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Health lobby group wants more transparency in reporting of COVID-19 cases

Posted: November 9, 2020

(November 8, 2020)

By: Len Gillis,

As the number of COVID-19 cases is seen to be on the increase, with daily reports from the Ontario Government of more than one thousand new cases some days, there is a concern that many of the cases are remaining completely anonymous as far as the general public is concerned. One Ontario health lobby group believes health units need to be more transparent when reporting virus outbreaks.

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) has issued a news release suggesting that contact tracing is not an exact science and “clear data on how the virus is being transmitted amongst the general population is still not available.”

By comparison, with many Ontario health units having food premise reporting (including Sudbury), you can find out quickly if your favourite take-out restaurant has violated the health inspection rules. But you don’t know if the person serving you has been exposed to the virus by a coworker.

The only known public health unit that has transparent information is Hamilton Public Health, which provides information on workplace outbreaks.

The Hamilton health unit does not identify individuals, but it does list the names of retail outlets, long-term care homes, restaurants and other workplaces where outbreaks have occurred. It provides the date the outbreak was reported, the date it was cleared, the number of persons affected and whether those persons were staff members or customers.

This can let residents know whether it is reasonably safe to go shopping or even ordering some takeout food from a favourite restaurant.

The OHC reported that in several cases in Peel Region, Durham Region, Ottawa and Toronto, contact tracing was not done in the last week of October.

“Clear information to the public about where they are most at risk is still not being provided, but the available data, incomplete as it is, gives some insight into the trends. Even with insufficient reporting in almost all public health units we were able to find that several industries are far surpassing the increase in cases in the general public,” said the OHC report.

The statement did not say what “industries” are reporting higher COVID numbers, but it did say the education sector in Ontario is trending higher.

“Cases in school have grown the most significantly, increasing 67.76 per cent in two weeks while general community spread increased 24% in those same two weeks. Retail outbreaks have continued to grow at a rate of 27.97 per cent in this reporting period and outbreaks public services have also grown at a rate of 26.34 per cent in this report. Developmental services have also seen a significant increase, increasing 21.26 per cent in two weeks,” said the OHC report.

It added that Ontario residents need more information that would enable residents “to make informed choices to reduce their most risky behaviour and contacts”.

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