Interior Health does not release COVID-19 numbers for Nelson or any other specific community. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Interior Health does not release COVID-19 numbers for Nelson or any other specific community. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Why isn’t the Nelson Star reporting the locations of COVID-19 cases?

We are often asked for more detail from frustrated readers

The Nelson Star has received many requests from the public for information on which communities have confirmed COVID-19 cases.

We don’t have that information because Interior Health does not release it. IH and the other B.C. health regions only release overall numbers from their region, without mentioning specific communities.

Their only exception is that they will identify clusters of infections, such as those in care homes.

This policy of not naming communities has prompted an active public debate in which there are two schools of thought.

The first is that IH should identify specific communities with confirmed cases, otherwise people in those communities will be complacent. For example, if we knew there were infections in Nelson, residents would be more motivated to protect themselves.

It was this view that Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison espoused when he recently urged IH to disclose city-level locations of cases.

“My office has made multiple requests of the provincial government’s top health official’s office to make this information available,” he said.

“Given the size of the area and the clarity this situation requires Interior Health should be releasing the locations (cities) where COVID-19 is known to be present.”

The opposing view is that if the names of communities are reported, places without confirmed cases will get complacent. For example, if Nelson was told all cases were in the Okanagan, residents might not work hard enough to protect themselves when in fact there could easily be infected people in the city.

B.C.’s medical health officer Bonnie Henry is operating under this second theory.

She says not naming communities protects the privacy of the people involved, and has said “we need everybody to be aware that the risk is not just in one place. It’s not just them and over there. It’s in your community too and you need to be taking these measures now, everywhere.

“It doesn’t serve anybody to think that it’s not going to affect me, that it’s not in my community and it won’t affect my family. We know people travel back from all over the place and we know that we can’t always tell everybody that has this disease.”

There has been one exception to this lack of location-specific reporting in a recent Star story about a Castlegar doctor who disclosed that she knew of cases in that city. We reported this because it came from a doctor and we thought it was a credible source.


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