A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

B.C.’s top doctor says the province plans to regularly release neighborhood-specific COVID-19 case counts and immunization rates following a leaked report that left some questioning an apparent gap between the level of data collected and what was provided to the public eye.

According to B.C. Centre for Disease Control documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun, a recent internal report shows the distribution of coronavirus cases broken down to more localized B.C. neighbourhoods than what has been released since the pandemic began early in 2020.

Currently, officials release weekly case counts segmented by Local Health Service areas, which can include groupings of populations of cities the size of Surrey (over 500,000). The internal report doesn’t show broken down data for rural regions.

News agencies across the province, including Black Press Media, have asked in the past for more detailed breakdowns of COVID cases, with officials stating concerns of privacy.

There have been 134,000 confirmed cases of the contagious respiratory illness in B.C. since January 2020.

Other regions in the country, such as Toronto and central Alberta, are seeing steady daily case counts reported in neighbourhood data.

BC Centre for Disease Control data in a leaked report from April 30, which was obtained by the Vancouver Sun and published on May 7, 2021.

BC Centre for Disease Control data in a leaked report from April 30, which was obtained by the Vancouver Sun and published on May 7, 2021.

The more detailed breakdown of confirmed cases comes as health authorities are announcing how vaccines will be rolled out, based on ever-changing supply. While the province is using an age-based method (older British Columbians to get vaccine access first), there have been pop-up clinics targeting what officials have dubbed as “hotspots” for transmission.

Data wasn’t ready for public eyes, officials say

Vice-president Dr. Réka Gustafson of the B.C. CDC said the data wasn’t disclosed because it wasn’t “at the standard” the B.C. CDC considers viable for release to the public.

Workers dedicate their time to collect and distribute data based on what is of interest at the time, Gustafson said at a news conference Friday.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. “doesn’t have systems to support the consistent collection of the same data over time.”

“We have huge gaps still,” she said, noting a lack of collected data on workplace outbreaks and minority groups in communities of the province.

“Every single day we are looking to making this better,” Gustafson said.

As it stands, health regions are more often able to provide up-to-date data on COVID-19 cases and immunizations than provincial-level officials.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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