COVID-19 Image Credit: CDC

MIKE’S MUSINGS: Withholding information doesn’t help COVID-19 situation

You deserve to know what’s going on, and we’re doing our best, but when we’re refused information…

I think we can all agree that it’s been a Hell of a couple of weeks.

Things are changing – sometimes significantly – by the minute, and nothing will ever be the same.

Wow, what a blustry, clearly hyperbolic statement. Right?

Maybe.

In case you can’t tell, this is going to be another one of those “Mike’s Musings” columns where I work through some things as I write, and bring you along for the ride.

Sorry.

Or “you’re welcome,” I suppose, depending on how you feel about those.

Let’s start with where we are.

Everything is closed, postponed or cancelled. People are being told, by actual scientists and doctors, to stay away from other people, wash their hands and not touch their face.

Instead, people are panic-buying toilet paper and yelling on the Internet about not knowing where all the cases of COVID-19 are.

When I was thinking about crafting my column this week, I was planning to rail on “greed.”

I even began writing it as a speculative fiction piece in the form of a letter to a future generation apologizing that I did my best to inform everyone what was going on, but society decided that “the economy” was more important than people’s lives.

But then Canada’s finance minister Bill Morneau came out on Wednesday morning and basically said money wasn’t going to be an issue, and everything would be taken care of, financially speaking. So I can’t really rail on greed anymore, even though it’s the reason we’ve gotten to the point we’re at. Because it’s kind of a moot point now.

So instead, I’m going to talk about information.

I spent far more time than I should have to this week explaining to people that we, as a responsible news organization, don’t report based on rumour.

“THERE ARE THREE CONFIRMED CASES IN CAMPBELL RIVER! WHY AREN’T YOU TELLING US ABOUT IT?” yelled the Internet.

Well, first of all, at that point there were zero confirmed cases in Campbell River. There were rumours of cases.

There’s a significant difference between these two things.

“We report what we can confirm, and we’re trying our best to confirm things, but it seems people don’t really want to talk about it, despite it being in the public interest for them to do so,” I responded to a Facebook comment accusing us of not doing our jobs properly on Tuesday. “A whole lot of misinformation out there, and we have a responsibility to not be a part of spreading it. We’ve got people working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. trying to get information out to people that is accurate and confirmed. Wish we could do more, but it’s just not possible while still being responsible about it.”

Which I suppose brings me to the point of this column. Yay! I found the point!

The way that medical authorities have been giving people information about this situation, as one friend (who happens to work in the medical field here in Campbell River) put it, has been “asinine.”

Their justification for not releasing the location of confirmed cases has been that they want to respect people’s privacy or cause panic.

Well, guess what? Not telling people what’s going on causes them to share stories like, “my friend’s daughter heard from her music instructor that there are lots of cases in Campbell River.” Is that the kind of “information” that the health authorities want circulating?

We contacted Island Health in an attempt to confirm a post made on Facebook by a local medical clinic that they had a confirmed lab test come back. They declined to comment, directing us to the Ministry of Health, who declined to comment.

When we can’t confirm information, we don’t share it.

The people responsible for overseeing our health system are doing you a disservice, people of Campbell River, by not telling you what’s going on.

We – the newspaper – are not “refusing to tell you the whole story,” we’re being refused the information that would allow us to do so.

But we’ll continue to try. I can promise you that. And we’ll continue to tell you what we actually know.

Because you deserve to know, too.

For now, wash your hands and stay away from other people. Pretend everyone else has it.

Because for all we can actually confirm, maybe they do.



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

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