Fraser Health last week sent letters to multiple school districts about the new coronavirus last week.
A new patient had some kind of contact with people connected to a local school district.
That was it. Because Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and the Tri-Cities were the first areas to release their letters to parents, it was assumed that the patient had some contacts there. But in fact, identical letters went to Langley and other districts as well.
Fraser Health has done this, most likely, to avoid localized panic, but their policy has had the opposite effect.
Right now there are Facebook posts claiming to identify specific schools in Maple Ridge were exposed to COVID-19, that families are in quarantine, that seniors homes could have been exposed.
Truth? Wild rumour? Some mixture of the two? We have no idea, and Fraser Health and B.C.’s Medical Health Officer are not making things better by being vague.
Right now, the risk to any one individual or family from COVID-19 is low. The vast majority of people recover without any need to even go to a hospital. There is no sign yet that the virus is spreading widely in B.C.
But B.C. authorities are not helping by holding back information that could help people make rational choices. If there are no cases in a city or school district, say so. And if there are possible exposures in another city or school, say that.
By refusing to provide specific information, the health authorities have ceded the ground to rumour.
The folks who were going to panic and stockpile dried beans and gas masks? They were always going to do that no matter what anyone said.
The rest of us would feel better if we were treated like reasonable adults who can make our own decisions given accurate information.