Editorial – Today’s Northumberland has had a number of enquires about how the HKPR District Health Unit issues releases concerning COVID-19 and areas where a confirmed case has been detected.
Reaching out to the health unit, we simply asked, “why can’t the health unit say what municipality they are from?”
Today’s Northumberland was given a lengthy response from HKPR District Health Unit Communications Officer Bill Eekhof.
“The Health Unit does not provide information broken down by lower-tier municipality or community,” stated Eekhof in the e-mail.
“This is done because the Health Unit has the legal responsibility to protect personal health information it has collected under various pieces of legislation such as the Health Protection and Promotion Act.”
Eekhof states that people may think the geographic area has a large enough population to make it, “impossible to identify an individual,” but “we essentially cover three counties comprised of small towns and townships and it could be very easy to identify someone who tests positive.”
“Other Ontario health units that provide a more detailed breakdown of the residence of positive cases typically have larger populations, making it more difficult to potentially identify a person who has tested positive there.”
The latest census Today’s Northumberland could find is from 2016.
It states that Haliburton County has a population of 18,000, City of Kawartha Lakes has a population of 75,000 and Northumberland County has a population of 85,000.
We can certainly understand not releasing information where there are smaller populated regions like Townships in Haliburton County, but in larger areas like Cobourg and Port Hope which each
have nearly 20,000 people and more populated Townships there would be no way of identifying the person if the health unit gave the area.
But even stating that – if a friend or family member has contracted COVID-19, it goes without saying no matter how small or large the region, people in that circle would be aware.
It also stands to reason, people who don’t know the person that contracted COVID, would not likely be aware of the incident.
So with municipalities like Cobourg with a population of nearly 20,000 (as of 2016), Port Hope with a population of nearly 17,000 and larger Townships we believe the health unit should be releasing information if/when a person contracts COVID.
People hopefully are taking every precaution to prevent getting COVID-19, but it’s inevitable, sooner or later, someone you know will contract COVID-19.
But just because you have it, shouldn’t mean people treat you differently.
Out of the 231 cases confirmed in the health units area a total of 208 have been resolved.
The City of Kawartha Lakes currently has five current high risk contacts and Northumberland County has two..
One person’s death has been attributed to COVID-19 in Northumberland County and there have been 32 in City of Kawartha Lakes.
Keeping the confidentiality of the patient should be a priority at anytime concerning health matters.
But it’s also critical for people in more populated areas of the Counties to know. Not just a generalized number.
HKPR District Heath Unit
COVID-19 Reporting in HKPR Region
· Each public health unit in Ontario is responsible for reporting positive COVID-19 cases in its own region. Locally, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit posts regularly updated information on its website (www.hkpr.on.ca) about the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in each of the counties it serves – Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. We include the number of high-risk contacts, the number of probable cases, the number of people who have been hospitalized, the number of cases that have been resolved and the number of deaths. We also provide a detailed epidemiological report that includes information on the gender of our cases, and the age range. Our goal in reporting local COVID-19 is to strike a balance between being transparent and protecting personal privacy.
· The Health Unit does not provide information broken down by lower-tier municipality or community. This is done because the Health Unit has the legal responsibility to protect personal health information it has collected under various pieces of legislation such as the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Although it may seem that our geographic area has a large enough population to make it impossible to identify an individual, we essentially cover three counties comprised of small towns and townships and it could be very easy to identify someone who tests positive.
· Other Ontario health units that provide a more detailed breakdown of the residence of positive cases typically have larger populations, making it more difficult to potentially identify a person who has tested positive there.
· A COVID-19 test result is a snapshot in time. If a person tests positive, that tells us that they had contact with an infected person within two weeks prior to their symptoms appearing and may have been spreading virus to others up to 48 hours before their symptoms appear.
· We have learned over time that some people can have COVID-19 and not have any symptoms, or any of the typical symptoms. This means that people could encounter an asymptomatic person at any time or in any place. Knowing where a positive case lives will not protect someone from getting ill. We need people to recognize that COVID-19 is everywhere in the community and they are at risk of getting the virus wherever they live. It’s important to follow all of the public health precautions to protect themselves and others and stop the spread.
· This is why the Health Unit has continuously been reminding people to treat everyone they encounter as if they have COVID-19 – maintain physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) from anyone outside your household or social circle, wear a non-medical mask inside public places, wash your hands frequently, practise proper respiratory etiquette, and stay home if you are ill. These are the measures that will help keep us all healthy – more so than knowing that someone in your town or township tested positive for COVID-19.