West Kelowna  

West Kelowna residents irked by lack of virus location information

Residents demand more info

West Kelowna residents are upset with B.C. health officials for not doing more to alert the communities where COVID-19 cases have been identified.

Greg Ingram reached out to Castanet after reading our story on 75 Bylands workers self-isolating, "it's kind of like putting death at your doorstep, except, here is there and nobody even tells you."

Castanet has been inundated with messages from other readers concerned about the situation.

"Where did the infected people go and who did they have contact with?" asked West Kelowna resident Nancy Johnson "I am absolutely sickened by this."

Dr. Henry described the West Kelowna situation as the B.C.'s "large community outbreak" of COVID-19.

"Interior Health became aware of a number of the workers there with respiratory illness, and a number of them have tested positive for COVID-19," Henry said. "The business itself is being quarantined and everybody is able to be isolated effectively in the housing – the very good housing – that is on-site there."

She said the infected workers have had very little contact with the community since coming to Canada and had mostly stayed on the nursery property.

The announcement Tuesday also marked a departure for Dr. Henry who has in the past avoided naming the communities where COVID-19 patients are located, with the exception of outbreaks in care homes. Health authorities have also sent out a handful of notices advising the public of cases where the patient may have come in contact with others, like at a pharmacy.

Ingram tells Castanet he was deeply offended that "there was so many cases right in my neighbourhood and I wasn't told" prior to 14 cases being confirmed Tuesday.

"I believe the local community should have been told earlier."

Ingram says he is not taking exception to temporary foreign workers, rather his beef is with the practice of withholding virus location information. In Alberta, the province has provided the public with an interactive map that includes virus counts in different portions of cities. Ontario has provided patient's ages and public health unit.

In response to questions about the policy, Dr. Henry said Tuesday “this is not a non-disclosure policy. This is how we do business in terms of public health.” 

Dr. Henry and Interior Health, which covers a vast portion of the province, indicate the policy is meant to encourage people across B.C., particularly in small communities, to assume COVID-19 is everywhere and to take proper precautions.

"This is not about protecting people’s privacy, necessarily — although that is obviously an important consideration. It’s about risk to the public and understanding where that risk is, and the measures we all need to take right now in our communities across the province," Dr. Henry said.

Ingram complains, "Interior Health is a huge, huge region, very diverse geographically. I live in Lakeview Heights, not far from Bylands and my job requires me to travel throughout the Okanagan. If I knew there were a whole bunch of cases in a certain community, obviously I wouldn't go there."

Ingram says these days he's not working. The only time he leaves the house is to get groceries, "I'm sure those temporary foreign workers had to get groceries too, how do I know I'm not going to the exact same grocery store that they used?"

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