If the relatively sparse data available to the public about the number of COVID-19 cases reported in and around Salmon Arm is giving you headaches, relief is not in sight.
The only data available to the media and the public which is specific to Salmon Arm and area comes from a monthly update on local health areas, one of which is the Salmon Arm Local Health Area. The area stretches from Malakwa to Falkland and includes Salmon Arm and Sorrento.
Data has been updated once per month since January 2020, with the most recent update – Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 – showing a total of nine reported COVID-19 cases over 10 months in the local area.
The health areas closest to the Salmon Arm Health Area are Kamloops with 111 reported cases over the 10 months, Vernon with 43, Enderby with five, Armstrong with five and Revelstoke with three.
IH responded to questions about the absence of current and specific data by stating that the Provincial Health Officer and the Ministry of Health take the lead on what numbers are released, with input from epidemiologists in each health authority.
“The numbers posted on BCCDC are reviewed and would reflect the accurate count for each local health area. Cases are tracked by where people permanently reside (by their postal code).”
IH said, above all, the reason more specific details aren’t provided immediately is privacy.
“Particularly in smaller communities, privacy and trust are important for people to be comfortable coming forward to get tested. Identifying initial cases is at the heart of our contact tracing process that reduces further exposures in our communities – we can’t do that if people are afraid to come forward.”
In a recent column, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized the stigma associated with infection and the need for privacy.
“So, while I understand the desire to know and understand what the COVID-19 situation is in your community, I need to emphasize that knowing where the positive cases are does not protect you, your family or your community. The actions you take will do that,” Henry said.
On Nov. 18, Premier John Horgan responded to a question from mayors in the Fraser Health Region who wanted more specific information on COVID-19 cases. He said COVID-19 is everywhere in B.C. and people need to act accordingly.
“It is acute right now in Fraser Health, the numbers there are unacceptably high and have been for the past two-and-a-half weeks, so I say to the mayors and I say to the people of Fraser Health, we need to work together to amend our behaviour, to reduce the clusters. And these clusters are coming from social gatherings, they’re not coming from workplaces predominantly. If there’s an outbreak in a workplace, it’s because of a social gathering that led to an employee bringing the virus into that workplace.”
Interior Health said cases at businesses or institutions are reported when the public risk is broad and it’s not possible to trace all individuals who may have been exposed.
IH addressed the low numbers attributed to the Salmon Arm Health Area.
“If you look at other local health areas with similar populations (like Nelson or Cranbrook), Salmon Arm is pretty consistent. We have done relatively well in our rural communities in containing COVID-19 to date.
“The key point with the increased cases right now, though, is that COVID-19 is circulating in communities across Interior Health and it only takes a single case and a single gathering to create wider transmissions, clusters and outbreaks. That is why it is so important for everyone in Salmon Arm and all communities to follow all COVID-19 precautions now more than ever.”