Smithers Interior News Editorial

Province should learn from Witset

The First Nation authorities did the right thing in divulging local COVID-19 infection numbers

Of course, when we first heard Witset had three cases of COVID-19 and later the number had climbed to 14, our hearts immediately went out to the people of that community.

Secondarily, we were very impressed with their response in first announcing the infections and then quickly putting together a strategy to contain it. They should be commended.

In a post informing the people of the outbreak, the community leadership said: “Knowledge is power.”

That is wisdom provincial and regional health authorities should learn.

So far, the Province, regional and local health authorities and municipalities have refused to divulge local numbers.

In doing so they invoke “privacy.” This is probably a policy that could be challenged in the courts. The legislation around medical privacy is designed to protect individual patients’ medical records, not to hide statistics.

As this pandemic progresses, the people have a right to know how many cases are in their communities, just as Witset informed their people.

To put this outbreak in context. On a per capita basis, a similar Smithers outbreak would be 107 cases.

If we had 107 active cases in Smithers shouldn’t the population be aware of that?

Extrapolate to Vancouver (just the city proper) and we’d be looking at 13,504 cases.

Is that what it will take to get the health authorities to listen and do the right thing?

As of this writing there are 45 known active cases in the Northern Health region. With 14 in Witset and 13 in Nak’azdli Whut’en, a First Nation near Fort St. James, that means there are only 18 in all of the rest of the North.

That is a comforting thought, which to a pandemic-weary population is a recipe for complacency.

Telling us we should just assume there are cases in our communities just isn’t cutting it anymore.

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