B.C. health officials defend COVID-19 data practices after document leak

bonnie henry may30

B.C.'s top doctor is defending her office's handling of COVID-19 data in the wake of leaked documents showing considerably more information than the province has previously released.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson addressed the leaked data, published Thursday by the Vancouver Sun, in a quickly organized news conference Friday afternoon.

The health officials described the reports as "public health surveillance" data, which they said is used primarily to inform decision-making. The documents contain details about case counts and vaccination numbers at the neighbourhood level, which has never been publicized in B.C., though similar data has been released in Toronto.

Gustafson told reporters the province makes "as much of the data as is possible" available publicly, but B.C. has typically released less-detailed reports on the location of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations and test-positivity rates than other provinces do. 

Asked whether B.C. will be releasing the more-detailed information from the leaked data going forward, Henry insisted that the majority of the data shown in the leaked reports is already released, albeit not in the same format.

The provincial health officer cited monthly modelling presentations as an example of the province reporting health data with proper context, rather than releasing reports that are intended primarily for internal discussion.