Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix
Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix (Colin Smith Takes Pics)

This week BC Health officials were criticized for what the public and journalists have perceived as withholding vital information regarding daily case count data and surveillance data.

This means that numbers of those who were previously infected with COVID-19 and are now deemed ‘uninfectious’ but still occupy an ICU have been omitted from daily case counts.

BC’s health minister Adrian Dix said this week that COVID-19 patients in ICU are removed from daily case count numbers when they are no longer infectious with the virus.

In a statement Friday morning, the province doubled down, addressing what journalists have considered a breach of public trust.

“The BC Centre for Disease Control’s surveillance reports and the numbers in the daily report have a different function. They report the number of people with COVID-19 who require hospital or critical care,” the province said in a statement.

“These data help determine if, for example, the Delta variant causes increased rates of hospitalization or leads to more people needing critical care. This helps to understand the impact of the pandemic on the population (e.g., what percent of people with COVID-19 require hospital care) and plan public-health measures.”

As of September 21st, the province reported that there were 152 of these patients in BC hospitals – they are deemed “discontinued isolation.”

The government admitted that these cases are not reported in the daily case counts, and are determined as surveillance reports.

But before now, the public was not privy to this information.

The BC government has already been criticized for a lack of transparency – like failing to provide localized case counts throughout the pandemic.

The BCCDC began providing neighbourhood COVID-19 data in May in response to an information leak from the Vancouver Sun. 

The BC government remained stoic in their resolve of the issue, citing other provinces as a benchmark for keeping this data private.

“These cases do not directly contribute to the epidemiological picture of the pandemic, but importantly, make a significant contribution to public awareness and understanding of hospitals’ readiness to provide care,” the province said in a statement.

“Discontinued isolation reporting is anchored in B.C.’s public-health guidelines. For most cases, isolation is discontinued after 10 days, provided there is no fever and symptoms are improving. These same requirements are in effect in Ontario, Alberta and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

With daily case counts rising, and both the Island and Lower Mainland health regions opening ICU beds for Northern Health region COVID-19 patients, The Ministry of Health says that it is the sustainability of the system that they take into consideration when providing numbers.

Meanwhile, Manitoba have been transparent in providing their ‘uninfectious’ numbers in their daily updates.

In a September 23rd update, Manitoba reported that “68 Manitobans hospitalized with COVID-19 including 35 people with active COVID-19 as well as 33 people who are no longer infectious.”

Questions over transparency are especially poignant now in light of Alberta’s overrun ICU this month.

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