But until the authorities tell us where, people will carry on with their lives thinking, at least for the meantime, they are safe.

Others will circulate rumours and innuendo.

The Comox Valley Record will continue to work with local health professionals to get as much correct information out to the public as possible.

We welcome Island Health to help us in that regard.

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