Grace Kennedy Editorial Agassiz Harrison Observer image

Grace Kennedy Editorial Agassiz Harrison Observer image

EDITORIAL: With COVID-19, knowledge is power

Editor Grace Kennedy explains why the Observer is reporting on local case numbers, despite the flaws

You may notice a few more local COVID-19 numbers in the Agassiz Harrison Observer going forward.

This is intentional.

We all make better decisions when we have more information. As a journalist, I believe this whole-heartedly — that is, after all, the reason I do my job. For this reason, you will be seeing weekly case numbers for Agassiz, Harrison and the rest of our local health area in this paper.

Do not be afraid, but instead use them to guide your decisions so you can make the best choices for yourself, your family and our community.

In the first full week of January, the Agassiz-Harrison local health area saw 19 new COVID-19 cases. Mission saw 17 cases, Chilliwack saw 140 and Hope had only three.

RELATED: Agassiz-Harrison area sees 19 COVID-19 cases in seven days

This information became available on Friday, Jan. 15, though the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (or BCCDC for short).

The following week, after the Friday, Jan. 22, paper had gone to press, the BCCDC released case numbers for Jan. 10 to 16: 10 for the Agassiz area and 18 for Hope.

RELATED: Hope Local Health area sees spike of 18 COVID-19 cases in the past week

RELATED: Agassiz, Harrison COVID-19 cases heading back towards weekly normal

Each week, the BCCDC releases the case count for each local health area in the province. These case counts, which are shared in a colour-coded map, were first released to the public in August 2020, as cumulative totals updated each month. In December, the province also began releasing positive test results in each local health area weekly.

These maps, although useful, do have significant flaws.

The case totals are calculated from Sunday to Saturday each week, but are released on the following Wednesday. People reading these numbers in the paper will be getting them as the following seven-day period comes to a close, and sometimes even later than that.

There can also be further lags in getting the case numbers to the public if data is incomplete or delayed. This was the case for the week of Jan. 3 to 9, which was supposed to be released to the public on Jan. 13. The BCCDC released a notice that day saying the map would be delayed because of incomplete data. That map was eventually released on Friday, Jan. 15, six days into the following week.

There is also sticky problem of active cases and recoveries.

RELATED: Chilliwack nurse one of countless COVID-19 survivors looking for answers

While we can assume that weekly case counts are all active — the numbers represent people testing positive that week after all — the same is not true of the cumulative monthly maps.

These maps simply look at the total number of cases in a local health area since the beginning of the pandemic. They do not include those people who have recovered, and they do not include those people who have died.

Despite these flaws, I feel these maps and the information they provide play an important role in our approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are not here for us to judge each other. They are for us to help each other.

They give us the knowledge that our community is not immune to the effects of this virus.

They remind us that the people of Hope were doing well in protecting themselves from transmission, and it is part of our job as citizens to help them keep it that way by reducing our visits in that community.

They remind us to take even more care of ourselves and our neighbours if we have to travel to a community hard hit by the virus, like Abbotsford.

RELATED: Abbotsford second in Fraser Health for total COVID-19 cases in 2020

We have all done our part to bend the provincial curve. Now, we have information that can help us bend our local curve back down as well.

Wear a mask. Wash our hands. Stay apart. It’s that simple.

Grace Kennedy, editor

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