COVID-19 outbreak disclosure defended

Dr. David Colby, CK Medical Officer of Health. (Photo courtesy of the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit)

The Medical Officer for Chatham-Kent is defending the way he alerts the public about COVID-19 outbreaks.

At a weekly teleconference on Thursday, Dr. David Colby said that public notifications about outbreaks are based on risk and if they are deemed a risk to public safety, then he will name the workplace or institution. But if there’s no risk to the public, then he won’t name the establishment because of privacy issues. Colby said, from the start, the policy has been to let the workplace or institution publish its name if it’s deemed to have an outbreak.

“We are under very strict disclosure guidelines from the Privacy Commissioner and we release everything we believe is in the public interest to release at the earliest opportunity through multiple channels. There are always trust issues that get expressed about any government agency but we are as transparent as is possible to be,” he said. “Complaints that may be emanating from the public about that really need to be referred to the Privacy Commissioner because the limitation on what we can release is determined by the privacy policies of the Province of Ontario.”

Dr. Colby said two current outbreaks at the KFC at 720 Grand Ave. W in Chatham and Taco Bell at 328 St. Clair St. in Chatham are linked to the Tim Hortons in Wallaceburg because of shared part-time staff. The Tim Hortons is closed but is not in outbreak mode because some employees were in close contact with a contagious person. The doctor added all of the staff members affected at the restaurants are isolating as a precaution and he hopes to declare those outbreaks over next week.

Colby said the third current outbreak, at an unspecified workplace which he can’t name because it’s not a place open to the public, is under control.

CK Public Health reported on Thursday afternoon 33 active cases of COVID-19. That’s three more than the previous day. The latest numbers from the local health unit showed four new cases and one recovered individual.